The University of Toledo Board of Trustees established a new institute to continue UT’s leadership in the fight against human trafficking and heard a rollout of a new branding effort for a piece of the institution’s economic development efforts at its Nov. 17 meeting.UT Innovation Enterprises will be renamed Rocket Innovations, shift its reporting lines, and reduce its annual operating costs by $200,000, announced Rhonda Wingfield, University director of budget and planning, and interim CEO for Rocket Innovations.
Assuming the role of interim CEO will be the newly established position of executive director for Rocket Innovations, Wingfield said.
The executive director will lead UT’s business incubator efforts, oversee its professional entrepreneurs-in-residence, and manage its investment fund. The executive director will report to the vice president for research, Dr. William Messer, with a dotted line to the Rocket Innovations Board of Directors (formerly the UT Innovation Enterprises Board of Directors). The Board of Directors will have a dotted line reporting relationship to the UT president.
Wingfield told trustees that nearly eight years after its initial establishment with $10 million, the investment fund had just under $1 million that had not yet been committed. She summarized Rocket Innovations current equity holdings, as well as the economic impact that UT faculty, researchers and students have had on job creation, internships and companies created from faculty technology.
State and local elected officials attended the meeting to speak in support of the trustees’ approval of a UT Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute in the College of Social Justice and Human Service.
Dr. Celia Williamson, UT professor of social work and a national expert in combating human trafficking, will lead the institute. Many of the professionals who are well-situated to recognize and report possible trafficking — teachers and health-care professionals, for example — will be educated on how to spot it as part of their UT curriculum, which the institute will organize.
State Sen. Edna Brown, State Rep. Teresa Fedor and Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates attended the meeting, praised Williamson and UT for their efforts, and spoke in support of the institute.