Geneseo requests grant for Center for Inquiry, Discovery and Leadership

In response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program – a partnership between the governor and State University of New York to foster regional economic development of campuses and communities throughout the state – Geneseo put forward a proposal for a new Center for Inquiry, Discovery and Leadership.

“We are keeping our liberal arts mission central, but it fits that vision into the metavision of SUNY and of the state in a really terrific way,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Carol Long said of the proposal.

“Three of the big drivers are globalization, digital learning environment and access to information and interdisciplinary work and inquiry,” Long said. “Those are all big changes for the academy. They all push the way we’re structured, they all push how we operate, they push students’ expectations … and it’s fun, but it’s big. This could be a mechanism to take advantage of all that; it allows us to experiment with these different changes in higher education.”

A number of Geneseo faculty have collaborated on the proposal, which features a variety of distinct initiatives. The inquiry initiative will absorb the pre-existing Student Ambassador Program, which awards $5,000 grants to students who propose projects in areas such as entrepreneurship, community development and cultural understanding. 

The discovery initiative will be a culmination of a Team Development Laboratory Project, an E-Garden and the Institute for Musical Arts and Technologies. 

The lab facility will be accessible to the campus and community and will provide local entrepreneurs, inventors and engineers an environment to develop their ideas alongside students, faculty and business and industry experts.

“This is a way for us to turn the old research to riches model upside down,” Vice President for Administration and Finance James Milroy explained. “As opposed to tech transfer being out – always campus out – wouldn’t it be nice to say, ‘If you’ve got ideas, bring them in, and we’ll help you develop it.’ To me, it’s a low cost, low risk alternative to traditional economic development.” 

The E-Garden will be a means to study renewable energy, with the long-term objective of providing green energy to support the center, as well as to test renewable energy research and serve as a training center for pre-engineering students.

A contemporary performance space for the Finger Lakes Opera will be housed in the center, which will play host to a summer festival, fostering opportunities for academics, students and visitors to experience international musical performances. Additionally, in partner with the Rochester Institute of Technology, the IMAT will be a lab for “advanced production and study and application of innovations in arts and technologies.”

The final initiative, development, will feature an expansion of the pre-existing Small Business Development Center as well as the Institute for Community Well-Being. 

According to the proposal, the SBDC will partner with a number of outside sources, including the Smart System Technology and Commercialization Center in Canandaigua, N.Y., the Livingston County Development Group and the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce. The center will provide access to resources for entrepreneurs and will foster the “growth and sustainability of small business in the region.”

“We think we have a wealth of talent, not only amongst our faculty and SBDC, but our history shows that amongst our students, we’ve been able to use the talent that exists on this campus to do a number of positive things,” Milroy said.

Further, the ICW will continue to build socially and economically sound communities throughout the region. The ICW has already partnered with Greg O’Connell ‘64 in the development of the village of Mount Morris, Rochester’s South Wedge Planning Committee and others.  

Professor of communication Mary Mohan played a large part in the expansion of the ICW, working with the Small Business Development Center and Livingston County Economic Development officials for the past 15 years to supervise student teams in a number of integrated marketing communication plans and conflict mediation through various communication course offerings. 

Mohan’s practical applications of real-life experience for students echoes both SUNY and Geneseo’s missions to create well-rounded graduates prepared for the work force. 

“The advantage of this [center] is to reach out to a larger population and it can become much more interdisciplinary,” Mohan said. “The problem solving aspect of it is very exciting. We can draw in majors of all different types, and it will truly enhance what we have to offer.”