Feature: Tour of the Hub

Photo by Emma Brentjens ‘21

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By Katherine McGovern ‘21

Staff writer

The Jay Hurt Hub for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is “another step in Davidson’s reimagining of the liberal arts experience,” according to Davidson College’s website. The Hub is located across from Brickhouse Tavern in a 23,000 square foot, red brick building that was once part of the Davidson Cotton Mill Complex. In 2014, Davidson College purchased the building with no initial vision, according to the Hub’s General Manager Julie Goff ‘05. Today, the Hub exists as an open and collaborative workspace to encourage community and campus interaction.

The complex houses five distinct facilities: two office spaces, the Social Commons, the Van Deman Innovation Lab, and the Coworking Community. The Hub’s “anchor companies” have leased the two private office spaces since November 2017. One of these companies is Rocus Networks, a cyber security company, and the other is Quoin, Inc., a software engineering firm.

The Social Commons, located at the Hub’s entrance, encourages collaboration. Its self-serve, self-pay coffee shop offers an array of coffee and espresso under the banner of Davidson’s honor code system. Anyone interested in espresso must go through “espresso training,” a quick lesson provided by the Hub on how to use the machine. Goff expressed that the Commons “depends upon the community to take care of itself and police itself.”

Behind the Social Commons lies the Van Deman Innovation Lab. While intended primarily for Davidson students, faculty, and staff, anyone in the Lake Norman area may use it. The Hub’s Faculty Director Dr. Laurie Heyer, a member of the Mathematics & Computer Science Department, explained that the Innovation Lab’s “primary purpose is to create a means by which the faculty and students can collaborate with the outside community.” 

The Innovation Lab includes a virtual reality lab, intended for student use for class projects, independent VR education, and experiences of artificial environments. Study groups, classes, and businesses utilize the Lab’s multiple conference rooms and its four smaller student project rooms. The student project rooms are currently first come, first serve, although administrators are in the process of creating a system by which students may apply for work residency in the rooms. Residency, the student equivalent of the business offices at the Hub, will be available for a semester or a full year. Students and community members may work and collaborate in the Lab’s WiFi accessible, outdoor patio.

Goff analogizes the Hub’s Coworking Community as “a YMCA membership, but for office space.” The Coworking Community consists of fifteen private offices, a line of phone rooms for private calls and meetings, and a large, open space filled with desks. Members of the Coworking Community pay a monthly membership fee in exchange for desk space, coffee, and printing. Many members of the Coworking Community are solo entrepreneurs or are working on startups from the Lake Norman area.

Tech enabled companies make up the majority of the Coworking Community, exemplified by the Hub’s partnership with LaunchLKN, a non-profit company, that aims to connect new entrepreneurs with seasoned mentors in the Lake Norman area. LaunchLKN invests in technological education, bringing in speakers for educational events at the Hub.

Davidson students have CatCard access to the Hub from 7am to 11pm, seven days a week, although not all students may be fully utilizing this access. Katelyn Bruhjell ’20 expressed, “I’m not interested in pursuing entrepreneurship or business so I don’t know what there would be for me at the Hub. I’d love to get involved if I knew that there was something there for me.”

Goff explained that “we try very hard to make sure that everyone can get involved here;” every student, regardless of his or her field of interest, can equally benefit from the Hub. Although collaborative, coworking communities like the Hub exist throughout the country, Goff remarked that “the Hub is unique in that it is placed in a relatively small market and is woven into the fabric of a liberal arts college.”