The Diana Davis Spencer Discovery Center Dedicated to Free Speech and Innovation

by M. Gabriela Torres, PhD
Associate Provost for Academic Administration and Faculty Affairs, Research Compliance and Safety Officer, Professor and William Isaac Cole Chair in Anthropology

The Diana Davis Spencer Discovery Center Dedicated to Free Speech and Innovation opened at the start of the semester. Transformational renovations to the 70,000-square-foot facility provide new spaces for the departments of business & management and psychology, our social entrepreneurship programs, innovation makerspaces and the Filene Center for Academic Advising and Career Services.

The Discovery Center opened its doors this term to a bustle of excitement. Named after Diana Davis Spencer ‘60, the newly renovated building is transforming our campus. Students, staff, and faculty have begun to make these spaces their own by moving in everything from 3D printers and laser-cutters to sewing machines and CNC routers. And, yes, the books and research files that one typically expects to fill faculty offices also made the move!

The renovation of this facility on campus is accelerating discovery in new work and lab spaces for the business and management and psychology departments. Beautiful views of the campus are the first thing students see as they pop by to visit their professors in this space. Engaged learning classrooms that offer projection in four directions and enable intense group collaboration are in use. The Discovery Center also opened a new suite of interconnected psychology research labs that are poised to draw students into understanding human behavior.

A suite of renovated innovation spaces is newly welcomed to this area of the campus.

The Idea Lab’s Social Entrepreneurship Studio (SES) has already started its work to reshape how the campus thinks about entrepreneurship. Pabel Delgado, 2021–22 Social Entrepreneur in Residence, hosted a workshop by Kana Hattori, a business owner and cultural guide from Kyoto, Japan, and Kendra Malloy, a Miami-based professional life coach and nutritionist, this March. Together they are working to understand the links between Eastern-Western wellness practices in entrepreneurial projects that aim to transform how we live every day.

Innovation Spaces offer Wheaton students from across campus the experience of discovery while doing. You might be surprised to learn that the makerspaces have become a hub for conversation and connection about the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. Students have gathered here to craft laser-cut pins expressing their solidarity with the Ukrainian people. The Fab Lab, Fiber Lab and The Shop offer hands-on approaches to understanding how today’s world, design, entrepreneurship, art, science and careers intermingle.

Importantly, the Filene Center for Academic Advising and Career Services is a central part of the work. Discovery about oneself is the guidepost for any academic or professional endeavor. In the Filene Center, academic success advisers and career specialists meet daily with students from all corners of campus to plan ahead, problem-solve and discover unexplored paths. One area of the grand lobby is home to the Gertrude Adams Career Design Studio which bears the name of the mother of Adrienne Bevis Mars ’58. This highly visible and accessible space is where professional career advisers, as well as career peer advisers, are available to help with resumes, interview prep, and career planning.

Discovery and connection are also taking place through important conversations and informal gatherings in the eight new lounge areas. After all, it is that moment of connection that lies at the core of the sort of innovation and discovery about self and others that has long characterized Wheaton College.