In my recent Dean’s message, I announced three emphases for Crowell that we’re very excited about: 

  • being anincubator of innovators and entrepreneurs
  • being an incubator of leaders
  • being an incubator of kingdom influencers

In the big picture, I think these three things are inseparable, but I wanted to spend some time on the first one: innovators and entrepreneurs.

Now when you think of “Biola” and “innovation,” it may be natural to think of our Office of Innovation. And our thought process here at Crowell is that everything we do is entrepreneurial.

I am therefore excited to announce that the Office of Innovation will be returning to the Crowell School of Business, as will Dr. Silvia Mah, its director. The office itself will continue to be housed in the Biola Library.

The Office of Innovation will become less of a separate, free-standing entity and more the cutting edge of Crowell, a way to push us out both farther and wider. It’s a key part of our plans for Crowell and we want to see it grow, and for things to grow, you need to feed them. In this case, we want to bring in new participants and new opportunities.

The Office of Innovation has been primarily focused on students, and students love it. The ninth annual Startup Competition has just finished, and Silvia and her team do an awesome job of building a lot of energy around it, and it will continue.

But what would it look like if that concept was pushed out more broadly across campus — in fact, what if innovation became a hallmark of a Biola education, regardless of major? For example, what would it look like if we did a startup competition for just our undergrad engineering students, who might be very good at designing a product but not as good at designing the business model around the product?

And what would it look like if that concept was pushed out more broadly across Southern California? What would it be like if we developed a startup competition as an outreach mechanism with a few partners in central LA? The opportunities are almost endless, including rebooting our M.A. in Leadership and Innovation (MALI) and much more.

For example, we will use the startup competition alongside biblically-grounded AI insights from our newly-founded AI lab [more details coming soon!] to start generating and incubating new businesses as we simultaneously create educational experiences for students. So a student might not just be part of a startup competition, but they may partner with an outside entrepreneur or two and provide crucial insight from our understanding of AI. This is especially true if we're talking about the parachurch world that needs to use AI differently — someone like Samaritan's Purse, who might want to leverage AI in a Christian context.

Some of these innovations are already underway. Creativity blitzes and design-thinking bootcamps? We’re going to start those later this semester. Reimagining the onboarding process for freshman students here at Crowell? We've got a sharp group of senior students who are helping us think that through, using design-thinking principles and innovative techniques. These are part of our renewed vision for the Office of Innovation.

In many ways, this is a reunion. While the Office of Innovation was formed in 2020, the Biola Startup Competition was launched in September 2015 under the leadership of late Crowell professor Bob Harp. Its aspiration was to foster kingdom-minded, Christ-honoring entrepreneurship across the university community and develop greater opportunities for business as ministry. The competition is generously funded by friends of Biola and by Crowell School of Business as a direct investment in Christ-centered young innovators.

So the Office of Innovation will become a spearhead for a lot of things that we’re developing. I don’t believe that “innovator” or “entrepreneur” is a job title — it’s a way of thinking, and I really think it’s the future of work. So I would love to see not just our Crowell students but all Biola students — our engineers and scientists, our filmmakers and artists and musicians, our pastors and teachers and missionaries, our nurses and therapists, everybody — take a deep drink from the well of innovation and entrepreneurship and then impact the world for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Learn more about Biola’s Office of Innovation.