Chaos, excitement, a lot of dreaming — that’s how Dr. Jeanne Hossenlopp describes what’s happened on campus since the university established the Strategic Innovation Fund.
And, yes, some skepticism, too, because we do have to live within budgets,” admits Hossenlopp, vice president for research and innovation. “Now we have to identify where we have capacity and potential to nurture these ideas.”
President Michael R. Lovell announced the fund during his inaugural address in September. It comprises $2 million from the university’s capital and operating budgets and, this year, an additional nearly $4 million in funds raised from donors. He invited faculty, staff and students to propose projects they’d develop with these funds to build a better Marquette, address a technology gap or improve the world or community.
The university hosted workshops to help the teams think through potential proposals. At a session in January, more than 150 people shared ideas, looked for collaborators and then broke into groups to think about how what they were considering would fit Marquette’s strategic plan.
“With some pre-proposals, we suggested they look at the proposal submitted by another group because they have the same objectives or because we thought they might have similar capacity,” Hossenlopp explains. “People took the feedback very seriously.”
President Lovell and Hossenlopp expected to receive 200–250 pre-proposals describing projects in broad strokes by the Feb. 5 deadline. But reality outpaced expectations with more than 275 submitted, with funding requests totaling $48 million.
They came from every college and reflected a high level of collaboration among disciplines and diverse teams. They ranged from a School of Dentistry-based project for 3D Printing of Customized Implants for Cleft Lip, Palate and Orofacial Deformities and Defects to a student-led proposal to build an Assisted Living Virtual Environment for Seniors to a project conceived in the College of Nursing titled Changing Teens’ Responses to Precursors of Dating Violence: A Theatre Intervention. Summaries of all pre-proposals can be viewed at marquette.edu/innovation.
Teams next had to write full proposals by the second deadline of March 21. From there, the Innovation Council identified those considered most promising to receive funding and forwarded that list to the University Leadership Council. With the ULC’s input, President Lovell awarded funding to 38 projects set to begin this fall.
“There are many great ideas, but we have to decide which ones will catalyze change for the university and help really important things happen here,” says Hossenlopp.
For Hossenlopp, who has spent more than 26 years on campus in faculty and leadership roles, the uptick in tenor was fun to witness. She had a front seat on the swirl. The pre-proposals came into her email box before being posted on the website where everyone could keep track of ideas ignited by the process. She couldn’t resist reading the daily flow and saw bits and pieces of ideas that surfaced before but had gained substance and traction.
Simultaneous to leading this process, Hossenlopp is also charged with building the university’s research infrastructure, including externally funded research, while maintaining the model that supports faculty as both teachers and scholars. She says the institution’s commitment to the teacher-scholar model attracts top faculty and talented students.
As a longtime faculty member in the Department of Chemistry and recipient of the university’s top teaching recognition, the Rev. John P. Raynor, S.J., Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2003, Hossenlopp knows faculty value the opportunity to teach while continuing to follow their lines of research inquiry.
“All of that gives me an appreciation for what faculty go through,” she says. “The central part of my charge here is to facilitate growth and development of faculty research and help the campus innovate and be more entrepreneurial.
“This is a great job,” she adds, her enthusiasm evident, “to be able to work with people who are excited about what they are doing, to be able to help them get it done. We will run the process again next year. It is a challenge because it is so broad, but it lets people dream. That’s part of the excitement of changing the culture on campus.” — JMM