Illinois State is moving forward with its new Innovation Hub with the help of a dedicated team, including a Stevenson Center Fellow. Each year Fellows help a range of organizations in meeting their development goals.
An Applied Community and Economic Development Fellow in political science, Oluwatobi Oladejo is contributing to the planning and implementation of this ambitious project. The Innovation Hub, part of a system of similar hubs across Illinois, will consist of two related parts, a startup business incubator and a makerspace.
“The incubator will be tailored to any individual who is selected who has a business idea and needs technical support to expand on this idea. Whether student or small-business owner, it’s the hope that their time in the incubator will help grow the local economy. (As for the) makerspace, anyone with an inventive mind or with a knack for building things in the community can come together in order to turn their visions into reality,” Oladejo said.
Oladejo’s role builds on his background in communications and marketing. “I quickly jumped into the branding and development of the naming of the Innovation Hub, and I also help facilitate conversations between designers and faculty in charge,” he said. Oladejo graduated from Howard University in 2018 with a B.A. in strategic, legal, and management communications and a minor in political science. He then served as an AmeriCorps member with City Year Chicago. In addition to long days as a student success coach, he took on several public relations roles for the corps and his team. Now Oladejo is completing a master’s degree in political science with a sequence in applied community and economic development.
Any complex project involving multiple stakeholders comes with challenges, and the current pandemic and its implications can present additional hurdles. At the same time, it’s critical to continue to work to position the community and the university for future success. “Right now, we’re always consciously seeking a preventative measure to make sure that we are preparing the community for growth in uncertain times, especially now,” Oladejo said.
Rex Schaeffer, director of strategic partnerships, agrees, adding that the current pandemic has not dampened the excitement of the team: “(We’re) excited for the community as well as for ISU. That ISU will help drive and support this project is a testament to the university’s commitment to helping the local community. It’s going to be a really nice collaborative effort that is due to the university and the amazing individuals who are helping to make this a reality.”
The Innovation Hub will serve as a useful network of experts and resources to drive economic development and growth locally and regionally. “The hub and its partners will assist in the development of entrepreneurs, small business owners, university researchers, and aspiring creators of all ages,” said Oladejo.
Oladejo believes these goals will be met through commitment to everyone in the community: “Our dream is to bring people from all walks of life to come and collaborate and grow the community. We want to create an environment for anyone in the community and anyone with a dream who wants to take the ambitious first step. All dreamers are welcome.”
For those interested in a master’s experience like Oladejo’s, the Stevenson Center is now accepting applications for fall 2021.
Dani Park is the Stevenson Center’s public relations graduate assistant.