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Marquette’s Explorer Challenge: supporting a culture of innovation, garnering national accolades

When undergraduates at Marquette University began envisioning a new collaborative space for student innovation and entrepreneurism, they pitched it to Marquette’s Explorer Challenge, had their submission selected, and worked with partners to turn their ideas into the 707 Hub, now one of the most popular places on campus.

The Explorer Challenge is an annual competition that invites students, faculty, and staff to submit proposals for up to $25,000 in seed money for original projects that create positive impacts and advance Marquette’s strategic plan, Beyond Boundaries. Now in its fourth year, the challenge particularly encourages interdisciplinary, collaborative projects and community-based partnerships that aim for solutions to pressing problems.

Jeanne Hossenlopp, Marquette’s vice president for research and innovation, describes the challenge as a key way the university is forging “a campus-wide culture of innovation for students, faculty, staff, and partners.” And now that culture is generating national interest and praise. The University Economic Development Association recognized the Explorer Challenge with two national innovation awards this fall.

During the association’s annual summit, held in late October in Milwaukee, Hossenlopp joined other finalists for the association’s Award of Excellence in presenting the project to attendees. She highlighted the Explorer Challenge’s provision of seed funding, infrastructure for internal and external networking, and resources to support entrepreneurship. Attendees voted and selected Marquette the winner in the innovation category. The Journal of Economic Development in Higher Education also named Marquette an “editor’s choice” awardee.

This recognition for the Explorer Challenge highlights Marquette’s progress in achieving President Michael Lovell’s vision for university innovation. Arriving in 2014, he noticed members of the Marquette community had an abundance of good ideas but needed help making them a reality. The challenge debuted in 2015 and has to date supported 81 projects from students, faculty, and staff as it continues to inspire and reward a spirit of creativity at Marquette.