CDI director leaving post for teaching position at WSSU

Pamela L. Jennings, Director of the Center for Design Innovation, will step down from her post on July 15 to transition to her role as a full-time, tenured professor at Winston-Salem State University while officials review future opportunities and direction for the research center.

“Pamela has brought us to a critical juncture in the future of CDI, and we are grateful for her leadership and service,” said David English, Interim Provost at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

“Now is the time to move forward to more fully integrate the center with the curricula of its partner institutions and to explore strategic partnerships for the center in the design and technology industries,” English added.

Jennings, who has been director of CDI since Oct. 1, 2014, will become Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Faculty of Business in the College of Arts, Sciences, Business and Education at WSSU on July 16. She also will retain an appointment as an affiliated faculty member of CDI.

“We look forward to Pamela joining WSSU, where she will be another nationally recognized member of our faculty,” said Corey Walker, Dean of the College of Arts, Sciences, Business and Education at WSSU. “A distinguished scholar and innovator, she brings an impressive body of work from academe and industry to our university.”

Walker and English will jointly head a task force that is being established to examine the future direction of CDI. The task force will include representatives from UNCSA, WSSU, Forsyth Technical Community College, Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, and other educational and community organizations.

“Our goal is to formulate a set of recommendations regarding the future of CDI and to present them to the chancellors of UNCSA and WSSU by March of 2017,” English said.

Walker said, “We are deeply invested in CDI so it is of utmost importance that we move ahead to develop a clear, strategic vision for its future that will benefit its partner institutions and the economy of the Piedmont Triad.”

The Center for Design Innovation was established in 2005 as a multi-campus research center of the University of North Carolina system, the result of a partnership between UNCSA and WSSU, campuses of the UNC system, and FTCC, a campus of the N.C. Community College system. CDI’s primary goal is to be a catalyst in the economic transformation of the Piedmont Triad through design-focused activity based on advanced digital technologies.

The center operated for many years out of a temporary site in Winston Tower. A new, permanent facility was finished in the spring of 2015 and officially opened in September 2015. The 24,000-square-foot building is located at 450 Design Ave., Winston-Salem, in the southern end of the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.

Jennings was responsible for equipping the building and getting it up and running, including installation of the center’s IT network and audio/video presentation tools.

In addition to Jennings, CDI presently employs an executive assistant and a systems architect. Both will remain with the center to continue regular operations during the task force’s exploration.

Since its founding, CDI has enlisted staff and collaborators to initialize research and design projects with associated courses, workshops, seminars and public events. This summer, for example, CDI will host a Summer Youth Camp to prototype creative ideas to get food from farm to table from July 11-15, as well as a Triad Virtual Reality Meetup to view a Microsoft HoloLens demonstration on July 30. For more information, visit the website at

During Jennings’ tenure, CDI has hosted numerous forums and chapter meetings, including Pechakucha (, littleBits (, and the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE); Creativity in the Classroom for K-12 teachers, sponsored by WSSU Continuing Education; Stanford University’s Girls Driving for a Change, a design workshop for teenage girls; a Literacy and Design Thinking pilot with Forsyth County Public Library; a Center for the Creative Economy leadership forum; and UNC’s i3 (Instructional Innovation Incubator) workshop with the WSSU Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

CDI also hosted its first performance, “Sol Path,” an immersive music and media work by award-winning composer, cognitive scientist and UNCSA faculty member Bruno Louchouarn, this past spring.

Grants received during Jennings’ tenure include a $150,000 National Science Foundation cyber-manufacturing grant to develop a platform that will aid designers involved in digital manufacturing; a $44,100 grant from DataMax Foundation, to support the development of the center’s “Maker Space” to assist lifelong learners; and a $22,000 N.C. Public Library grant with the Forsyth County Public Library for a pilot program on literacy and design thinking for middle school youth.

Two technology giants have recently donated to CDI; these include several Oculus Rift virtual reality developer kits from Facebook’s research division, and two HoloLens developer kits from Microsoft. This new interface technology will give CDI collaborators new ways to explore innovative forms of experience, from gaming to performance to scientific inquiry.

by Center for Design Innovation

July 8, 2016