ISU Student Innovation Center will bring together students across campus

Iowa State University students will soon have a new space where they can interact, learn and collaborate with one another.

Set to open in January 2020, the Student Innovation Center will be the hands-on center for student collaboration all across campus.

Envisioned as a highly flexible, technology-rich and dynamic space, the Student Innovation Center will be a launch pad for student collaboration and a landmark building that promotes interdisciplinary learning, student projects and hands-on experiences.

Jim Oliver gives a tour of ISU’s Student Innovation Center.

“The whole goal of this is to experiment,” said Jim Oliver, Director of the Student Innovation Center. “And then, with the experiments that are successful we can diffuse those out into campus and begin to change the culture of how we work. That’s the vision.”

Iowa State University named Oliver as the first director of the Student Innovation Center in January. Oliver was originally on the steering committee for the Student Innovation Center for almost three years before receiving the position as director.

As the inaugural director of the center, Oliver will provide leadership, vision and direction for the new facility. Oliver will be in charge of planning and implementing the innovation center’s academic programming as well as fostering engagement among students.

Oliver says there are four different pillars he wants all students who use the center to be exposed to: an interdisciplinary scope, experiential learning, an entrepreneurial mindset and a global perspective.

“Those are the four things the innovation center is fostering,” said Oliver. “And with the unique way the center has been structured and the diversity of things that are in here, students are going to able to work together in ways that they just couldn’t before.”

All of the colleges will have a footprint in the building but the majority of the building, 60% says Oliver, will defined as “shared space,” and be accessible to all students across campus.

The roughly 140,000 square foot, five-story building will house an auditorium along with four classrooms. The space will also include a gaming lab, a media production suite, meeting rooms, fabrication areas — from electronics to woodworking to textiles — study and collaboration spaces, a cafe, a test kitchen and a student-run retail center.

Scattered throughout the building will also be offices for various student organizations.

“There are almost 800 student organizations on campus and we hope they all come and use the center and some way or another,” said Oliver.

Nearly half of the funding for the $84 million project will come from state appropriations, with the remainder of the money coming from private donations.

“This is a labor of love for a lot of people on campus. We went out and interviewed all kinds of stakeholders about what this could be, what it should be,” said Oliver. There’s really nothing like this in the country. It’s is a really unique investment in the future of Iowa State.”

Previous coverage

Entrepreneurship among top priorities for ISU President Wendy Wintersteen -Nov. 21, 2018

$6 million gift to ISU from Boeing will help fund Innovation Center -Nov. 16, 2018