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November 14, 2018

Planning a Place for Big Ideas: Creating Adelphi’s Innovation Center

At Adelphi, business students don’t just read about marketing strategies and business plans. They create them by working with companies like GEICO, United Parcel Service of America, Inc., and

Soon, students will have even more opportunities to work with companies on the next big idea when Adelphi’s planned Innovation Center, a 2,000-square-foot research lab in Swirbul Library, is completed in September 2019.

“This will be a student-centered ecosystem that promotes collaboration between students, faculty, businesses and nonprofit organizations,” said Zachary Johnson, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Robert B. Willumstad School of Business, who is spending this semester as a Viret Family Faculty Leadership Fellow to help plan the Center. “We’re trying to approach problems in unique ways and create innovative solutions.”

The center will empower students to create their own businesses, build new campus organizations and consult for companies through incubator programs and workshops. It will encourage students to use a process called “design thinking,” which involves understanding customer and stakeholder needs to identify new business opportunities. They will then create prototypes of their solutions and make presentations of their progress to industry partners.

“Students today want real-world experiences,” Dr. Johnson said. “You don’t just learn by listening to a professor talk. You learn by doing, and that’s what the center will provide.”

This initiative is the brainchild of Adelphi’s new provost and executive vice president, Steve Everett, D.M.A., who helped create the Innovation Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

“At the UIC Innovation Center, I was able to observe the incredible impact on student engagement that occurred and the excitement that industry partners had in working with the UIC design team,” Dr. Everett said. “This will be an exciting opportunity for Adelphi students, faculty, staff, alumni and community partners to collaborate across disciplines on projects that have a direct benefit to the region and nation.”

Innovation is already happening campuswide at Adelphi. This new facility will provide a hub for existing as well as new programs. Associate professor of physics and department chair Matthew Wright, Ph.D., runs his own research lab on campus. Assistant professor of entrepreneurship Murat Sakir Erogul, Ph.D., started a Shark Tank-style business plan competition last year. And the Levermore Global Scholars program prepares students to become global leaders and innovators.

“We have fantastic faculty at Adelphi who really care about their students,” Dr. Johnson says. “If we enable them to take advantage of real-world projects, we’re giving them a 360-degree university experience that they’re not going to get anywhere else.”

For example, GEICO has already been working with Adelphi students for the past year in developing business plans to increase its presence on Long Island.

“They’ve been a wonderful corporate partner to us,” Dr. Johnson said. “They hire a lot of our students, they support our community, and they give back to the broader community.”

Going forward, Dr. Johnson is in talks with a major credit union and healthcare provider to participate in the Innovation Center and work with students to build new ideas. He is also speaking with students, faculty and administrators to learn more about their ideas for the facility.

“I don’t want this story to be about me,” he said. “My role is to collect the viewpoints of our entire community. If this project is successful, it will be through the shared voices of Adelphi.”

He reports that there is already excitement from students and faculty about the upcoming Innovation Center.

“When our students succeed, that’s just the biggest compliment a faculty member can receive,” he said. “That’s really what the focus of the center has to be. It has to be focused on our students, and it has to be an inclusive community of people who are creating big ideas.”


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About Adelphi: A modern metropolitan university with a personalized approach to higher learning

Adelphi University, New York, is a highly awarded, nationally ranked, powerfully connected doctoral research university dedicated to transforming students’ lives through small classes with world-class faculty, hands-on learning and innovative ways to support academic and career success. Adelphi offers exceptional liberal arts and sciences programs and professional training, with particular strength in our Core Four—Arts and Humanities, STEM and Social Sciences, the Business and Education Professions, and Health and Wellness.

Recognized as a Best College by U.S. News & World Report, Adelphi is Long Island’s oldest private coeducational university. It serves almost 8,000 students at its beautiful main campus in Garden City, New York—just 23 miles from New York City’s cultural and internship opportunities—and at dynamic learning hubs in Manhattan, the Hudson Valley and Suffolk County, as well as online. 

More than 116,000 Adelphi graduates have gained the skills to thrive professionally as active, engaged citizens, making their mark on the University, their communities and the world.

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