University of New Haven President Steve Kaplan wrote about innovation and its impact on students as part of a special feature for Forbes.
February 12, 2017
A few years ago, I was in a meeting with students, getting their feedback on what the University should invest in to further enhance their educational experience. I expected that the students would discuss the need for new science facilities.
A mechanical engineering student who had just returned from an immersion program at Stanford that examined innovation and entrepreneurship stood up first. He said that the University needed a makerspace – a community space that brings people together to tinker and create. A little later in the meeting, a marine biology student said the same thing. The last student to speak, an engineering major, had, I learned, just come back from visiting her friend at MIT, where she visited its makerspace. She also said that we needed our own makerspace.
This enthusiasm, I soon found out, was just the tip of the iceberg. So we decided to shift our focus to developing a more interdisciplinary space aimed at fostering creativity, ingenuity and innovation. The more we probed, the more we found that this was an idea that resonated with students across the University.
Today, the development of our envisioned Innovation Center is the centerpiece of our Charger Challenge, the University’s first comprehensive campaign that endeavors to raise $100 million in time for the University’s centennial in 2020.
I believe that this new 40,000-square-foot facility will be a vibrant hub on campus for students to come together across disciplines to develop products and ideas. It is designed for students to pursue new interests and to deepen their many passions.
I’ve been in the makerspace at Yale, and it is a really wild grouping of spaces. In fact, the majority of the users at Yale are non-engineers and are students who are developing products and projects not necessarily related to their classes. They are inspired, perhaps, by their classes but are not necessarily doing class work.
It is amazing to go through these spaces and to see what’s happening. It really makes me want to go back to school.