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Valparaiso University announces the establishment of the Innovation Hub at McMillan Hall, an interdisciplinary center of entrepreneurship learning. The Innovation Hub will provide students with the opportunity to develop projects and programs, in an environment that combines real-world experience with academic expertise.

The Innovation Hub at McMillan Hall, which will be dedicated on Sept. 29, 2017, has become a reality due to the support of a late alumna and a Valpo businessman. Nearly $1.4 million has been received from the estate of the late Deborah “Deb” A. Tschetter ’71 Spannraft, and Stewart McMillan has donated the building that will house the facility.

Spannraft’s gift will serve as the initial investment in an endowed fund to support the programs and operation of the Innovation Hub. She received a bachelor of science in business administration with a major in accounting from Valpo’s College of Business and worked for the Miller Brewing Company for more than 20 years, until retiring as director of accounting in 1995.

Stewart McMillan, CEO of Task Force Tips, has donated the building located at 1806 Lincolnway, Valparaiso, to the University. The facility, which formerly housed 1st Source Bank, is on the northern edge of the Valpo campus, just west of Sturdy Road. The building will be named McMillan Hall, in memory of Stewart’s father and founder of Task Force Tips, Chief Clyde McMillan.

“Valparaiso University is grateful to Deb Spannraft and Stewart McMillan for providing the resources to launch the Innovation Hub at McMillan Hall,” said Mark A. Heckler, Ph.D., president of Valparaiso University. “It will become a place where Valpo students can gain hands-on experience working with faculty, alumni, and business and community leaders, preparing them for success in a dynamically changing world that needs innovative thinking and strong moral character.”

The Innovation Hub is a joint venture of the College of Business and the College of Engineering.

Students will gain practical experience working on business and organization projects, develop effective consulting skills, obtain the skills required to bring products and services to the marketplace, and acquire managerial experience. They will also participate in entrepreneurial startups, business plans, market studies, financing, and other critical areas essential to a successful business startup.

“At Valpo, we’re committed to fostering an innovative and entrepreneurial culture as we equip women and men with the skills necessary to thrive in a global economy,” said James D. Brodzinski, Ph.D., College of Business dean. “The Valparaiso University Innovation Hub at McMillan Hall will act as a catalyst for nurturing new ideas from every college on campus by injecting an entrepreneurial vigor into both academic and life pursuits.”

Students across campus will benefit from courses promoting entrepreneurship. The undergraduate minor in entrepreneurship, as well as courses in the MBA program, extend the traditional classroom model into the real world of business. Students will have an opportunity to spend time at the Innovation Hub working with local, national, and international companies on business issues related to their courses.

“The opportunity for our students and faculty to work with local business leaders is a win-win situation,” said Eric W. Johnson ’87, Ph.D., College of Engineering dean. “The students will gain real-world experience by working alongside the entrepreneurs in Northwest Indiana. It is our hope that the business leaders will benefit from the academic research, workshops, and innovative solutions provided by relationships.”

The gifts from Deb Spannraft and Stewart McMillan support Forever Valpo: The Campaign for Our Future, a $250 million endowment campaign focused on raising permanent support for student scholarships, faculty development and programs that prepare students for lives of leadership and service. Forever Valpo was officially launched on Sept. 23, 2016, and has raised more than $152 million.

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