Building Creativity: Colorado College Innovation Space Nears Opening

By JACK BILBROUGH

The Innovation Center, an academic office at Colorado College, has entered exciting times with the imminent opening of their new Innovation Space. Designed as a physical space for students to experiment and collaborate, the Innovation Space is the embodiment of the Center’s stated goal: “Your ideas have the potential to create change,” their page on the CC website reads. “We want to equip you with the tools, resources, and know-how to put your ideas into action.”

Landis Hackett, a student assistant with the Innovation Center program, foresees Innovation at CC “becoming one of Colorado College’s priorities over the next five, 10, 15 years.” He also predicts “a lot more funding, attention, class time, professorial training, student workshops, and on-campus dialogue concerning innovation.” Sophie Leamon, another student assistant at the Innovation Center, sees this reinvigoration of innovation as a shift away from what she calls, “the boys club.” “One of the cool things about innovation,” she said, “is that everyone brings something to the table. We’re just trying to have more at the table.” For Hackett and Leamon, this table is no longer strictly metaphorical.

Students interact in the new space
A new workspace inside the innovation building
Outside entrance to the Innovation Building, located on Weber and Cache La Poudre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Innovation Space is located on 232 Cache Le Poudre street, in what used to be a dentist’s office. The word ‘clean’ comes to mind upon entering the space. The basement of the Innovation Space sports a laser cutter, a fully equipped work-bench, a meditation room, and what will be a full kitchen. Upstairs, simple wood floors sit beneath white walls, minimalistic yellow and blue chairs surround wooden-topped tables, and rotating white-boards frame the edges of the room. These appliances are all on wheels.

They’re on wheels for a reason. Hackett said, “The first thing to know about the space is that it’s a pilot… The way that we designed it was to be as flexible as possible, so anyone can come in there and use it for whatever they want, and move it around in any way they want.” This openness in the space informs an openness in its purpose. Leamon has been using the space to study, pulling multiple white-boards around a couch, and covering them with mathematical proofs. Hackett has been holding food rescue meetings around one of the space’s large tables. The space isn’t even exclusively for people with ideas they want to work on.

“I think the idea,” Leamon said, “is that if you’ve had the notion that innovation is only for tech start-up people and you don’t have those skills, or innovation is for someone who knows computer science, and you’ve never studied it, then you should just come by. Come see the space, and introduce yourself to people. There are so many people who have ideas, and who want to work on them at CC, and this innovation space is a way to connect them… it’s a place to find someone who does have an idea and to help them, or to be inspired to have one yourself. We hope that there’s enough going on in this space that you’ll find what you’re looking for.”

Both Leamon and Hackett emphasized inclusivity extensively in talking about the new space. They imagine a multiplicity of diversities inside the new space: diversity of ethnicities, cultures, and genders, but also a diversity of ideas, of skills, of intentions, and of visions. The Innovation Space is designed to exist in many forms in order to serve the broad range of students it will contain.

crats Sophia Brown said, “The planning for this event began with El Paso County Democratic Party Chair Electra Johnson…the parties were not contacted on the same timeline.” Brown added, “The original plan was to hold a bipartisan forum with primary candidates from both the Republican and Democratic Parties.” Yet, CC has no counterpart to the CC Dems so the onus of planning bipartisan events falls solely on the CC Dems making things difficult.

Partisan as it may have been, the event provided an outlet to hear from a large selection of Democrats. Ginsburg and Kennedy spoke with The Catalyst regarding their travels around the state in preparation for the gubernatorial race.

Kennedy has been traveling to communities around the state for nearly half the year in advance of announcing her candidacy, in her words, “talking to people about issues in their communities, really hearing their stories.”

Asked specifically about the 18-24 year old demographic in advance of the midterm elections, Kennedy had this to say, “To have the voice of this age group is critically important in our electoral process,” she paused before adding, “we’re not going to elect going to elect good candidates if this age group doesn’t stay active and involved.”

When asked the same question, Ginsburg responded, “I would like to see 18-24 year olds vote in higher numbers than they have been in this state. I believe, because of what’s going on in this country that more will,” adding, “My hope is that kids will not just listen to what we say but research what we say, research what we’ve done so they may be more informed.”

Ginsburg continued, “I mean, I know my own mom, she’ll send me stuff. And I’ll say ‘Mom, this is not true. Here’s the references from Snopes or wherever…’ but I think your generation [is] more attuned to the fact that you just can’t take it at face value. So, we need that demographic and I hope that they’re activated, I hope that they show up, I hope that they’re pushing back …”

When asked about what she’d been hearing from Coloradoan’s in her travels Kennedy emphasized a narrative of affordability: affordability of healthcare, higher education, and housing. Accompanying the inquisition for affordability she noted a current of anxiety around growth, saying,

“But, we really have challenges in Colorado where we’ve had tremendous growth and economic progress on the Front Range, particularly in the metro area, but not everybody is benefiting from that progress. So rural communities across our state, people that are working in the service economy, people who are working at minimum wage are really struggling to get ahead in this economy.”

Ginsburg also brought up the disconnect between Colorado’s urban centers and rural communities, saying, “I would say [it is] disheartening that there is a disconnect between our urban centers and rural parts of Colorado, that’s the bad news. The good news is, it’s not that our goals our different. Everybody wants to educate their kids, have a good job, ensure that there’s good healthcare for them, that there’s roads that they can drive on.

Ginsburg underscored, “The debate isn’t about that. The debate is that we don’t trust each other. And trust starts with communication. Once you communicate you build trust, once you build trust you can build plans, once you have a plan you can get consensus and move forward. I think that in this state we have not been bridging that divide.”

Asked what their biggest perceived challenge was in their race for Governor of Colorado both emphasized the amount of travel over the course of the next year.  Ginsburg added,

“I’ve got a lot of work to do. I’m not a sitting congressman, I didn’t serve in the State Senate, but my mix of business and communal civic leadership is a balance that is important. And, frankly, the authentic nature of what I’ve done over the years, speaks to who I am. If I can get that across, I can win. But, I have to do a lot of work to introduce myself across our state, that’s the challenge.”

Kennedy noted the same challenge, as her biggest perceived hurdle in the Governor’s race. Both candidates balked at the recent status quo of Washington, acknowledging that voter’s they’ve talked to in the State are scared of what’s happening. Yet both gubernatorial candidates emphasized that there was more energy in Colorado Politics than there is disheartenment on behalf of voters.

Kennedy, outside taking a brief respite before giving here remarks, spoke to the political mood of the state as bells tolled from Shove Chapel saying, “[Voters] want to see leadership in the Capitol that will stand up to the erosion of those protections coming out of Washington…People are proud of our state. They’re proud of what Colorado has become and they want to see a Governor position Colorado as a national model, as a national leader.”

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