Virginia Commonwealth University

Make it real.

Faculty & Staff

Garret Westlake, Executive Director


Garret Westlake joined the da Vinci Center at Virginia Commonwealth University on July 1, 2016. He is contributing to the transformation of VCU into one of the nation’s leading universities for cross-disciplinary collaboration, innovation and imagination, and the inclusion of innovation and entrepreneurial thinking as requisite skills for success in the 21st century.

Westlake’s career as an academic and entrepreneur is defined by his imaginative use of technology and weaving of disciplines to solve critical social challenges. A lifelong advocate for individuals with disabilities, his early work involved the examination of connectionist networks to model and intervene in the treatment of dyslexia. He is a national leader in the design and delivery of biofeedback training to support individuals on the autism spectrum, and the author of widely adopted models for college transition, career counseling, and employment.

Through extensive work with Ashoka U, the Clinton Global Initiative University, the European Innovation Academy, and the Global Venture Lab, Westlake has contributed to award winning curriculum and programs for entrepreneurship and innovation education around the world. He has advised and mentored students whose projects have provided entrepreneurship education to South Sudan, brought greater awareness and services to the victims of sex trafficking, and improved the treatment of jaundice through new medical device technology. Westlake has supported and mentored student ventures accepted to Y Combinator, SXSW, and those receiving significant financial investment from the Resolution Project, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and private equity.

Prior to joining VCU, Westlake was the associate dean of student entrepreneurship in the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Arizona State University, where he also taught in the Technological Entrepreneurship and Management program. He is the former founder and CEO of STEM Force Technology, a social impact technology company that he ran successfully for four years before exiting in 2015. Westlake currently serves on the board of directors for multiple for-profit and not-for-profit organizations such as MindSpark Technologies in Santa Monica, California and as a business mentor and consultant for startups such as the medical device company NeoLight, based in Phoenix, Arizona.

Westlake earned is BA in cognitive science from Carleton College, his MEd from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, and his PhD in curriculum and instruction from Arizona State University. When not engaged with students and entrepreneurs you are most likely to find Westlake enjoying Richmond’s plethora of bike trails, climbing walls, and river sports with his family.


David Holland, Program Director for Venture Creation

da Vinci photo

David Holland’s career spanned global strategy consulting, foundation management, and fund development in the U.S. and U.K. before he transitioned to academia. His work is informed by an interest in exploring the imaginative qualities that link creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. At the da Vinci Center, he oversees academic and co-curricular activities in the new Certificate in Venture Creation program and collaborates with colleagues across the university to encourage an entrepreneurial culture amongst VCU students. He also teaches ARTS 350 The Creative Economy, VNTR 300 Venture Creation Skills, VNTR 460 Venture Creation Project, and in the School of Business International Consulting Program. He was previously Director of Grant Coordination and Entrepreneurship with the VCU School of the Arts Dean’s Office where he worked with his colleagues to secure more than $1 million in extramural funding and developed a new creative entrepreneurship curriculum. Formerly, he served as Development Director with the youth arts non-profit, ART 180 where he successfully directed a capital campaign for the organization’s teen art center, Atlas.

While living in London, UK from 2002-2010, he developed and evaluated innovation and entrepreneurship programs internationally while a Senior Consultant with BOP Consulting, Commercial Consultant with Arts & Business, Strategy and Development Consultant with B3 Media, and Innovation Programmes Learning Manager with the innovation think-tank and investor Nesta (formerly the National Endowment for Science, Technology, and the Arts). Past clients include American Express, Bank of New York Mellon, Lloyds TSB Commercial Finance, UNESCO, the National Department of Arts and Culture of South Africa, and the European Cultural Foundation. He continues to consult independently for international clients including the Inter-American Development Bank and Salzburg Global Seminar. In 2016, he is serving as the inaugural Network Curator for Salzburg’s Young Cultural Innovators Network. His research has been published in the Routledge International Handbook of Creative Learning and other writings by a range of national and international organizations. David is a Salzburg Global Fellow, an Evan Carroll Commager Fellow, and a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce.

David was a member of the founding team of New Deal of the Mind (now the Creative Society), a non-profit employment startup focused on creative fields. He has also advised start-ups in their infancy including Mindapples, a non-profit that promotes public understanding of the mind and helps everyone take better care of their minds, and Peace Helix, a global vision company dedicated to fostering peace and prosperity through commerce and enterprise.

He is also a THRIVE Mentor for the Greater Richmond Small Business Development Center and advisor to student-initiated tech startup, Think of Us. He sits on the Board of Directors of the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia and formerly served on the Board of Directors of the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School Foundation and on the Junior Board of ROSMY. He is a former panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts, and has served on the Research and Programs Committees of the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities.

David holds a BA in Economics and Asian Languages and Civilizations with a Certificate in International Relations from Amherst College, and MA degrees in International Studies and Diplomacy (Economics) and the History of Art from the University of London, SOAS. David is also a graduate of Landmark Worldwide’s Self-Expression and Leadership Program and Communications Curriculum.


Allison Schumacher, Program Director for Product Innovation


With a passion for student success and cross-disciplinary education, Allison Schumacher joined Virginia Commonwealth University’s da Vinci Center as Program Director for Product Innovation in April 2015. Ms. Schumacher’s experience with the da Vinci Center began in January 2010 by serving as a faculty mentor for the Center’s Product Innovation culmination course: INNO 460: da Vinci Project. She has since worked with seventeen cross-disciplinary student teams with various sponsors including, Pfizer, MeadWestvaco, Dominion, the State of Virginia, Science Museum of Virginia and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Before joining the da Vinci Center full time, Allison was an active member of the VCU School of the Arts serving as full time faculty and undergraduate advisor in the Department of Graphic Design. During this time, Ms. Schumacher implemented several new advising methods to show students the paths available beyond their major and in two years the number of students to enroll in minors, certificate programs, study abroad, etc. grew by 327%.

In teaching, she emphasizes the importance of questioning, research, experimentation, systemic thinking, process, and clarity in communication. Her academic research centers on cultural and memory studies with considerations for authenticity in the design. Allison is also an entrepreneur and practicing freelance graphic designer with a client base focused in the Southeast U.S.

Ms. Schumacher holds a MFA in Visual Communication from VCU and BFAs in Graphic Design and Printmaking from Appalachian State University.


Somiah Lattimore, Director, VCU Innovate

Somiah Lattimore joins Virginia Commonwealth University as Director of VCU Innovate Living Learning Program (Innovate LLP). Before VCU, Somiah served as a creative consultant and student mentor for Apex Systems Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Virginia Tech. Previous professional positions include Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at Salisbury University, Director of FourDesign and Assistant Professor of Graphic Design for the School of Visual Arts at Virginia Tech, and Creative Director for Carolina Media Publishing.

Somiah is the Founder and Creative Director for Straight Up Creative, a collaborative design house and Co-Founder for Ignatius All-Natural, a skin care line featured in Whole Foods, as well as consultant for several gaming, academic advising, tourism, and commerce driven start-ups. Lattimore is an award-winning designer and creative director that has worked with clients such as NASCAR, Roush Racing, Commemorative Brands/Balfour, H. M. Terry Co. Inc., and Chatham Vineyards.

She holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Art with an emphasis in Graphic Design from Radford University and an M. A. in Instructional Design and Technology from Virginia Tech.


Amy Shankle, Program Coordinator


Amy Shankle is a Virginia Commonwealth University alumna and has worked in a variety of capacities for the university. Beginning her career, she started out collecting data for the Survey and Evaluation Research Laboratory. She then accepted a position with Records and Registration, working to assist students in graduating from the university among other responsibilities within Records. Upon leaving that position, she is now doing various administrative duties for the da Vinci Center to maintain the programs and assist students, staff, and faculty.

In her spare time, Amy enjoys helping others to train their dogs and going on adventures with her own two special pups.


Allison Stevens, Student Services Coordinator

Allison comes to the da Vinci Center from the Buckeye state.She is an alumna from The Ohio State University, with a BA in Speech and Hearing Pathology. Allison is currently in school full time working on an Associates in Applied Science in ASL-English Interpretation and is hoping to begin a career as an American Sign Language Interpreter. Allison supports both the Director of Product Innovation as well as the Director of Venture Creation in program efforts and is the first line contact for hopeful students seeking to learn more information about the certificate programs.