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Refocused mission: Center for Innovation moves forward after shakeup

Della Kapocius, the established grant writer for the UND Center for Innovation, provides day-to-day operational support to keep things running smoothly. Eric Hylden / Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — The UND Center for Innovation is looking to the future with a new mission statement that prioritizes its core entrepreneurial services.

The center has historically focused on coaching area entrepreneurs, promoting innovative business ventures and building connections for internships and other experiential learning opportunities for UND students. Until early last spring, the facility was led by Bruce Gjovig, its founder and longtime CEO, who says he was forced to retire by the university's senior administration. Now, as the center moves on without its longtime leader, it's looking to expand on what it does best with a mission approved Oct. 4 by the center's board of directors.

"The Center for Innovation at the University of North Dakota equips students, entrepreneurs and innovative business ventures with the knowledge, skills, credentials, resources and ethical foundation to go forth and serve as leaders in action throughout the business community," the new statement reads. The words themselves are more of a clarification for the center than any kind of course change, said board member and former North Dakota Gov. Ed Schafer.

"I think the elements in the mission statement, one could make the case that they're the same," Schafer said. But still, he said, having the explicit wording in hand "helps us build on from where we are today to where we want to be tomorrow."

Schafer commended Gjovig on his previous leadership and said there's "basically the same target" for the center in terms of goals. The most significant difference, Shafer says, is in the "pathway" through which the center distributes its services, which have been more clearly defined in tandem with the mission statement.

"We'll be tying in opportunities for entrepreneurship for the whole university, for all areas of the university, to move it beyond the business school and the center," he said. "And I think it's new to say that we want to manage the (intellectual property) for the university, and it's new to say that we want to be a sort of clearinghouse for research on the university campus."

UND is preparing a national search to find a new leader to guide the center into the future. Over the past few months, the facility was directed on an interim basis by longtime university administrator Laurie Betting. But since Betting's recent retirement, the center is headed up by strategic consultant Barry Horwitz, an entrepreneur who worked with UND on its overarching strategic plan initiative. According to a UND release, Della Kapocius, the established grant writer for the center, provides day-to-day operational support to keep things running smoothly.

Kapocius said that refining the center's mission and service lines was the "first step" of "(tying) what we're doing in the center already to the ways we want to grow."

"We're looking to align with the (UND strategic plan) and we want to reach and include more students in everything we do," she said.

Andrew Haffner

Andrew Haffner covers higher education and general assignment stories for the Grand Forks Herald. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he studied journalism, political science and international studies. He previously worked at the Dickinson Press.

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