A longtime business professor with extensive experience launching innovation efforts will lead a new lab dedicated to helping Cal Poly Pomona students take their ideas from the drawing board to the board room.
Olukemi Sawyerr has been selected to serve as the founding faculty director of the Student Innovation Idea Lab (iLab). The lab will be a resource for students, faculty and the surrounding business community, and fuel cutting-edge and entrepreneurial student projects.
“I am pleased that Dr. Sawyerr has agreed to serve as the director of the Student Innovation Idea Lab,” former Provost Marten denBoer says. “The lab will be an important resource for our enterprising students. Dr. Sawyerr’s experience in developing and operating innovation programs make her the perfect fit for this new role.”
Sawyerr has spent several months gearing up for the lab’s fall quarter launch.
“I feel privileged to be the inaugural director,” Sawyerr says. “I am excited and honored to begin this on campus because I believe there is a need for it.”
President Emeritus Michael Ortiz, who retired in December, spearheaded the creation of the iLab, Sawyerr says. It builds on the College of Business Administration’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the new Technology Transfer/Industry Clinic Office.
Sawyerr, who has been at Cal Poly Pomona for 13 years, earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from Texas Woman’s University. She received her doctorate in strategic management/organization theory and policy from the University of North Texas.
As the founding faculty member and project coordinator of the Cal Poly Pomona Technology Screening Assessment Program, Sawyerr oversees an interdisciplinary team of faculty that supervises student interns who conduct research for National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
In addition, Sawyer and Professor Winny Dong from the College of Engineering collaborated to establish the Entrepreneurship in STEM Education lab. The program gives multidisciplinary teams of students one year to identify an innovative technology, develop a product and service based on what they found, build a prototype, create the organizational structure to manufacture it, and market and sell their goods or services.
The class is so popular that Sawyerr says in the last academic year about one-third of the students who applied were turned away because of space constraints. The new lab could help remedy that situation.
“To have the university have a formal lab dedicated to innovation is very exciting,” she says. “That means the opportunity will be opened up to more students.”