Spark for collaboration

New Center for Innovation director and College of Business & Public Administration dean arrive at UND

Amy Whitney, Amy Henley

Amy Whitney (left) and Amy Henley (right) recently got together to talk about their new roles as well as the potential for future collaboration between the Center for Innovation and College of Business & Public Administration. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

When UND Today last wrote about Amy Whitney and Amy Henley, they were selected to lead the Center for Innovation (CFI) and College of Business & Public Administration (CoBPA), respectively.

Now that the two Amys are on campus, they’re noticing a similar spark at the University of North Dakota.

“There’s a lot of energy, excitement and vision for the value of innovation,” Whitney said. “There’s support across the UND community to apply that to what’s happening in the area, to move forward.”

Henley noticed it during her campus visit when an impressive amount of students came to ask questions of the candidates.

“That spoke to me about something that exists here – that if students are going to take an hour out of their day to ask questions and advocate for themselves, they must really care.”

While both noticed it in their new positions, they alluded to a passion and pride for the University and Grand Forks community.

Henley says she’s excited to be a part of the flagship environment.

“So many people define themselves in this state by having attended school here,” she said. “Having the reality of it actually happening, settling in, is really exciting.”

With the fall semester around the corner, both are eager to get their hands dirty.

Due diligence

Both Amys spent the summer preparing and learning. Whitney arrived July 1 and has taken advantage of the time to understand the Center from an administrative standpoint.

She’s focused on how the Center plays a role as a “connective tissue” and contributor to the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and establishing that connection with students and faculty at UND.

“I’ve spent a lot of time learning about the Center’s operations,” Whitney said, adding that interim director Barry Horwitz established a great foundation from a familiar perspective. Both Whitney and Horwitz are closely connected with the Boston, Mass., area.

“He and I see similar opportunities for the Center, the biggest piece of which is collaboration and connectivity,” Whitney said. “It’s what makes the Boston ecosystem work as well as it does, and we want to build on that in Grand Forks.”

Henley, who started Aug. 1, did her homework over the phone during June and July. She says weekly conversations with interim dean Steven Light got things going on the right foot.

“Steve has been amazingly helpful this summer,” she said. “He and I had many hours getting ready and I thank him immensely. He’s kept me well-informed about not only what decisions have been made but why they’ve been made, and the factors behind them.”

For Summer Commencement, Light insisted Henley take the stage in her first public appearance as dean. She obliged, saying no one could have handled the transition with more tact.

Amy Whitney

Whitney believes the Center for Innovation to be a crucial vehicle for interdisciplinary, experiential learning. Photo by Tyler Ingham/UND Today.

Strategic opportunities

Both quickly became familiar with the strategic goals of the University. Henley is excited about the prospects of advancing her college’s research capacities.

“I think we’re unique in our college of business by having public administration and the traditional, private business enterprises together,” she said. “That’s where we can make a unique contribution not just toward academic research but applied research in the business community.

“This University has a research focus where we can do great things, especially moving to R1.”

Whitney notes the Center’s ability to aid UND’s strategies when she describes the potential for interdisciplinary, experiential learning.

Some of the best ideas that come from students are when they approach a situation from different perspectives, she says. A management student next to a fine arts student, for example, allows for greater ideation and problem-solving.

Henley and Whitney expressed their commitment to integrating their programming in a way that “speaks to the values” of the CoBPA and CFI – providing students with key interactions outside of the classroom, as well as bringing professionals into the fold.

“My hope is that we provide the vehicle to bring those conversations together and also the processes to help test those ideas,” Whitney said.

Part of that involves tapping into the best qualities of the community. Whitney looks toward emerging industries as well as the level of talent and values shown within the region.

“Agriculture, aerospace, UAS and energy are industries that can make significant impacts on the rest of the world,” she continued. “People here are intelligent and bring a lot to the world. They’re passionate about the community. They care.”