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

Total Funding: $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


The UVA Wise Innovation Ecosystem (Wise IE) effort made major strides on multiple fronts during the performance period from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022. Most notably, the College successfully increased entrepreneurial activity among students, grew the number of companies offering paid internships through the Wise Works program, attracted a technology company to locate within Southwest Virginia, enhanced academic program offerings, and gained greater insights into the recruitment and retention of technology talent.

The College at Wise strengthened entrepreneurial programming through focused attention on building student participation in events at Nest, the off-campus student entrepreneurship space in the Town of Wise. The return of in-person activities enabled new events, such as the Side Hustle Market. The market generated excitement among the College and broader community around student entrepreneurial ventures. It garnered approximately 150 in attendance with 12 students promoting their products and services.

The Wise Works internship program enrolled three new companies and strengthened the relationship with one company from Northern Virginia. Having provided internship opportunities to UVA Wise students for several years, Peregrine Computer Consultants Corporation (PCCC) expanded its operations to Southwest Virginia in January 2022, establishing a physical presence in the Oxbow Center, a co-working/accelerator space in the Town of St. Paul.

 Creating experiential learning opportunities for UVA Wise students while providing IT companies the experience of doing business in the region is part of an overall strategy of the College at Wise to boost economic revitalization for the region.

In addition, the College secured reaccreditation for the Computer Science and Software Engineering degrees, completed a major overhaul of the Management of Information Systems degree, secured funding from the State Council on Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) to strengthen pathways from Virginia’s community colleges to UVA Wise programs, and continued dissecting student retention and recruitment in technical programs. The continued analysis of program enrollment revealed opportunities for UVA Wise to restructure support services and focus on increasing student success by establishing a student success collaborative, a centralized academic support center, and a peer education center. The plan for the new organizational structure will guide the final year of the Wise IE initiative and position the College for growth.