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Co-Innovate for Change

Embark on a transformative journey to uncover your innovation potential, tap into your entrepreneurial mindset, and reach your social change-maker aspirations. Regardless of your major, background, or phase of journey to cultivating a meaningful career, the Conway Center provides the space where you can bring ideas and ventures to life, powered by Smith’s world-class liberal arts education.

The Program

Explore exciting classes that will help you understand global problems, learn cool methods, and figure out solutions. This is just a glimpse of all that is available. You can find more details on these and other courses by searching through the course catalog.

Explore Global Problems

  • ANT 229: African and the Environment
  • BIO 101: Modern Biology for the Concerned Citizen
  • BIO 206: Plant Physiology
  • CCX 120: Community-Based Learning: Ethics and Practice
  • CHM 108: Environmental Chemistry
  • CIX 101: Introduction to Collaborative Innovation
  • CSC 256: Human-Computer Interaction
  • ECO 125: Game Theory
  • ECO 214: Anti-Trust Economics
  • ECO 224: Environmental Economics
  • EGR 100ee Topics: Engineering for Everyone-Energy and the Environment
  • ENV 101: Sustainability and Social-Ecological Systems
  • GEO 108: Oceanography: An Introduction to the Marine Environment
  • GOV 240: NGOs in World Politics
  • HST 157: Africa and the Making of the Modern World
  • PHI 204: Philosophy and Design
  • PHI 238: Environmental Ethics
  • PPL 220: Public Policy Analysis
  • REL 109: Rest
  • SWG 238: Women, Money and Transnational Social Movements

Cool Discovery Methods

  • EDC 311: Rethinking Equity and Teaching for English Language Learners
  • ENV 201: Researching Environmental Problems
  • IDP 116: Introduction to Human-Centered Design
  • PHY 117: Introductory Physics

Figure Out Solutions 

  • IDP 146: Critical Perspectives on Entrepreneurship
  • IDP 155: Introduction to Innovation
  • IDP 156: Entrepreneurship in Practice

IDP Course Descriptions

IDP 146: Critical Perspectives on Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship takes on a diversity of meanings, forms and structures depending on its source and context. In this course, entrepreneurship is studied from a variety of critical and emerging vantage points such as ethics, access, inclusion, culture, power, expression, agency, economic empowerment, cultural and social transformation. We will critically consider what it takes to build a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, and the potential of entrepreneurship to create sustained social transformations through its unique identity within and outside of the realm of economic exchange. Fall 2023; 4 credits

IDP 155: Introduction to Innovation

Students will begin a journey towards developing an entrepreneurial mindset, gaining immediate experience with entrepreneurial innovation by ideating and generating bold solutions to problems. What does it mean to be entrepreneurial? How can entrepreneurial thinking empower us in our careers and lives even if we aren’t interested in starting a business? How can the entrepreneurial process help us develop innovative solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges? January 2024; 1 credit; S/U only 

IDP 156: Entrepreneurship in Practice

Students will explore innovative strategies for building a business, consider obstacles and challenges many entrepreneurs face along the way, and explore pathways to overcoming them to cultivate a sustainable and values-centric venture. We will reflect on how the entrepreneurial process can help us to develop innovative solutions to a broad range of challenges in our world. January 2024; 1 credit; S/U only

About the Hatchery

The Conway Center has created a dynamic and goal-oriented environment that encourages continuous growth and progress. The Hatchery is now the place for Smithies who are eager to develop innovative solutions, covering everything from brainstorming and prototyping to validation. Dive into intimate small-group sessions led by our esteemed entrepreneur-in-residence, participate in faculty-led workshops that seamlessly blend classroom knowledge with innovation practices, and connect with guests from across campus and beyond to delve into career options, hone leadership skills, and develop industry-related expertise.

Not sure if you can make it work? When you apply for The Hatchery, you can also request a Make Room for Innovation grant to support your work for up to five hours each week.* 

Interested? Contact Andrea St. Louis, Ann Kaplan '67 Director, to learn more. 


*To sustain funding, you will be required to achieve predefined milestones.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Hatchery is a flexible idea incubation space for current Smithies who desire to work on building out innovative solutions—from ideating to prototyping to validation—with the direct support of staff, subject-matter experts, and their peers. Our aim is to provide working space along with relevant programming for even the earliest stage ideas or projects to support you in making your ideas tangible.

The Hatchery is conveniently located in the Conway Center right at the main entrance of the Neilson Library. With an open concept classroom, containing whiteboards, tables and chairs arranged in working pods (along with more comfortable seating if that’s your thing!), basic “making” materials, and access to internet, you will have the room to breathe life into your ideas.

No. The Hatchery is open to all current undergraduate students at Smith, regardless of major or graduation year. Whether this is your first year or you’re a senior getting ready to graduate, we invite you to participate in this exciting new initiative as you bring your ideas to life, creating opportunities for yourself and others!

Not at all! We encourage all students interested in meeting and networking with like-minded peers to apply to The Hatchery. Here, you’ll discover projects and opportunities to bring joy to others while connecting to the UN SDGs. Student ideas at any stage are welcome to make use of The Hatchery space. We are excited to join you on your journey from finding an idea that makes you light up, to prototyping, to validation, with the hope that you will continue to grow your innovation beyond your time here at Smith!

No, you don’t need to have a team to apply to The Hatchery! Our hope is that as you network and connect with your peers, you will find collaborators with whom you align to build your collective idea. If you are using your time in The Hatchery to prepare to participate in Co-Innovate for Change: The Joy Challenge, you have until February 16, 2024 to submit your intent to participate. That means that you’ll have attended TWO Hatchery sessions with time to connect with potential team members!

At the Hatchery, we’ll offer small-group sessions led by an entrepreneur-in-residence and invite staff from across the campus to introduce you to campus resources that will help you along your journey. We’ll walk you through exercises to develop leadership and career-related skills, and host faculty, guest speakers, and local entrepreneurs who will link classroom learning to the world of innovation. 

The Hatchery will hold sessions led by our Entrepreneur-in-Residence from 5–8 p.m. (with dinner provided) on six Wednesdays throughout each spring semester. Each three-hour session will focus on a different aspect of making your vision a reality and team building to help you plan and test the desirability, feasibility, and viability of your idea.

Spring 2024 Hatchery dates (note: session topics are subject to change based on participant needs)

  • January 31: Welcome to the Hatchery, Welcome to the World!

  • February 14: Funding, Finances, and Figuring It Out

  • February 28: Design Thinking in Collaborative Settings

  • March 13: Pitch Basics and Putting the YOU in Your Story

  • March 27: What’s Your Problem? Let’s Solve It together

  • April 10: What now?

All students participating in The Hatchery must apply with the intent to participate in the full program. If you cannot, we encourage you to speak with either the Director or the EIR, by appointment only. 

While you are highly encouraged to participate in the Co-Innovate for Change Challenge, you are not required to participate. The challenge, with over $50,000 in cash awards, offers an opportunity to showcase your project and gain support for what you’re building, while celebrating the innovative way you have identified to cultivate joy in our community and our world. Please note that choosing not to participate in the challenge means that you cannot receive funding from The Hatchery. 

A Make Room for Innovation Stipend (MRIS) is compensation for the time you are investing in developing your idea/project. To receive a MRIS, you will need to apply to The Hatchery. If you are approved for a MRIS, you will be paid $15 per hour for up to 8 hours of work per week on your idea/project (includes the time spent in bi-weekly, Wednesday evening sessions). Students receiving a MRIS will be required to share their hard work by participating in the CO-Innovate for Change: The Joy Challenge.

MRISs are intended to reduce the time you need to work another on-campus job. The total hours you dedicate to your project (up to either each week) plus any hours you dedicate to another on-campus position you work cannot exceed the maximum number of hours permitted according to student employment guidelines. If you have a campus position that does not permit you to have a second job, please speak with Andrea St. Louis (Ann F. Kaplan '67 Director).

If you are participating in The Hatchery by yourself, you are eligible to receive a MRIS, but your team member(s) cannot, your entire team will need to hold bi-weekly check-ins via Zoom with the EIR during non-Hatchery weeks.

No. Students will still have the ability to schedule one-on-one, 15- and 30-minute appointments with the EIR or the Director.

Step 1: Complete our online application.

Step 2: Interview with the committee.

Step 3: Show up for the six Wednesday evening sessions from 5–8 p.m. and work on your idea/project in between Hatchery sessions to complete progress checkpoints.

Around Campus

Imaging Center: offers image collections, software training, 2D and 3D printing and scanning, virtual and augmented reality development, equipment checkout, studio and exhibition support, and specialized technical support in our computer labs.

Prototyping Studio: where your ideas come to life! The studio offers laser cutters, a vinyl cutter, sewing machines, and 3d printers. We also collect a whole variety of scrap foam, plastic, cardboard, and many more random knick knacks that encourage sustainable and reuse friendly making

Spatial Analysis Lab: promotes spatial literacy and the creative processes in critical map-making, through the use of GIS and related technologies like Global Positioning Systems (GPS), remote sensing, and drones.

UX Lab: a space where you can make sure that the people using the websites, apps and gadgets that you create find it easy and enjoyable!

Zotero: This collection of references was compiled by the Conway Center to aid in exploration of academic sources related to global development goals, sustainability, and joy.

Around Town

The Sphere: connect with local entrepreneurs seeking interns and founders willing to help you with your customer discovery research.

Four students outside the Smith campus center

Collaborative Innovation Concentration

To make real change, you will have to work with other people to understand and address complex challenges, and the Collaborative Innovation concentration will help you build the skills and capacities you need to do that effectively.

Learn More About the Collaborative Innovation Concentration

The Co-Innovate for Change Challenge

Gear up for an exhilarating opportunity. The Co-Innovate for Change Challenge issues yearly keyword adventures where Smith students tackle real-world issues and showcase innovative solutions. Over the course of the Spring, you’ll unleash your creativity, explore problems, present your United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) aligned solution, while developing your social change maker skills.

This culminating event is not just about the monetary award pool of $50,000; it’s about the recognition of your journey of discovery and learning over the course of the experience.

2024 Theme

The JOY Challenge

Apply Now

Joy is more than just an intense feeling of pleasure. It is a multidimensional combination of feelings rooted in a celebration of life’s richness. It is often preceded by struggle and created by connecting with purpose to make progress toward intersectional solutions. Authors Ross Gay and Zadie Smith describe joy as caring for one another in response to shared sorrows and love. Joy is to accept dependence on each other and our earth and is found in fleeting moments of empathy and appreciation. In the humanities, joy often manifests through the emotional impact of artistic expressions, literature, and art therapy, influencing mental well-being. Social science research delves into positive psychology, virtue ethics, and bioethics, emphasizing joy’s role in human flourishing and ethical considerations. Natural sciences contribute insights through studies in neuro-engineering, human-computer interaction, and integrative medicine, exploring the neurological and technological facets of joy, highlighting its significance in holistic health approaches. 

President Willie-LeBreton affirms our need to generate joy and suggests that while we can find joy, we can also create it by reaching out toward one another, connecting with purpose, and making progress toward solutions we hold dear to our hearts.

Cultivate a project that usher in joy while contributing to the advancement of at least one of the 17 UN SDGs. Whether it’s enhancing well-being, fostering inclusivity, or championing environmental stewardship, we want you to craft innovative solutions to pressing problems and help create a future where joy knows no bounds.

Apply Now

  • Dream Team: 2–5 students that represent at least 2 different majors. 
  • Impactful Solutions: Identify a problem and design a solution that adds a touch of joy to people’s lives. 
  • Global Awareness: Ensure your project aligns with global sustainable development ideals. 
  • Creativity Unleashed: Flaunt your innovative thinking and dedication to making a positive change. 
  • Scale Up: Think big and project how your idea could create a substantial impact.

January 26, 5–7 p.m.

Neilson 103
Discovering JOY
Launch and info party

February 3, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

Neilson 103
Jumpstart Your JOY
Start your journey by finding your people and brainstorming ideas

February 16, by midnight

Deadline to submit intent to participate

February 24, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

Neilson 103
Designing for JOY
Prototype, (in)validate, iterate

March 15, by midnight

Deadline to submit Milestone 1 materials

April 8, by midnight

Deadline to submit Milestone 2 materials

April 12, all day

Julia McWilliams Child ’34 Campus Center
Celebration of joy and showcase of student innovations. TEDxSmith talk by finalist teams.

Over the course of the Joy Challenge, your team will be scored according to the following rubric:

  • Collaborative Brilliance: How well are your team members working together?
  • Commitment to Change: To what degree is your team demonstrating dedication to creating a positive and lasting impact?
  • Financial Sustainability: To what extent has your team planned for near- and long-term financial support for the project?
  • Global Alignment: How effectively does your project contribute to global sustainability goals?
  • Joyful Impact: To what extent does your solution bring happiness to people's lives?
  • Innovative Spirit: How creatively did your team approach the problem?
  • Lessons Learned: How well is your team highlighting lessons learned and insights gained throughout the process?
  • Progressive Journey: How well is your team showcasing progress, acknowledging pivots and learning?

All teams will unlock access to seed funding:

  • $500 when you submit an Intent to Participate
  • $250 when you reach Milestone 1
  • $250 when you reach Milestone 2
  • Best in Show: $20,000
  • Runner Up: $15,000
  • Honorable Mention: $10,000
  • Judges’ Choice(s): Up to $5,000