SIF112 Wise Innovation Ecosystem

Project Manager: Donna Henry with Shannon Blevins, UVA Wise

The purpose of this project is to increase enrollment in technical programs and create a more robust culture of entrepreneurship and innovation.

BoV Approved: June 2017

Project Dates: 7/11/2017 – 7/10/2023

Funding Awarded: $3,485,460

Executive Summary

This award is designed to create a Wise Innovation Ecosystem to increase enrollment in technical programs and foster a more robust culture of entrepreneurship and innovation. These are important steps toward diversifying the regional economy, and UVa's College at Wise is uniquely positioned to play a leadership role in supporting job growth and economic prosperity.

The Wise Innovation Ecosystem leverages existing investments and proposes to:

l. Increase enrollment in technical programs such as software engineering, computer science and management of information systems (MIS); and

2. Create a center for innovation for students to collaborate and develop entrepreneurial skills through real world, hands-on learning experiences.

By focusing on these areas, UVa-Wise students will develop the skills needed to be relevant and competitive in today's economy.

Current Status: Active


This award has been formally reviewed by the PAC twice, most recently at its June 2020 meeting.

The project team reports numerous achievements to date:

  • There are five students pursuing minors in computer science and/or MIS. Additionally, the number of expected technology degrees to be awarded for Academic Year 19-20 is 26, an increase of 18% since last year and more than 100% increase since the start of the initiative. 
  • Established a center for innovation and entrepreneurship, which includes opportunities for internships, bootcamps, cybersecurity symposia, an entrepreneurship credentialing program and other cyber related events; as well as the establishment of a physical location for students ventures now called The Nest.
  • Designed and hosted two cybersecurity symposia and competitions, as well as two Summer Programs in Entrepreneurship and Cyber (SPEC), which engaged UVA Wise students, as well as students and faculty from four international higher educational institutions.
  • Enrolled two new companies offering virtual internships and facilitated Wise Works internships, supported by this SIF award, which have resulted in seven full time positions for UVA Wise graduates.
  • Leveraged the SIF funds to attain over $3M additional grant dollars toward sustained support of this initiative.
  • Opened the Oxbow Center, a co-working and incubator space located off campus in the up-and-coming town of St. Paul, VA - November 2019.
  • Launched the UVA Wise Tech Talent Task Force to coordinate technology related initiatives at UVA Wise.
  • Collaborated with UVA Batten Institute in the design and implementation of the Impact Investing in Appalachia (IIIA) which engaged students from both UVA and UVA Wise in a J-term course – January 2020.
  • Successfully competed for a SCHEV grant in conjunction with UVA to host a joint course on preparing technology students with job-readiness skills. Course to be offered for the first time in fall 2020.
  • Supported a UVA Wise student in competing as a finalist in the Tom Tom Innovators Cup, the first student in UVA Wise history to make it to the finals.
  • Supported a UVA Wise student in competition as a finalist in the UVA Cup Launch Competition, the first student in UVA Wise history to make it to the finals; while a second student submitted for the competition as well.