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KEY Center for Innovation offers campus expertise to the community

Jul 28, 2021
A man and two women look at a laptop
A man and two women look at a laptop

KOKOMO, Ind. — The newest addition to the Kokomo Experience and You (KEY) program at Indiana University Kokomo takes the impact of the experiential learning program into the community.

The KEY Center for Innovation (KCI) offers opportunities for students to partner with businesses and not-for-profit organizations, gaining real-world work skills while applying what they’ve learned in the classroom to benefit those they help.

Alan Krabbenhoft serves as director, making connections between the campus and the region, for consulting, internships, and other opportunities.

“This will allow us to put students in situations that throw them in the deep end of the pool, where they have to apply their skill sets in a way that is not textbook oriented,” he said. “Doing hands-on work makes what they’ve learned real. There are curves and knuckleballs thrown in, and they have to adapt, and problem solve.”

Mark Canada, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs and interim deputy chancellor, said the center plays a role both in educating students and growing the local economy.

“The KCI will be invaluable to our students as they learn to apply their classroom knowledge to real-world projects, but it also will help drive economic development in our region, since entrepreneurs and existing businesses will be able to acquire assistance with business plans, marketing studies, data analyses, product development, and more at little or no cost,” he said.

“It will take our experiential education into new, exciting territory,” Canada continued, “Because students will be doing real work—business plans, social media campaigns, webpages, and more—for real clients, they will have a chance to apply their learning and contribute to their communities.  Meanwhile, they will be getting the kind of real-world experience that employers want in their new employees.”

Krabbenhoft led similar projects in his former role as dean of the School of Business, and said the Design Center, and some other faculty members, already do similar work. He worked with students planning marketing campaigns for the Tipton Community Schools and the Kokomo Country Club, among other projects. Michael Koerner, associate professor of new media, art, and technology, guided students to create materials for area non-profit organizations.

“The idea was to make this campus-wide,” Krabbenhoft said. “A lot of the previous projects were in business or humanities and social sciences. My job is to bring in opportunities for students in every major to engage in internships of various forms, community-based projects, and class projects.

“We’re opening it up to create a holistic program that gives students of all levels, in every school, chances to get involved in our region. That’s the fundamental element of the KEY program, to get students engaged with other students, with faculty, and with our community.”

Krabbenhoft’s goal is for students to be paid for their internships, knowing that many cannot afford to take time away from work for unpaid internships. He’s partnered with Monty Henderson, regional director for the Hoosier Heartland Indiana Small Business Development Center, to obtain a $10,000 grant to assist companies negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Real-world projects give students the chance to learn from work that matters.

“They are getting that real company, real time experience,” he said.

Krabbenhoft encourages business owners and non-profit leaders to contact him at or 765-455-9446 to discuss potential partnerships.

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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