UWF’s Newest Division Connects University to Community
March 21, 2017 | Martha D. Saunders, Ph.D.
At the start of 2017, we launched the Division of Research and Strategic Innovation at the University of West Florida. The new division, under the leadership of Dr. Pam Northrup, serves as an incubator where big ideas come to life. From a strategic standpoint, this new division embodies our future. Research and innovation will distinguish us as a significant asset to the state of Florida and the Northwest Florida region. In addition, the division enhances the connection to our community through key partnerships.
The division brings the UWF Innovation Institute together with the Center for Research and Economic Opportunity (CREO). The Innovation Institute houses several programs including the Military Veterans Resource Institute and the Academic Technology Center. It also includes a number of statewide programs such as the Florida Virtual Campus and the Florida Small Business Development Center. CREO includes the Haas Center, the Florida Small Business Development Center, the Office of Economic Development and Engagement, and Research and Sponsored Programs.
The division moves the workforce and the economy forward by elevating big ideas from incubation to action. This results in sustainable, funded research and scholarship, business development, strategic and targeted innovation partnerships, and outreach to provide solutions to achieve social, economic and technological impact in the communities we serve.
UWF’s Innovation Institute has several exciting new projects in the works. One that launched in early March is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that tells the story of research conducted by UWF faculty and students on the Gulf of Mexico. We’ve used the institute’s storytellers, designers, research and digital experts to create a highly engaging, visually rich course called, “Gulf Stories: Mother, Mother Ocean 101.” Our StoryLab team followed researchers to the beach to study the effects of hurricanes and examined saltwater incursion. We went to the dive platform of the Luna shipwreck and back to the laboratory to look at artifacts. We observed a research team in the bay investigating the invasion of the lionfish. Finally, the story took us to the port to study the logistics of moving products through the Gulf of Mexico and the world. By making this a MOOC, everyone can learn more about the UWF research taking place here on the Gulf Coast.
Another community-based project involves Innovation Institute collaborating with TEQ Games at Universal Studios and the Galaxy program at Kuder to re-imagine elementary career education. We’re working closely with elementary students and educators in our region, across the country and globally to design gaming tools that inspire and engage students as they learn about future career possibilities. We’ve developed several stories and games related to energy and healthcare careers with more to come.
The Division of Research and Strategic Innovation will increase UWF’s sponsored research proposals and awards and in turn increase our visibility not just in the region, but also in the state and across the nation. Finding new sponsored research opportunities will help propel UWF to the next level and will allow us to build on our strengths and traditions.
We are taking important steps toward providing the support needed for UWF to become a more robust research institution, and this is only the beginning. UWF will continue to identify, support and promote the scholarly activities of our faculty and students.