Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (iCenter)
The Lewis College of Business established a Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (iCenter) that inspires innovation across the college, campus, and community by diffusing best practices in innovation through education and training.
Bennie Eng, Executive Director, iCenter; Assistant Provost of Innovations, Brad D. Smith Schools of Business, Marshall University
Call to Action
In recent years, West Virginia has suffered a decline in its economy due to the loss of manufacturing jobs and the softening of the coal industry, among other reasons. In 2017, CNBC ranked West Virginia as the worst state in America for business, as it was one of only seven states that saw its economies shrink in 2016. Moreover, supporting its headline, which read that West Virginia was trapped “in an economic death spiral,” CNBC noted that future change seemed difficult, as the state ranked 49th for technology and innovation, 47th in access to capital, 44th in infrastructure, and 50th in economy.
In response to the state’s economic predicament, the State of West Virginia Department of Commerce, West Virginia University, and Marshall University jointly unveiled the report West Virginia Forward: Strategy for Economic Development and Job Growth based on an analysis conducted by McKinsey and Co. The study identified (1) innovation and business development and (2) human capital as two of the four key enablers of economic growth for West Virginia.
To answer the state’s calling, in 2017, the Lewis College of Business at Marshall University founded the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (iCenter). The mission of the iCenter is to inspire innovation across the college of business, campus of Marshall University, and community of West Virginia by diffusing cutting-edge best practices in innovation through education and training. The iCenter works closely with the Corporate Responsibility Department of the financial technology leader Intuit Inc. to continuously learn and share its design thinking-based innovation process, Design for Delight (D4D).
Within the Lewis College of Business, the iCenter spreads D4D in classrooms to develop student entrepreneurs through two primary initiatives: (1) the Brad D. Smith Student Incubator, and (2) the BUSN100: Intro to Business course. Further, the iCenter is currently applying D4D to redesign the business core curriculum in the Lewis College of Business.
On the campus of Marshall University, the iCenter provides D4D workshops and consulting to help various administrative and academic departments innovate solutions to their largest challenges. For example, the iCenter helped the Dining Department innovate a new student meal plan structure and selection system.
In the community of West Virginia, the iCenter is part of a grant-funded program for the West Virginia Department of Education named the Simulated Workplace Entrepreneurship Education Program (SWEEP). Through SWEEP, the iCenter has helped develop a D4D-based entrepreneurship curriculum for West Virginia high school students who are in career and technical education.
Since 2019, the iCenter has exposed over 150 first-year students in the Lewis College of Business and Brad D. Smith Schools of Business to D4D through BUSN100. Students gaining early exposure to D4D have had downstream impact resulting in eight high-impact and/or high-growth student startups currently residing in the Brad D. Smith Student Incubator.
On the Marshall University campus, the iCenter has exposed almost 100 percent of Lewis College of Business faculty to D4D, in addition to more than 100 Marshall faculty members outside of the Lewis College of Business, 12 department chairs, and over 100 Marshall administrators and staff.
Furthermore, just this year alone, the iCenter has completed D4D consulting projects with the Dining, Athletics, and Career Services Departments, helping each innovate solutions to its most pressing challenges. In the community, eight West Virginia high schools are currently piloting the SWEEP program, and the center plans to scale the program across the state.