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Amy Shankle – Member Spotlight

Amy Shankle, da Vinci Program Coordinator, VCU Alumna

When you hear the words VCU da Vinci Center, what is the first thing you think of?
Probably comradery because so much of all of our programs are about teamwork, making connections and bringing amazing people together. Forming those friendships and bonds that last beyond just individual classes is really important. Being able to make those connections and meet people who you are going to create these partnerships and do amazing things with is something we really value.

What makes the da Vinci Center unique?
There are quite a few departments and schools that are doing a really good job of providing students with amazing opportunities in innovation and entrepreneurship, but there hasn’t been much of a concerted effort to broaden that to the whole university until the da Vinci Center was created.

What does innovation mean to you?
For me, most of it is trying to solve problems creatively. Looking beyond what’s been done before, and being able to think of solutions that aren’t obvious. But there is definitely innovation in improving a process. It’s not always about creating brand new things. Creating these amazing unexpected ways to solve problems, streamlining processes, figuring out what does and doesn’t work and how to improve what already exists is absolutely innovative.

What made you interested in working for the VCU da Vinci Center?
I used to work for Records and Registrations in the graduation office, and the very first year that applications started coming in for the da Vinci center none of us knew what it was. So we did a little bit of research to figure out what [the Baccalaureate Certificate in Product Innovation] was. In doing that research I found out about the Center and I had that moment of “Why was there not a program like this when I was an undergrad?” When I was job hunting the program coordinator position popped up for the da Vinci Center and I just had to apply for it.

What is your favorite da Vinci program?
I don’t know if I have a favorite, but I definitely have a soft spot for the Product Innovation programs, both undergraduate and masters, because there were students in them when I started so I’ve known more of those students and I keep in touch with many of them. I’m also really excited about the stuff we are doing with Venture Creation, Human Centered Design, the Social Innovation Lab and all these really amazing new certificates and events. There is a lot to look forward to.

What is your favorite thing about da Vinci culture?
I guess it ties back into what I was saying about comradery. We have such an amazing team of people, and Garret is doing an amazing job of pulling people in from outside who still fit in with our culture. We like to spend time together, it’s one of the reasons we like coming into work. When you really enjoy your coworkers and they are good, solid people who you like to collaborate with it, your job becomes so much more enjoyable.

What is next for da Vinci?
We are doing so much new stuff right now that I don’t even know. I hope that the Social Justice Innovation Lab that we are piloting this fall will be successful and amazing because we have been able to work on some social innovation projects for our masters students, but it would be really awesome if there was a more established way for people to get involved with social entrepreneurship.

What is next for you?
Finishing my masters this December and then figuring out how that can be worked into what I do for da Vinci and the future of the center.