Blue skies, seasonally warm weather and the festivities of UB’s 2019 Homecoming weekend were the backdrops to Saturday’s inaugural ceremony to commence the opening of the Bauer Hall Innovation Center. Alumni, faculty, staff and distinguished guests gathered on the sun-drenched Marina lawn as violinist Joshua Bustamante ‘19 serenaded the crowd for the ribbon cutting event.
President Laura Trombley, gave the opening address, stressing the importance of Bauer Hall to the student body and the community at large. “This Center represents a major step forward in the UB commitment to student-led innovation. The Center will serve the business community and create economic development benefits for the Bridgeport region and beyond,” Trombley noted. “The Center will also help students to learn and build essential skills in entrepreneurship and enterprise.”
The 9,600-square-foot Bauer Hall space was designed to help foster entrepreneurship and innovation in students and to mentor students in business start-ups, ownership and development. The Center is also an incubator for STEM and eco-system focused innovation and plans to serve the business community with student-run design services, technology transfer, and commercialization, and serve as an economic development driver.
The Center was made possible through a generous gift from principal donors George and Carol Bauer and an additional gift from UB Trustee Mike Kolakowski. The Bauers are local philanthropists, dedicated to paying their success forward, whose projects in higher education and health care are transformative and life-changing.
The Bauers saw the opportunity to contribute to the Innovation Center as a project that would serve both the interests of the University’s diverse student body and help to drive economic growth to the Bridgeport business community. Their gift also helps carry on the original legacy of one of the great historical mansions of Bridgeport’s ‘Millionaire’s Row’, as painstaking care was taken to preserve the original architectural integrity in the renovation of the 1893 structure by Architect and Shintaro Akatsu School of Design faculty member, Mark Halstead. The refurbishment of the building was completed by KBE Construction of Farmington, CT.
The building is a living symbol of the city of Bridgeport’s industrial boom era of the late 1800s when Bridgeport was at the epicenter of innovative manufacturing.
The innovation Center brings us full circle,” President Trombley reflected, “This is a space where our students can go to build.” She added, “Instead of iron foundries they will have 3D printers, instead of typewriters they will create software and they will code. The impulse to create is the same as it was a century ago, and this puts us at the forefront of student entrepreneurship in higher education.”
George Bauer shared a recent story with the crowd, of approaching a student, who was taking a picture of the Center, when they were adding the finishing touches to the renovation. “Well, what do you think?” Bauer asked the student. The student said “with great feeling,” Bauer recalled, “Simply awesome!” “What we see here today is not just some bricks and mortar but the realization of a dream, of not only an innovation home for the University of Bridgeport but a resource for the entire Bridgeport Community.”
Tarek Sobh, Bauer Hall Innovation Center Founding Director & Dean of the College of Engineering, Business and Education, remarked that the Center will provide students with “creative opportunities to make a difference, to inspire their communities and to become part of positive change. It will provide community-oriented support structures to help our students for careers of the future and careers that don’t even exist.”
Student innovator Mihovil Backovic ’20 shared his experience since joining the Student Entrepreneur Center, which he called “the best decision of his college career.” He has used the Center to start his own business and placed 64th in a national start-up competition. “The Center allows students to learn through doing and getting the chance to work through faculty advisors is truly invaluable,” Backovic said. “Without the Innovation Center, I would just be another kid with dreams. The Center helped make my dreams a reality.”
The Bauer Hall Innovation Center is open to all UB students in all majors. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.