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WSU Innovation Campus modeled after NC State Centennial Campus

Published On: Aug 15 2014 07:26:27 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 15 2014 09:36:55 PM CDT
RALEIGH, North Carolina -

Much of the idea for the new Innovation Campus at Wichita State came from North Carolina State's Centennial Campus. 

KWCH Education Reporter Pilar Pedraza traveled there earlier in the week to get a look at what we can expect and what it takes to make something like this work.

Centennial Campus in Raleigh, North Carolina has more than 30 partnership buildings by now and is still growing. It's more than just businesses located on campus. It's a relationship that helps the university, students and industry connect, sometimes in ways we might not even think about. But the designers of Centennial Campus have thought about it.

"A lot of universities have done a research park," said Michael Harwood, Associate Vice Chancellor for NCSU's Centennial Campus. "Typically they're outside of town. They're off campus."

But not at North Carolina State.  In Raleigh the research park is right on campus. And that's part of what makes it work.

"It's an academic campus. It has state appropriated buildings," said Centennial Park's Vice Chancellor Terri Lomax.

At the same time it has businesses and everything needed to live there.

"It has living. It has dormitories that are an entrepreneurship learning and living village. It has condos, townhomes, apartments," she said.

And it's all carefully planned out.

"What I call the connective tissue are the way that the buildings are arranged, the kind of amenities," said Harwood.

His job is to make sure the space is not only visually appealing but promotes physical interaction.

"So that there's a certain distance that you can recognize someone's face across the courtyard, and so we put buildings close together so that facilitates that type of interaction."

Centennial Campus didn't happen overnight. It took them five years to raise the first building. Since then they've averaged more than a building a year and they're still growing.

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Lomax says many schools have studied North Carolina State's Centennial Campus and tried to copy their successes.

"But, very few have been.. in fact no one's been able to," she said. "So it'll be interesting to see what Wichita State does."

Harwood says there's one thing Wichita State needs to do to make it's new innovation campus just as successful.

"The answer we give most often is it's grounded in what NC State is good at," said Harwood about how Centennial Campus became the success it is today. "And so Wichita State should do what it's good at and that will ensure a successful campus for them."

When Eyewitness News spoke with WSU President Bardo he said that's exactly what he plans to do, steal every idea he thinks will work, from any school out there, then mold it to fit Wichita State.

The advantage to students in bringing businesses right on to campus, internships and jobs, is fairly obvious. But what do the businesses get out of it?

"We're able to have pieces of about 65 companies here on our campus," said Harwood.

"We didn't want to just have a telephonic relationship, throw reports and proposals over the wall," said Stewart Witzeman with Eastman Chemical. "We wanted to have a deep engagement."

Eastman Chemical joined North Carolina State's Centennial Campus a few years ago because it loved the idea of actually being on campus.

"We're five minutes walk from the College of Engineering, from Textiles and from Materials Science," said Witzeman. "So that really enables the deep interaction that we were seeking."

It makes collaboration, especially on the research end, much easier. But it's much more than formal relationships, it's the conversations with students and faculty that pop up in those unexpected places.

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"What I've noticed since we've been here is there are a lot of, sort of additional, benefits beyond just the university interaction," said Witzeman.

"It's the interaction between the companies with a problem, our students with the energy, our faculty with the great ideas," said Harwood. "And you put those together and really magic happens."

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