CFI renovates, expands offerings

By Olivia Valkner, Staff Writer

Center for Innovation (CFI) Coordinator and XU alum Ben Alegre is excited for a new semester with a freshly renovated space.  

The CFI seeks to increase experiential learning on campus through the implementation of events and programs that bring Xavier students into the world of innovation and entrepreneurial studies.

Renovations to the space were made over the summer, and CFI administrators hope the changes will boost student engagement with the center. The building, located across from the Book Depot, now includes spaces for study tables, cornhole, breakout rooms and televisions.

Associate Provost of Academic Affairs Dr. Rashimi Assudani oversees the new CFI space and seeks to grow campus involvement in the world of innovation. She offered insight into the importance of the new space to the CFI’s mission. 

“Innovation and entrepreneurship, in a very global way, intends to equip students with that courageous mindset where you’re able to challenge the status quo,” Assudani said. “This space is an avenue for us to allow the minds to collide, and the students to be with each other in an uninterrupted way and in a psychologically safe space as well.”

Shortly after completing his degree in entrepreneurial studies last May, Alegre was hired to the new full-time position of CFI Coordinator. Serving as the liaison between the center and the campus community, Alegre hopes to increase visibility and campus connection.  

Alegre believes that the renovated space’s diverse options will help students from more disciplines engage with the center. 

“(The CFI) allows me to step outside of the comfort zone of innovation in business. We’re trying to introduce it to all disciplines — innovation in art, music, education and healthcare,” he said. 

“It’s allowing me to broaden the scope of what I do and to connect with different passions and interests for students,” Alegre added.

Alegre hopes this goal will be furthered by the Innovation Center Task Force, which is composed of himself, Assudani, Williams College of Business professors Mike Halloran and Karen Eutsler, Director of the Center for Population Health Victor Ronis-Tobin and College of Nursing professor Shelley Hurles. 

The enhanced CFI space is already being used for club meet-ups, events and study rooms. 

“If you are a student with even a hint of an idea, this is where you can come to make it a reality,” Alegre said. “We are trying to activate and empower student clubs to use this huge event space…You wouldn’t expect it’s here. It’s truly a hidden gem around the corner.” 

Additionally, the CFI sponsors the annual Xavier University Pitch Competition, in which undergraduate student entrepreneurs pitch product ideas to a panel of judes. 

The CFI is also launching a new fellowship pilot program, which offers professional development funds for student, staff and faculty projects. The program will offer up to $5,000 in support for selected innovative, interdisciplinary projects.  Members of the Xavier community can apply for this fellowship at the CFI website. 

As the center’s resources grow, Assudani hopes that the CFI can support innovation on a scale beyond campus. 

“Our work at the Center for Innovation has just begun. We know that Cincinnati is emerging as one of the top U.S. cities that drives innovation… We are looking forward to engaging with our city to further enhance our region,” Assudani concluded.