Member Spotlight – The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research
The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research is a hard one to miss if you travel through Danville at any point in your life. But what few passersbys know is that IALR is home to a diverse group of powerful and effective departments: Advanced learning, applied research, advanced manufacturing, economic development, and conference services. While the staff members in each of these departments have different goals and purposes, they work in tandem to provide “the region’s toolbox,” for us all. Discover what an important role the IALR plays as an economic catalyst for our region!
- What’s an interesting fact about your business most people don’t know?
If you knew what a typical day at IALR looked like, I think you would be surprised. The variety and diversity of activities happening here on a daily basis are often a whirlwind of triaging, multi-tasking, and curating beautiful spaces for the community to come together. IALR hosts a variety of astounding programs, from large events like banquets for God’s Pit Crew and hometown heroes like the Edmund Brothers; to Governor School seniors presenting their research projects for their peers and families alike. Earlier that same day a STEM camp could be happening, and the building starts buzzing with energy from young learners getting excited about science, technology, engineering, and math. Applied research scientists are just down the other hall working with bacteria and plants to support agriculture. The next day could bring an announcement from the Governor about an exciting new industry coming to the region, or maybe a work shop for GOTEC teachers using state of the art technology they will pass on to their students. IALR is a hub for regional activity, a crucial piece in the progressive movement of advanced manufacturing, and is eager to see our regional footprint continue to thrive.
- What would you like to share about your business or organization with our members?
As executive director, I consider IALR to be the region’s toolbox. In addition to the initiatives developed in each of our five divisions, we are also able to take on initiatives not suited for another organization in the region. These initiatives can range from grant administration like the GO Virginia Region 3 Bridge to Recovery initiative, to program delivery like our Academy for Engineering and Technology.
- Why did you become involved in the SPTC?
IALR has enjoyed a close partnership with SPTC for many years, providing the program with administration stability and a home. As our mission involves catalyzing economic transformation, SPTC is a primary example of the power of supporting or linking to others so that both our organizations can experience growth – in this case through technology support and deployment. Having similar regional footprints, we both also benefit from being able to support the growth of technology across the region
- How does being a member of the SPTC help you?
Collaboration is essential as we go about our mission and work at IALR. The contacts we have made over the years and the programing that has been offered helps enhance IALR.
- What challenges are you facing that the SPTC may be able to assist with?
The networking and sharing of technology assets in our region have strengthened recognition of the role that IALR and other institutions of higher education play in supporting the growth of technology in our region and will continue to do so.
- What technology innovation have you uncovered prior, during, or post the COVID-19 pandemic?
Like most people and organizations, initially, we were very familiar with utilizing virtual meeting platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams for conducting meetings. However, we had not hosted a larger scale event using virtual conferencing technology that convened both in-person and online speakers and attendees. We were able to host the Virtual Edition of the 4th Annual Industrial Hemp Summit this past February. While there were technical issues to navigate and master, IALR is now extremely confident about our ability to host large professional virtual/in-person events.
IALR was able to utilize some COVID-19 relief funds to update the virtual conferencing and livestreaming capabilities in a number of our meeting rooms that serve the community. This will enhance the services offered by our Institute Conference Center.
- What positive impact have you witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Virtual meeting platforms and livestreaming capabilities has allowed us to have meetings on short notice both internally and across the region. This format allows meetings to start on time and generally are 25% shorter than an in-person meeting. I expect this technology will remain a useful tool long after COVID-19 becomes a memory.
- Name one thing tech-related that you have learned in the last month?
I have been exposed to the Microsoft HoloLens which our GO TEC (Great Opportunities in Technology and Engineering Careers) program is evaluating. This tool is incredible and has unlimited uses.