In light of this half-a-decade milestone, we wanted to talk to a few of our biggest supporters: Ed Van Deman ’69, Jay Hurt ‘88, and Liz Brigham ‘04, our W. Spencer Mitchem Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Hurt Hub, to reflect upon the evolution of the Hurt Hub over the last five years. And after sitting down to talk with them, it’s clear that the Hurt Hub is well on its way to redefining Liberal Arts education in the 21st century.
Ed Van Deman graduated from Davidson in 1969, and didn’t step foot back in Davidson for 45 years. Though he was away, Ed said “I never stopped thinking about Davidson.” As an economics major, Ed felt that there was never a space for economics majors to gather, compared to the labs for chemistry majors or the library for humanities majors. However, when President Carol Quillen’s idea for a space encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship near Davidson’s campus came about, it all changed. Ed thought, “This is an opportunity to redefine Liberal Arts education in the 21st century. We can’t live in the 19th and 20th century – Davidson’s got to do this.”
“There’s Leadership and Service but it doesn’t just happen. Davidson clearly knows how to take young people and help them develop themselves in their careers, but bringing new ideas and combining all of those things and pursuing missions and making the world a better place – that’s liberal arts and that’s leadership and service.”
Jay Hurt pointed out how our building, converted from an old-textile mill into a center for innovation and entrepreneurship, is really the perfect symbol for not only how North Carolina is changing, but how Davidson’s focus on technology is changing. Looking back, he is in awe at the past five years and the ways he has seen the Hurt Hub change Davidson’s campus for the better. There’s no entrepreneurship without innovation and in Jay’s words, “innovation is identifying a problem and finding a way to make it better.” Encouraging our students and coworkers to use innovation to fuel entrepreneurship is just the tip of the iceberg for us at the Hurt Hub.
Similar to Ed, Liz Brigham returned to her alma mater in 2020, saying that it was like she “never really left.” Focusing on its purpose, Liz remarked on how the Hurt Hub’s mission has remained unchanged in its vision and goals. Since its launch in 2018, the Hurt Hub has vowed to unite the Davidson College campus and community, while simultaneously providing opportunities to catalyze solutions for critical problems.
When Liz began, at the height of the pandemic, she and the Hurt Hub team were able to refine the Hurt Hub’s values of freedom, integrity, and inclusion. During this time, Liz and the team conducted over 150 interviews with a variety of faculty, students, and coworking members in order to gain increased insight into the Hurt Hub’s audience and their needs, as well as how to more effectively serve them. Through this, the Hurt Hub birthed its core of developing “access and exposure to innovation and entrepreneurship for all,” dismantling actual or perceived barriers to the Hurt Hub’s endless opportunities, such as mentorship, access to capital, and educational programming.
Both Ed and Jay are focused on what’s in store for the Hurt Hub. For Jay, these are things he calls BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goals. From expanding the Hurt Hub’s physical space, to completely honing in on creating and funding functional and profitable businesses at a level of intensity yet to be seen on a college campus. “We’re not exactly there yet – but the way we get there is to have quality programming with excellent staff and mentors, and I think we’re doing that right now.”
I concluded my interview with Liz by asking her one final question: what is one thing you wish more people knew about the Hurt Hub? Liz offered two excellent answers – first, are the bountiful opportunities open to Davidson students, namely the Try-It fund, which grants Davidson students the ability to follow their passions through an original idea or concept. These funds allow students the ability to learn the inner workings of the design process. The second element she touched upon is working as a Gig-Hub Consultant. These “gigs” offer students a real-world and paid experience with coworkers at the Hurt Hub and startups all over the world. “Maybe you don’t have the idea burning in the back of your brain quite yet, but come and experience the buffet of options.” Davidson students have the chance to expose themselves to all different types of businesses, while also gaining skills and mentors. These golden opportunities allow for a plethora of growth and innovation, unique to the Hurt Hub community.
These past few years have been full of highs and we can’t wait to see what comes from the next 5,10, and 50 years of life at the Hurt Hub@Davidson.
We hope that learning more about our journey inspires you to get involved and consider making a gift that directly supports economic mobility and development in our community. Thank you, and we look forward to continuing to have fun making the impossible possible with you!
Photos courtesy of Davidson College, Davidson Photo Shelter, and Chris Record.