James C. Kennemer Center for Innovation and Social Impact




In February 2023, the University of Alabama Board of Trustees approved the establishment of the James C. Kennemer Center for Innovation and Social Impact:


  • To give students and their ideas the best opportunities to flourish;
  • To actively promote an ecosystem that fosters innovation and social impact;
  • To provide a connection hub to on-campus and other-campus programs, and to relevant foundations, corporations, investors, and local and state efforts;
  • To help students achieve the graduation outcomes they want; and
  • To give students who go out of state after graduation the experiences and connections to return to Alabama.


The Kennemer Center was created to expand the Honors College BIG Ideas program and provide a year-round effort focused on furthering student awareness and engagement with innovative ideas with a focus on social impact. The Kennemer Center’s goal is to be a hub for innovation on the campus of the University of Alabama, to be a catalyst for innovation and social impact at institutions of higher education around the state, and to foster state and local efforts throughout the state, aided by corporate, foundation, and government support.


Study in Alabama, Stay in Alabama

In coordination with the state and other regional and local entities, the Kennemer Center will develop and implement a Study in Alabama, Stay in Alabama student/graduate retention program. This program will include initiatives to assure that students have a broad appreciation for the attractive cost of living and the exceptional employment, residential, civic, social, arts, entertainment, sports, and outdoor recreational opportunities available throughout the state. For those who do leave the state, the Center will give them the experiences and connections that get them back to Alabama.



BIG Ideas is patterned after a similarly named program developed at the University of California, Berkeley, housed in the Blum Center. UA is grateful to their staff for generously sharing advice on UA’s efforts to launch its version of the program in Alabama.


The Center’s First Year Efforts

The initial year includes hiring staff, obtaining or creating foundational resources, establishing initial connections, and a number of other efforts to provide a solid base for fulfilling the Center’s goals, and a platform for ongoing expansion and enhancement. Some specifics:


The items below will be ongoing efforts. Substantive progress will be made on each of them in the first year:


Connect with others: For each of the following, survey and catalog programs, support, and possible resources related to or available for innovation and social impact efforts; establish initial points of contact and connection; assure each entity’s awareness of the Center and BIG Ideas:

  • Local, state, regional and federal agencies and offices
  • Local, state, regional and national foundations
  • Corporations with an Alabama footprint and relevant interests
  • Local, state and regional investment community


BIG Ideas on other campuses: Establish contact points and connections with other universities and colleges throughout the state, presenting the BIG Ideas program. Work with those who have an interest in establishing the program on their campus.