How Illinois has remained an 'Engine of Innovation': BTN LiveBIG Book Club

University of Illinois

How Illinois has remained an 'Engine of Innovation': BTN LiveBIG Book Club

BTN Book Club

Listen, we understand that it’s summer, and you probably have a lot on your plate: backyard BBQs, pool parties, maybe even a little beach bumming if you can get down to the shore. But while you’re out there having fun in the sun, remember to take along a good read.

Need a suggestion? Every week this summer, BTN LiveBIG is bringing you our top picks written and/or edited by the faculty, staff, students and alumni of our 14 great universities. So, go out there and work on your tan; just don’t forget to pack a BTN Book Club suggestion in your beach bag.

 

The University of Illinois: Engine of Innovation

edited by Frederick Hoxie, Swanlund Endowed Chair and Professor of History, American Indian Studies and Law at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign

In the new book The University of Illinois: Engine of Innovation, Professor Frederick Hoxie posits that the introduction of new ideas and methods isn’t just the primary driver of the state’s flagship public university; it is, in the nascent years, what saved the untested institution.

Cover of Frederick Hoxie's book The University of Illinois: Engine of Innovation

“While trustees and regents were busy squaring off over curriculum plans and budgets,” Hoxie writes, “busy members of the campus community began producing a new commodity that everyone could celebrate: innovation.”

Over the course of forty-six essays and short “sketches,” Hoxie, the Swanlund Endowed Chair and Professor of History, American Indian Studies and Law, and a host of faculty, alumni and student “guides” chart the course of innovation across the Urbana-Champaign campus, from individual drivers to groundbreaking inventions to those places that have fostered cutting edge work.

Alumna Dr. Joy Ann Williamson-Lott looks at Clarence Shelley, the first dean of UIUC’s Special Educational Opportunity Program. Prior to the program’s founding, the University of Illinois, like most predominately white universities, had an abysmal record in regards to enrollment and treatment of black students. Shelley, often lone in his fight, worked to enroll students from underprivileged backgrounds, ease tensions on campus and make Illinois a safe and equitable space for the education of all.

The innovative inventions of Illinois run the gamut from super sweet corn, which helped to revolutionize agriculture in much of the Midwest, to the world’s first point-and-click internet browser, Mosaic, an immediate antecedent to browsers like Firefox and Google Chrome.

The book’s third section takes readers on a tour across the sprawling campus. The legacy of alum Roger Ebert continues to this day with the annual Ebertfest film festival held at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. And, we learn of the university’s role as a leader in farm innovation at the Morrow Plots, the oldest agricultural experiment plots created by a college or university in the US.

A lasting testament to the University’s tradition of pursuing challenging ideas, Engine of Innovation proves that the past is prologue as today great minds assemble in Urbana-Champaign to tackle the quandaries of tomorrow through “Learning and Labor.”

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