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UNM Provost’s Office Working with Academic Administrators to Develop Innovation Academy

Albuquerque, NM – February 17, 2014 An important component of the Innovate ABQ innovation district currently being developed will be an academic curriculum giving students campus wide more entrepreneurially training to students who would like to start their own companies or work for companies that will be a part of the innovation district. To read more about the Innovation Academy concept, see Karen Wentworth’s February 12th article, “Innovation Starts with Education,” from UNM Newsroom, and President Frank’s comments in his Feb. 17th Weekly Perspective, reprinted below.

Innovation starts with education
UNM leaders work to design an Innovation Academy that emphasizes critical thinking, leads to innovation
By Karen Wentworth – February 12, 2014

The path to becoming an entrepreneur in New Mexico could go something like this: Come to UNM. Ground yourself in the basics. Meet others who have similar interests but different skills. Start a company. That is the basic premise behind an effort by the UNM Provost’s Office and academic administrators as they consider how to construct an Innovation Academy.

Traditionally universities teach students everything possible about a particular subject, but they haven’t taken the next step to assist students who want to use that knowledge to start a company. Now there is new urgency to do more and UNM is looking at creating an Innovation Academy as a means to develop ideas, concepts, products and entrepreneurs.

“Recent studies have stressed the need for graduates who can think critically and creatively, who can work across boundaries and teams, who can express themselves to various audiences and who can chart and modify their own career paths,” said UNM Provost Chaouki Abdallah

With the university located in downtown Albuquerque, where the local unemployment stands at 6.3 percent, there is concern about the number of vacant commercial buildings in the area. UNM President Robert Frank is working with local leaders to find ways to assure that graduates can find fulfilling jobs, even if it means starting a company and creating their own career path.

Currently, STC.UNM, a non-profit corporation owned by the UNM Board of Regents, assists students and faculty members in obtaining patents and starting technology companies. But for students not working in a technical field, the University doesn’t have a strong support structure in place. That’s where the Innovation Academy would come into play.

“STC has an incubator and they help businesses get off the ground,” Associate Provost Carol Parker said. “They function as the end of the pipeline. Innovation Academy would be the beginning of the pipeline.”

The hope is students at Innovation Academy would learn how to discover their passions, and how to think creatively about solutions to big societal and technical problems. Parker has been charged with working with deans and faculty members to construct a framework that would allow faculty to experiment with new ways of teaching and offering opportunities not available through traditional curricula. Parker says that the Innovation Academy would enroll fine arts, business, law and humanities students as well as engineers and scientists.

Academically this is complex. It’s not clear yet what the academic path will be for students at Innovation Academy. Parker says they will begin to talk with faculty members who already give their students practical problems as an initial step in putting the curriculum together.

The physical space for the Innovation Academy won’t be available immediately, and the intent is for innovation to infiltrate all academic spaces. In addition, UNM is working to build a live/work/play opportunity for students near the corner of Broadway and Central at the old First Baptist Church property as part of the Innovate ABQ initiative. UNM is currently in the process of buying the property. Once the sale is complete, work will begin on a master plan and a search for private partners to invest in the location. One such partner could provide a dormitory-style building for students to live with additional space for them to learn on site.

Parker is hoping to have the framework for the academy sketched out by the fall semester so individual departments can start thinking about how their students can become involved in the project.

Innovation Academy a Path to Student Entrepreneurship
President Frank

Last week the Bernalillo County Commission voted to partner with our Innovate ABQ by contributing $1 million in support of the initiative. Innovate ABQ will create job opportunities and help to improve New Mexico’s economy, but in order to support this project we must include an academic component that will encourage students to follow an entrepreneurial path. The Office of the Provost and Academic Affairs is working with faculty to develop an Innovation Academy at UNM. This proposed program would establish a living and learning environment – a physical “live/work/play” space – where students from various disciplines would be immersed in a creative community to study and conceive solutions to societal needs and problems. Our people have the creativity and passion needed to innovate Albuquerque. Inspiring our students to take their ideas from mind to market and to become leaders in innovation is fundamental to progress in the 21st Century economy in New Mexico.

Source: UNM Newsroom

For more information, contact:

Karen Wentworth