Quinnipiac to build new communal workspaces from business and engineering students

William Gavin, Staff Writer

Quinnipiac University is taking a new step towards driving creativity and cooperation among students and faculty through new “hubs” for enterprise. 

The “Innovation Hub and Maker Space” program is the university’s way of providing physical and virtual spaces for students and faculty to meet and work on new projects, regardless of their major or field. The university likens these spaces to “incubators” of innovation, similar to business start-ups.

The new engineering communal space allows students to gain hands-on experience with different tools such as circuit boards. (Daniel Passapera)

“There’s been some really big changes at Quinnipiac with the emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship, and building an ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship across campus,” said Patrice Luoma, professor of entrepreneurship and strategy and director of the People’s United Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship. “And so in order to do that, we also wanted to create a physical place where it reflects that.”

Provost Debra Liebowitz said the spaces around campus will help support students who want to start their own businesses.

 “What we’re doing is creating an infrastructure, a kind of support system, for helping you develop the skills to be able to do that (and) to be able to work on that project,” Liebowitz said.

The program is beginning with two hubs; one in the School of Business and the other in the newly named School of Computing and Engineering, with others planned. 

The “mother hub” will be in Room 109 in the Lender School of Business, while the engineering hub is in the lower level of the Center for Communications and Engineering building. The business hub will feature a sales training lab, a marketing insights lab and a conference room. 

Quinnipiac University opened an engineering marker space in the Center for Communications and Engineering building at the beginning of the fall 2021 semester. (Daniel Passapera)

The engineering hub, which has been active since the beginning of the semester, has “state-of-the-art” technology including 3D printers, a laser cutter, an embroidery machine, a sewing machine and heat-press equipment. 

The School of Business’ hub will be renovated during winter break, largely adding new furniture. In Room 109, which is a large lounge space, a wall will also be added for privacy. 

“It will be kind of just (an) overall facelift and improvement to a very dated building that is really exciting to kind of make students want to come in there and work and hang out,” Luoma said.

Other renovations include adding 20 lockers of various sizes for students to use for storage.

“(The lockers are) for students who are working on physical business-type ideas,” Luoma said.  “If you have a clothing business that you’re making something or jewelry business or some other business where you want to keep some product that is (a) work in process, that will be a place where you can store that.”

Future hubs could be built in other schools at Quinnipiac, or even in residence halls, Liebowitz said. `

“We have engineering students getting trained in the space and the equipment, but we also have some business students who now have access to the maker space; we have some health science students, we have some School of (Communications) students in there,” said Lynn Byers, interim dean of the School of Computing and Engineering. 

Byers said students have been utilizing the space already, including engineering and computer science students in the respective Living Learning Community.

“They laser cut pieces of wood that they made into a stand and then we have our hard hats that they turned upside down and made into planters,” Byers said.

The university will rely on faculty fellows to create a “web” connecting the nine academic schools at Quinnipiac. Currently, 29 professors are signed on as fellows. 

Liebowitz said there’s also an external aspect of the program, which can allow faculty and students to work with people outside of Quinnipiac, including alumni and local community partners.

To help students assist each other in their businesses, Luoma said she is working with the Office of Integrated Marketing Communications to set up a virtual marketplace.

“If you have a business idea, but you need someone who knows how to do social media marketing, or you need someone who has some computer skills, or you can provide those skills,” Luoma said. “So this database, this virtual platform will allow students to match with each other.”