Beth Fines joins Innovation Hub as Managing Director
Beth Fines, who recently was hired as managing director of Purdue’s Innovation Hub, has been working in higher education for 20 years. She spent the first decade of her career at the University of Michigan, where she discovered a passion for working in programmatic spaces where student life and academic affairs intersect.
At Michigan, Fines directed a residential living-learning program for women in engineering. Later, at Ohio State, she was hired to design and launch a second-year transformational experience program. Part of her strategy involved matching students with faculty mentors outside the classroom and connecting them with high-impact experiential education opportunities throughout their college experience.
When Fines began considering new career opportunities, Purdue stood out because of its reputation for innovation related to teaching and learning.
“What attracted me to Purdue was the university’s intense focus on transformative undergraduate education,” Fines said. “Especially at this moment in time, it’s so important for educators to think critically about the needs of students over the next decade and how we’re building and designing educational experiences that will be relevant. This role seemed like the perfect way for me to blend my past professional experiences with new opportunities to create an impactful community space.”
Funded through the generous support of the Lilly Endowment as part of the Charting the Future initiative, the Innovation Hub focuses on course-based innovations at scale. With $5M in support, the Innovation Hub will extend the frontiers of teaching and learning at Purdue by providing faculty, staff, and students with the support, tools, and partnerships required to realize their large-scale visions for what a residential undergraduate education should be.
Read the following Q&A to learn more about Fines and her role with Purdue’s Innovation Hub:
What most excites you about the work happening in the Innovation Hub?
“You know, I’ve only been here two weeks, but what I’ve learned already is that there are so many incredible faculty who care deeply about teaching and utilizing that teaching to really improve the student experience at Purdue. And the Innovation Hub aims to shine a spotlight on that, and then hopefully grow and scale the impact of that. Where we have evidence that something is working well, we want to think about systems and strategies and approaches to sustain that impact over the course of time so it’s not just living in these specific pockets or departments. That kind of work really speaks to me. I love working in spaces where there’s a broad vision and some sort of overarching goal, but where there’s a real need to figure things out on the ground.
I also think it’s a challenging moment to be working in these spaces, partly because some of what has worked so well with students over the past 20 years is no longer resonating as much or working in the same ways. For example, at Ohio State, we were seeing a lot of disengagement with some of the programs and practices that for years had been very popular with students. A lot of that stems from an increase in students’ post-pandemic desire to be thoughtful about where and how they’re spending their time. Some of that is informed by wellness and students’ focus on wanting to prioritize, which is a good thing. It’s also a reminder for those who are putting together educational experiences to be thoughtful about how you’re creating and marketing opportunities.”
What would you like Purdue staff and faculty to know about the Innovation Hub?
“An important piece of the Innovation Hub’s mission relates to laying out a support structure at the institutional level that provides resources and capacity needed for innovation to happen.
This kind of structure also allows us to be thoughtful about the projects we scale up. There’s never a shortage of good ideas, but there’s always a shortage of time and resources. The Innovation Hub seeks to build out a structure that can propel ideas forward, in a way that’s going to work for the realities of instructors, staff members, and day-to-day work at the university. I’m passionate about building systems where faculty aren’t just participating out of the goodness of their heart, but where we’re also putting legs under how they’re incentivized and supported. It’s engagement and sustainability beyond just having a good idea.
I also really love the aspect of the hub as a connector. At any big institution, it’s easy to become focused in your pocket, whether that’s your discipline or your department or even your college. However, a lot of the innovation that’s happening so far from folks who have received grants involves transdisciplinary practices. So, part of this work includes reducing barriers that limit engagement across the university and between faculty. We want to help instructors learn from one another, where things are working well.”
What are your short- and long-term goals in this role?
“My short-term goal is rooted in relationship building. I’m focused on wanting to understand as best I can the current successes, or pockets where we’re actively meeting the needs of students. It’s understanding the pieces and parts that work together to contribute to the teaching landscape. So much of this work means sitting in this space of connection. I’ll be working with faculty and staff who have already been awarded grants, and I’m looking forward to providing additional resources, thoughts, and strategy behind next steps with some of those grant implementations.
The longer-term goal relates to scaling. Through this grant process, we’re going to be learning from the faculty and staff what’s working well and where they see the impact in the classroom. I see part of my role as trying to identify operationally what’s behind that success. Then we can explore ways to increase access so more Purdue students can get that same rich experience.
There’s already so much amazing work happening in this space, in so many different pockets. I’m hoping I can help shine a spotlight on that and leverage it for expansion across the next few years.”
How should folks engage with your department?
“What I want staff and faculty to understand about the Innovation Hub is our excitement around engagement with the University community and our genuine desire to transform the teaching and learning landscape. Because we’re so new, we are very much in this space of wanting to embrace many different ideas, and there are so many different approaches to how we might make an impact. Particularly with the grant and Innovation Fellow process, there are clear ways to get engaged, and we’ll have more opportunities in the future. The main thing is, we want to help bolster the conversation and give folks the space and the platform to connect with one another. We want to use these opportunities to plant some seeds that will then progressively hopefully grow into initiatives and programs. We encourage interested faculty, staff, and students to email us with your questions and ideas.”
Visit the Innovation Hub website for more information about the Transdisciplinary Program Planning Grant Competition, Innovation Grants proposal templates, and upcoming deadlines.
Last updated: Nov. 18