Students at The University of Virginia’s College at Wise now have a space in downtown Wise to work together to hone entrepreneurship skills, find resources, and kindle concepts and ideas that could lead them to create new businesses in the region and beyond.
The Nest, located on Park Avenue in Wise, officially opened Monday with a ribbon cutting ceremony and tour of the facility. Chancellor Donna P. Henry welcomed the crowd to The Nest and reminded them that the facility is “a place where ideas are hatched.” Henry said the College strives to instill entrepreneurial thinking into all disciplines by building a culture of entrepreneurship and by developing an innovation ecosystem on campus.
“The Nest is a critical component of the Wise Innovative Ecosystem to further foster a culture of creative and critical thinking,” Henry said. “It is a wonderful place where our community can gather to exchange and process new ideas.”
The Nest, Henry added, is part of a larger strategy that includes hiring faculty and staff with expertise in critical areas such as entrepreneurship, data analytics and cyber security. Funding from the University of Virginia allowed the College to hire four faculty members in cyber security, entrepreneurship and math.
Henry thanked the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development for funding planning and implementation of the project through its Building Entrepreneurial Economies funds, the Wise Town Council, and others for helping make the project possible. She also thanked DHCD Associate Director of Community Revitalization for his work on the project.
Hunter Hess, UVa-Wise senior and president of the student group Innovators Inc., said The Nest will become the place for entrepreneurship and innovation. He said resources that will be available in The Nest are few and far between. Hess said
“The Nest will become a valuable resource to our students at UVa-Wise,” Hess said. “Having a place for students to brainstorm and work on their business ideas will increase the value of our College in the eyes of young entrepreneurs throughout the region, and utilization of The Nest could be the beginning of the next big thing.”
McKenna Blevins, a UVa-Wise alumna who developed the concept for The Nest and initiated the DHCD grant funding, said the excitement is high for the student-led project.
“We can’t wait to bring all of these students together in a collaborative environment to see what great ideas they hatch at The Nest,” Blevins said.
Josh Sawyers, Innovation Center manager at UVa-Wise, said programs offered at The Nest will meet the needs of the students. Workshops, speakers, and contests will be part of the programming.
“We also are going to strive to connect with the community, as we don’t want to be isolated,” Sawyers said. “We want our students to be able to grow, and when it’s time to launch, have them locate in the Southwest Virginia region.”
The house was gifted to UVa-Wise by a generous donor.