WRA dedicates The Wang Innovation Center

WRA dedicates The Wang Innovation Center

The sleek and sophisticated new anchor for Western Reserve Academy's historic Brick Row was celebrated on Saturday, Oct. 22, as a packed room of school Trustees, students, faculty and friends joined together for the dedication of The Wang Innovation Center.

Lead donor and WRA Trustee Mr. Xuning Wang was in attendance with his sons Joseph '16 and Barnabas '15 for the celebratory event. "It is a great day for Reserve and the Wang family," Wang said. "It is my honor...it is not a simple gift, it is about educational principles."

"The Wang Center transforms the way the WRA community can teach and learn," said WRA Board of Trustees Co-President Timothy R. Warner '69. "Every day, students interact with faculty and other students in creative, inclusive and meaningful ways." Director of Information & Education Technology and Dean of Faculty Matt Gerber added, "The Wang Center has had a profound impact on the WRA teaching model by shifting the teaching from students being receptors in the process to actively engaged in theoretical concepts and putting them into action."

The design of The Wang Center is distinctive, with state-of-the-art equipment and bold orange accents as a contrast to traditional campus spaces and Reserve green. Head of School Christopher D. Burner '80 said, "The Wang Center is a beacon of innovation, curiosity and creativity for our community, igniting ideas and drawing outsiders into the school."

Burner continued, "There are inflection points in the history of schools where the school embarks on a new, bold direction. The Wang Center has created such an inflection point for Western Reserve Academy."

This year has seen great transformation at the school with the introduction of The Wang Center alongside the launch of our Independent Curriculum. The new curriculum emphasizes deeper learning and exploration in College Level (CL) courses; a new daily schedule rooted in lessons from neuroscience and a commitment to balance; and a novel Literacies program – beginning with the freshman class – that teaches students to fully optimize The Wang Center and understand the practice, principles and societal impact of innovation and technology. The Wang Center is a gift to the school as part of its $75 million Campaign for Excellence & Access, affording support for faculty, academic programs, financial aid and campus building projects.

Pictured from left to right: Joseph Wang '16, Matt Gerber, Xuning Wang and Barnabas Wang '15.

Gerber spoke about the importance of "making" to a transformative education. "Making is what makes us human...we take pride in creation as it stems from our hands and minds, creating a can-do mindset. The Wang Innovation Center provides the WRA community with the premier independent school collaborative space that facilitates making with electronic and digital tools, as well as traditional tools. With this, our school community becomes inspired and passionate about innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship and design."

He continued, "The Wang Center helps WRA foster cross-curricular endeavors between academic departments. School artificially creates separation between arts, history, language and science, but the real world does not work that way. We already see The Wang Center being integrative, where students will experience content areas interrelated, just like in the real world."

Dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship, Deborah Hoover, President & CEO of the Burton D. Morgan Foundation and WRA Trustee, also was in attendance. Burner said, "I would like to acknowledge and thank the Burton D. Morgan Foundation for their support of The Wang Center. Their passionate support of entrepreneurship and education has generously supported The Wang Center and also opened up opportunities for continued education for our students."

Joseph Wang '16 said he believes The Wang Center is among the attributes that make Reserve one of the best boarding schools in the U.S. Recently the Chief Innovation Officer of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and the Vice President of The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) toured The Wang Center and both remarked how WRA had created the most impressive and comprehensive makerspace they have visited.

Mr. Wang's sons spoke eloquently about being inspired by their father's own innovation and dedication as the Chairman and General Manager of Joyoung Co., Ltd. in Shenzhen, China. Joyoung, which includes its own makerspace or "Innovation Theater," manufactures and distributes household electronic appliances, including an innovation for extracting milk from soy that has become ubiquitous in Chinese households.

Warner remarked, "On the path to making a difference, a leader shows great heart. As the father of two recent Reserve graduates, Barnabas now at Columbia and Joseph at Stanford, I believe Mr. Wang's family – his heart – was his inspiration to lead this project."

Throughout the weekend and at the event, WRA students joined in the celebration of one of their favorite spaces on campus. An ECHO class preceded Saturday's event, a new Wang Innovation Center Club has emerged, and on Sunday, Cleveland NBC affiliate WKYC-TV spotlighted students and projects in six live segments from the space.

Burner closed Saturday's event with a message to the students, the true beneficiaries of The Wang Center. "You are the reason this facility exists, and we hope you, and future generations, fill it with ideas, creative projects and new directions."