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Spirit is published three times per year by the Texas A&M Foundation, which manages major gifts and endowments for the benefit of academic programs, scholarships and student activities at Texas A&M University.

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One Voice

Innovation central

By Andrew Morriss '18

Vice President for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development
Dean, School of Innovation
Former Dean, Texas A&M School of Law
Andy Morriss '18 is dean of the new School of Innovation, an interdisciplinary hub for creativity and problem-solving at Texas A&M. He previoulsy served as dean for the School of Law.

It took me longer than most, but I finally made it to Texas A&M University. In January 1978, I met a Texan with Aggie roots when we were both freshmen at Princeton University. Although I didn’t realize what it meant then, Carol’s grandfather was Sayers Farmer (Class of 1912); her great uncle was Hardy Farmer (Class of 1895); and her family’s ranch was in a place with Aggie connections: Junction, Texas.

By February, I knew I wanted to marry Carol (although it took until September 1986 for her to actually marry me). After we graduated, I followed (chased) her back to Texas, where she worked in a veterinary practice in Austin for a few years before applying to Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. I went to The University of Texas for law school and practiced several places in Texas before attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a Ph.D. in economics. 

When Texas A&M bought Texas Wesleyan Law School in 2013 and advertised for a dean, it was the perfect opportunity for us to return to Texas. Then, when President Michael K. Young asked me to come to the “mothership” and take on the I-School project, it got even better—being on the College Station campus means I meet amazing faculty, staff and students every day from every discipline.

The I-School Explained

Texas A&M’s School of Innovation, or I-School, started with President Young’s idea that we need better connections across disciplines to equip students for a world in which they are likely to have multiple careers and must communicate in the same “language” as colleagues in different fields.

Andy Morriss '18 completed his master's in educational technology at Texas A&M and received his Aggie ring in April. His wife, Carol, earned her Ph.D. in veterinary medicine in 1987. 

He appointed a faculty task force, which outlined the plan for a cross-disciplinary school. President Young then had the idea of combining that with our efforts at spurring economic development and entrepreneurship, sketching it out for me in true startup fashion as overlapping circles on a sheet of paper. The chance to build something entirely new at Texas A&M was impossible to resist.

We’ve tried to give our current home in the Old Heep Laboratory Building a startup feel with glass whiteboards to use during brainstorming sessions; hanging strings of Edison lights to balance out florescent lighting; brain teaser toys; and even outfitting our “campfire” meeting area with a circle of comfy chairs, a paper campfire and a small s’mores maker. Throughout our halls, you’ll find inspiration in literal cardboard cutouts of innovative pioneers, like Alan Turing, George Washington Carver, Marie Curie, Mozart and Georgia O’Keefe.

Our mission is both simple and complex. A key goal is to help students gain experience working on multidisciplinary teams—contributing as a representative of their discipline—without having to take more courses. We’re working to build opportunities of all sizes, from short projects to longer ones, where students can connect their passion for problem-solving.

It takes time to get new programs off the ground, but we have four projects underway that will be platforms for the future. These are:

  • A mapping project, conducted by our students, of the opportunities and resources across campus in innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship and leadership. We have dozens and dozens of fantastic programs in virtually every college, but they are sometimes hard for students to find. A creative team of students is building a resource tool that locates them physically and thematically, creating a central place for students, advisers and the Texas A&M community to learn about all the possibilities.
  • A collaboration with the existing undergraduate research program to help students better understand basic research methodologies across a variety of disciplines.
  • A week-long service trip in August to the Hacienda Santa Clara study abroad center in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, which was built by Barbara and Pablo Marvin ’66 (parents of Sophia Marvin ’19). Twenty students will look for ways to make this “Hogwarts in Mexico” easier for faculty across the university to use for student programs.
  • A series of regular workshops for faculty, staff and students that help them with the issues they face in getting ideas out of labs and offices and into the world, from intellectual property issues to commercialization.

We are excited to see how the I-School can serve as a “force multiplier” for Texas A&M. With a little grit and the power of the Aggie Network, we can achieve great things.

I’m proud to add that I recently joined the Aggie Network after receiving my own Aggie ring in April. (I completed a master’s in educational technology in the College of Education and Human Development last spring. After 25 years of teaching, I thought it was time to actually get some formal training.) It took me longer than most, but I can finally call myself an Aggie.

Visit the I-School website at innovation.tamu.edu.

How You Can Help the I-School 

The I-School seeks engaged former students who want to get involved with student-led projects to accelerate the impact of innovative research at Texas A&M. To learn more, contact Andy Morriss ’18 at amorriss@tamu.edu. Gifts of $25,000 or more can fund scholarships and graduate fellowships to help students participate in I-School programs, or support faculty fellowships to help faculty administer student projects at the I-School. Please contact Patrick Williams '92 (below) if you're interested in supporting or learning more about the I-School.

Learn More About the I-School

Contact:

Patrick Williams '92

Assistant Vice President for Development
Academic Affairs Development Office