Monday July 11, 2016

Innovation — It's in Our DNA

When the search firm called me about the University of Dayton presidency, I checked out the website and was surprised to discover that GE Aviation, Emerson Climate Technologies and Midmark had located to campus and established unique relationships with the University and its faculty and students.

I was immediately intrigued and impressed: this is a place that embraces innovation and collaboration; it's not an Ivory Tower on the hill. I ulitimately was drawn to the University of Dayton because we don't just understand the critical roles of partnership and innovation. We live them routinely.

On Friday, that  message came home in full force at a town hall meeting convened by GE on River Campus. Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE, and Ohio Senator Rob Portman — both of whom grew up down the street in Cincinnati and went to college together — moderated a panel, "Global Competitiveness and Manufacturing Innovation," that drew an audience of nearly 300 community leaders. I joined our corporate partners and the executive director of the Air Force Research Laboratory on the panel to talk about the challenges ahead.

I appreciated the optimistic outlook and can-do spirit of the panel's leaders, who touched on the enormous opportunities for technology commercialization and the role of higher education in preparing workers for this era of innovation and advanced manufacturing. These are big thinkers who understand that we must be agile, continually reinvent ourselves and work across borders to be successful in an interconnected world.

The conversation made me feel energized and hopeful. Our partners want to support our faculty as they innovate in the classroom and engage in discovery and problem solving. They want the creativity, innovative spirit and talent our students can bring to their enterprises. Case in point: Anne Eiting Klamar, chair of the board for Midmark Corp., which recently moved its corporate headquarters to River Campus, said the company has employed more than 50 co-ops, hired 10 of them — and, in the process, saved $1.2 million.

Here's the message I left with our corporate partners and community leaders: Students today, across all disciplines — from engineering and business to law and social sciences — want to be innovators. It's part of their DNA. They want to change the world and think they can. It's our job to find ways to help them realize their dreams.

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