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Project Title:Creating an Innovation Institute to Fast-Track Partnerships, Outcomes and RevenuesInstitution Name:University of West Florida Innovation Category:Institutional Change Processes Project Director:Dr. Pam Northrup, Associate Provost & Executive Director, UWF Innovation InstituteContact Information:(850) 474-3255, pnorthrup@uwf.eduWebsite:http://uwf.edu/innovation
Project Description:

The Innovation Institute at the University of West Florida was formed in July 2013 as a keystone innovation organization of Academic Affairs, leading high profile institutional and state initiatives to successful completion by some of the most creative minds in the academy. The Institute seeks to develop opportunities for innovative practice through partnerships with colleges, academic departments, enrollment management, information technology, institutions throughout Florida, national leaders in the field, community/business partners and many others to solve educational challenges in new ways. Resources are being invested to connect stakeholders and affect positive educational change to support major challenges such as high demand new programs, serving non-degree completers to come back to school and streamlining the educational process to reduce the cost of education. Given this need, the Provost created the Innovation Institute to serve as a fast track ‘red team’ to circle around defined challenges, bring in the right people to assist and rapidly launch new approaches to support campus growth, focus on non-traditional and graduate students, and other sources of income to support the institution during an era of constrained state funding and overall increased costs.


The first project of the Innovation Institute was to lead a statewide effort to reach out to the 2.2 million adults that have some college and no degree. This initiative was funded by the Florida legislature with year one funds being set at $4 million and year two funds set at $6 million. The Institute has eleven partner institutions that have joined together to offer accelerated, fully online programs that align to workforce needs in Florida. These eleven institutions include state universities, state colleges and private institutions working together to achieve this impressive goal through understanding the needs of this population, building a concierge-based student services infrastructure, a common application, a dashboard to monitor student success, and intrusive advising and career coaching through the life of the project. We are now beginning Phase 2 of Complete Florida with competency-based educational partnership programs being designed in Information Technology, Business and Healthcare to produce reduced costs, increased access and the ability for adults to ‘prove’ what knowledge they have already gained in the workplace.



  • The UWF Innovation Institute solves major educational challenges through a fast track innovation process that includes faculty, students, administrators, national leaders and the community to incubate issues and design creative solutions in the current areas of (1) increasing number of non-degree completers, military and veterans and graduate students into fully online degree programs and (2) increasing the pipeline of students into STEM disciplines (cybersecurity), to graduation and to employment.  
  • The UWF Innovation Institute produces positive performance outcomes by defining the challenge, developing solutions to solve the problem and measuring the solutions to include enrollment increases, partnerships and the student information technology (IT) pipeline.  
  • The UWF Innovation Institute builds and sustains collaborations and partnerships to spark creativity for solving challenges. The Institute partners with several groups to support current fast track projects. These include “Faculty Innovators”—as part of our online learning growth, eleven institutional partners with Complete Florida, 23 IT companies in the region, new programs for kids to begin the STEM pipeline process to include CoderDojo that has 50 kids and several companies engaged and has a campus-based cybersecurity steering committee with college deans, cyber director, provost, sponsored research, information technology and enrollment management engagement.  
  • The UWF Innovation Institute develops solid revenue models to sustain projects and enhance campus-based activity through alternative workflow and funding models to include Florida’s market rate tuition program, new models for student recruitment, new models to retain students to completion through concierge-based coaching; and new strategies, such as competency-based education to support reduced overhead and overall costs.  

In year one, the Innovation Institute received $4 million in funds to develop the infrastructure for non-degree completers in “Complete Florida.” The funds were used to:

  • establish a concierge-based advising model;
  • partner with eleven state universities, state colleges and private institutions;
  • design 53 degree programs that are accelerated and fully online;
  • develop a common application to be used across all 53 programs/11 institutions;
  • implement a statewide marketing campaign in late May 2014 for Fall 2014 full implementation that includes on-ground business marketing for employees in large companies throughout the state.  

Currently 350 students are participating in pilot launches of Complete Florida. The legislature awarded Complete Florida $6 million for Year 2 of the initiative. The Year 1 goal (that is projected to be realized by the end of Summer 2015) is 2,000 student enrollments in Complete Florida.

In year 1, UWF received $7.5 million in IT performance-funding money to support IT programs at UWF. The decision was made to form a Center for Cybersecurity through the Innovation Institute and accompanying multi-disciplinary programs, scholarship, opportunities for kids in K-12 and expand partnerships for student internships, employment and potential philanthropic support while seeking the CAE designation as a Center of Excellence in Cybersecurity Education. The following has been accomplished to date:

  • Center for Cybersecurity formed
  • Program for kids, “CoderDojo” formed with 50 kids participating twice a month.
  • Programs developed and ready to implement Fall 2014
  • IT partnerships formed with 23 companies in area (in addition to those already formed by individual academic departments)
  • Five new faculty and advisors hired to support program expansions
  • Battle Lab fully functional and ready to support cybersecurity students  

The Innovation Institute is hosting a Summer Series for Competency-Based Education to determine how to build competency-based programs that align specifically to the needs of industry, to determine how the campus infrastructure will need to accommodate and to discover new ways for teaching and learning. Results of this effort will yield the state’s first major competency-based program that is a partnership across multiple institutions.  

The Innovation Institute expanded its graduate programs in the area of Educational Leadership and Ed.D. Curriculum and Instruction. Growth in these programs based on new methods for recruiting, eight-week course sequences and multiple admissions per year have increased enrollments from 70 students to approximately 450 students in programs. Both programs will use Florida’s market rate tuition model to generate zero funded FTE revenue to support academic affairs activity.

Challenges/Problems Encountered:Innovation in higher education by its very nature makes people uncomfortable. With the directive as an Institute to fast track processes and solve problems, there have been numerous meetings, brainstorming sessions, communications events and more to untangle the myriad of issues that exist when trying to accelerate to implementation. The partnerships with industry being a critical attribute of what we are doing sometimes has reality checks on the campus to make us re-assess if we are teaching what should be taught to prepare graduates for work. In some efforts, there was great resistance to operating in new ways. The goal of innovation is not to do the same thing better but to do new things to solve the problems. It is difficult sometimes to release the ‘same things’ to be able to see the bigger picture of the ‘new things.” Overall, once people see how the Institute operates, the spirit of collaboration and partnership and the outcomes that have been achieved in its short existence, there is excitement in moving forward and great recognition from our state on what has been accomplished.
Evaluation Approach:

Revenue is a huge driver in success for the Institute. The Institute has to stand on its own without financial support from the university itself. Success in projects with recurring sources of funding and growth in projects that have a sustained life cycle are critical. As well, for those more traditional activities (like establishing a university Center for Cybersecurity) it is important to identify alternative forms of revenue to support ongoing success and operations through grants and contracts, through expansive growth in the programs, through giving, and through non-credit programming to support the ever-growing, ever-changing face of Cybersecurity. The Institute’s goals for the year based on the Provost’s direction (and Provost evaluation) were as follows:

  • Increased external funding (public and private)
  • Increased numbers of partnerships
  • Increased visibility
  • Increased graduates per 100 FTE throughout the division
  • Increased number of programs redesigned in response to community and industry needs
Potential for Replication:UWF went through an Academic Visioning Process two years prior to study reorganization and to set the overall emphasis for the future. One of the areas strongly emphasized was innovation. This was acted on in the form of establishing an Institute to fast track challenges by looking through a more systemic lens, connecting to highly visible experts in the field and connecting the dots. Identifying a group of people to gather around a problem and use a visible, innovation-focused process to solve problems is replicable but would need buy in and support from both upper administration (cabinet, president, provost) and deans level and faculty level support.
Additional Resources:

Provost: Dr. Martha Saunders, msaunders@uwf.edu

  Websites & Social Channels

  Complete Florida Videos



  Cybersecurity Video  


  Article from Pensacola News Journal on Institute  


  Article on CoderDojo  


CEO-to-CEO Contact:Judy Bense , Presidentjbense@uwf.edu
(850) 474-2000
Date Published: Monday, July 7, 2014