A Place to Learn, Think and Create

December 18, 2023

KEENE, TEX. – On Oct. 26, 2023, Southwestern Adventist University (SWAU) officially opened its new Innovation Studio, a place where faculty, staff and students can learn, think and create. The newly-renovated space is packed with brand-new, industrial-grade machinery, including a 3D printer, laser cutter, embroidery machine, heat laminator, heat press, hat press, dye sublimation printer, vinyl cutter/plotter, large format printer, and CNC router. Jon Turk, Associate Professor of Marketing Management and Analytics at SWAU, is the director of the Innovation Studio. The Department of Business Administration has been working on opening the Innovation Studio since 2021. 

Funds for acquiring top-notch equipment and renovating Pachero Hall Room 205 for the studio came mostly from grants. Other funds were raised from the sale and donation of heat presses, dye sublimation printers, and extra ink from SWAU Alumni R. Doug Bendall, '81, who will teach a class on how to use the equipment correctly. Within seven weeks, the Innovation Studio was approved, its space was renovated, and all of the machinery was procured and received. “Now we’re working on building up supplies so that they are available for use,” said Turk.

Several professors from other disciplines are working on ideas on how to use the studio for assignments. History students will be able to print three-dimensional maps for study and use. The Biology Department often hosts events featuring the Dinosaur Science Museum and Research Center and looks forward to printing posters in the studio. Communication professors are talking about requiring students to make posters, banners and promo material. The Department of Education is planning for students to create manipulatives, shapes with inlaid shapes for school-age children to practice their dexterity by matching and lining them up. This is just the beginning of idea generations. “Whatever professors and students can dream up, they can make it here,” challenges Turk. “That’s the idea of what we want to come out of this studio, that in each department the faculty and staff can come up with ideas to spark the students’ creativity.”

Turk's background in marketing and consumer behavior prepared him for his new role as Innovation Studio director. Originally a pastor, Turk is now a business professional. Previously, Turk worked as operations manager for a sign company manufacturing and installing signs for major retailers, such as JCPenney, Circle K and WalMart, in Ooltewah, Tenn. There he gained knowledge and experience working with all the machines now in the Innovation Studio except the embroidery machine, making him a perfect pick for overseeing the equipment and its users. “I’m a problem-solver, I like to fix things,” he said.” This whole concept of an Innovation Studio is my playground, my sandbox. I just love all the opportunities it holds.”

“Students can actually start a business and do prototyping by utilizing the equipment in this studio,” said Aaron Moses, chair of the Department of Business Administration. 

The Innovation Center will be used to offer a general education fine arts course by fall 2024. Evening classes for faculty and staff are being scheduled too. Eventually, SWAU would also like to offer the use of the studio to alumni.

The Innovation Studio's first official creation was an etched-glass desk lamp bearing SWAU's 130th-anniversary logo, which was used as the foundation of elaborate centerpieces at SWAU’s annual gala, a record-breaking fundraising event. The studio’s next production, 130th-anniversary lamp post flags, will decorate the university’s campus. Plans for a SWAU swag store with merchandise made in the studio are underway.

Turk said, “We want this place to be so busy that we need more space. We want every student to say, ‘The Innovation Studio is the place I want to be.’ Any student can come in and design their ideas and bring them to life here, and that is what we want them to do.”

For more information, visit SWAU.edu/academics/innovation-entrepreneurship-center.

By Michelle Bergmann