Fostering Sustainability via Innovation

How Hartwick instills the leadership skills needed for today’s graduates.

by Sakena Washington


In her last semester at Hartwick, Meg Luce ’14 didn’t downshift like most seniors. At the start of the year, she planned to take it easy on the books and play lacrosse that spring but had an unexpected change of heart during her holiday break. 

“I realized that if I took 22 credits, I could earn two degrees,” she said. “I was determined to pull it off and I did.” 

A few months later, Luce graduated with two bachelor’s degrees in art and business administration, and two minors: art history and graphic communications. It’s not uncommon for people to hear this story and challenge the value of such a decision. 

“My mindset has always been that I will get value out of anything,” she added. “If I am showing up, if I am saying yes and I am in the room, I will get value from that.” 

Luce’s cross-disciplinary approach didn’t happen by accident. She credits Hartwick for planting the seed of endless curiosity and a creative drive. 

“I had great mentors in the art and business departments and completed my work study in the marketing and communications department. Multimedia Designer Jennifer Nichols-Stewart was an important mentor to me who brought a very different perspective. That was critical — not only being exposed to the classes — but the mentorship that came from those different places,” she said. With so many interests, Luce needed time to figure out her next move. Over the next year, she interned at Hartwick’s Art and Art History Department and considered her options. By the end of the following academic cycle, she had applied to California College of Arts in San Francisco and was accepted into their MBA design strategy program. 



Luce’s experience is the type of student journey Hartwick seeks to formalize through the Griffiths Center for Collaboration & Innovation (GCCI). Launched in 2018 with a generous donation from Trustee Sally Griffiths Herbert ’88 and her husband, Tim Herbert, the center creates a state-of-the-art ecosystem of innovation that expands and integrates new and existing facilities such as Makerspace, the Entrepreneurial Hub (EHub) and the Fabrication Lab (“Fab Lab”). Current initiatives like the Center for Craft Food and Beverage (CCFB) and the Baker-Simpson Entrepreneurial Leadership program help realize the center’s vision to be a recognized leader in engaged learning and research experience. 

GCCI Director Michael Walsh came to Hartwick in the summer of 2022 with an ambitious goal: to build a centralized infrastructure that is solidly linked to Hartwick’s mission and academic portfolio. Embracing the value of education and community traces back to his days as a student at Kimball Union Academy, a beloved alma mater he shares with the Herberts. 

"What a creative space does is inspire people to think about their environment, how they interact with others and how they can feed off of each other."

Keith Granet '79

GCCI Advisory Council Member

Hartwick College student in Fab Lab, Anderson Center for the Arts

The Fab Lab is home to digital equipment that allows students to print in plastic, or to cut or etch designs into wood, leather, metal and plastic.

GCCI Director Michael Walsh in Makerspace

“Our objective is to create and establish a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, and I think that’s achieved in two ways. One is through curriculum, and the second is through physical space.”

Michael Walsh
GCCI Director

Lab Technician in Hartwick Center for Craft Food & Beverage

Through the Center for Craft Food & Beverage, students gain knowledge that translates into marketable skills and employment opportunities.

Grain samples in the Hartwick College Center for Craft Food & Beverage

Grain quality testing is done at the Center for Craft Food & Beverage.


“Our objective is to create and establish a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, and I think that’s achieved in two ways. One is through curriculum, and the second is through physical space,” said Walsh. 

Walsh has already made inroads on both fronts, tapping members of the newly-formed GCCI Advisory Council for their advice. Keith Granet ‘79, CEO of Studio Designer, and a highly sought after expert in design business consulting, and was among the first Walsh approached. 

“Creativity and innovation don’t necessarily need a space to be ignited,” said Granet. “But what a creative space does is inspire people to think about their environment, how they interact with others and how they can feed off of each other. Being around beautiful spaces has the ability to inspire us and lift our spirits to and engage our senses in a way that a less appealing environment can distract us”

While innovation may be a buzzword to some, GCCI strives to make innovation a key building block of Hartwick’s DNA by honing in on the social aspect. Social innovation takes the expertise of Hartwick’s faculty and students and connects it to the needs of the community, both local and global. Students can tackle real-world challenges such as sustainable agriculture, food insecurity, and carbon emissions. 

The CCFB is one example of that. Director Harmonie Bettenhausen has long pursued her deep interest in the intersection of agriculture, food and science. In her role, she provides testing, research and education to national and international craft breweries, malthouses, farms and other food and beverage producers. After completing her Ph.D. in agriculture at Colorado State University, she set her sights on Hartwick with a goal of serving the community. 

“A lot of what we do with any client is to help educate them about the value and quality of their own product. For example, many small craft breweries and distilleries don’t think they have [the resources] to implement a sensory testing program to monitor consistency,” she said. “There’s such a science built up around it, but learning how to do that for yourself is really empowering for people. It teaches them how to talk about their product.” 

Education happens both ways. In the same way that sensory testing teaches clients how to talk about their product’s aroma, mouthfeel and taste, CCFB student interns gain similar knowledge that translates to marketable skills and employment opportunities. 

There’s a common misconception that students need a graduate degree to work in a place like CCFB. 

“I ask [students] questions like, ‘Are you good at public speaking? Or using instruments? Do you like microbiology?’” Bettenhausen said. “There are so many opportunities that aren’t even realized in the food and beverage and agriculture industry that are impactful.” 

Bettenhausen doesn’t take for granted Hartwick’s neighboring agricultural community. Every year she travels to Washington, D.C., with a farmer and fellow constituent from New York, along with representatives from many other states, to meet with members of Congress. Together they promote barley and research incentive funding to tackle issues like disease resistance and climate resiliency which have grave effects on the quality of barley.



Professor of Economics Carli Ficano has been teaching at Hartwick since 1997. Throughout her evolution as an educator and scholar, she has increased her focus on student learning that bridges content knowledge with what happens in the community. Long before her arrival, this type of engaged learning was a trademark at Hartwick among colleagues. 

Ficano took note. 

“We have a long history of engaged learning, but it’s never been hardwired,” she said. 

Ficano sees the GCCI’s continued expansion as a way to build out connections to the community — not just in Otsego County, but around the world. 

This year, a new FlightPath course introduces students to food systems and human-centered design. Ficano co-teaches this course with Kevin Schultz, associate professor of physics, and Walsh. Together they cover concepts such as life cycle analysis, energy use, negative and positive externalities in food production, and design thinking. The class helps students identify structural weaknesses and pain points within the U.S. food system and consider ways to alleviate them from the perspective of the end user. 

“Students work in teams to identify innovative solutions that can change their own experience and the experience of those who come after them around food on campus,” Ficano explained. 

In her introductory microeconomics class, Ficano uses an interactive approach to teach students about consumption in a world of finite resources. 

“Students calculate their ‘ecological footprint,’ which is an online, accessible survey tool that helps them see how their current consumption decisions affect global resource availability through their food, transportation and housing decisions,” she instructed. 

From there, students can discuss ways in which the markets are not working and how public policy can guide those markets to a better outcome.

“This is why I like the ecological footprint exercise, because it brings it down to something tangible,” Ficano added. “It gives students a concrete way of making a difference in both their own lives and in the larger world.”



Innovating from an academic perspective also means considering the generational spectrum that exists in today’s college classrooms. 

“Education has the power to be transformative,” said Walsh. “With the proliferation of technology and artificial intelligence, there are going to be millions of people who need to upskill to stay relevant.” 

Professor of Art and Design Joseph Von Stengel is at the forefront of digital media and augmented reality (AR). Like Walsh, Von Stengel believes that understanding technology equals a secure future in an ever-evolving digital landscape. Von Stengel has always been drawn to new technologies. At an early age, he fell in love with programming and combined that interest with art, photography and graphic communications. 

“My students understand how to be nimble with technology no matter where they work,” said Von Stengel. “If you’re a nursing student, but you’ve learned to think about new technologies, you might be a nurse who comes up with the next thing that solves a problem in medicine.” 

One of Von Stengel’s biggest achievements has been the development of the Fab Lab. While a traditional print lab produces images on paper, the Fab Lab is home to digital equipment that allows students to print in plastic, or to cut or etch designs into wood, leather, metal and plastic. Luce was present when Von Stengel unboxed the first 3D printer. 

Von Stengel is a constant creator. His portfolio is a dynamic showcase of software he’s learned, mastered and integrated into classroom projects. In his first FlightPath class, he helped students to create a story-driven AR experience using Membit, an augmented reality app that led students and visitors around campus. It was created to allow first-year students to learn about the campus in a fun way and provide an AR campus map using their smartphones.

"My students understand how to be nimble with technology no matter where they work."

Joseph Von Stengel

Professor of Art and Design

When Von Stengel isn’t teaching or creating, he co-chairs the art and art history department, the same space where Luce first took advantage of Hartwick’s cross-disciplinary approach. 

Today, you can find Luce consulting on design strategy as a member of GCCI’s advisory council and in her professional role as a design strategist at Giant Machines. As a council member, Luce brings the perspective of someone living and breathing the human-centered design mindset every day by first asking, “Who are we designing for?” 

“I believe that if people understand why they’re in a Makerspace or a Fab Lab, it will be more inviting,” she said. “It’s more of a mindset that we’re teaching individuals rather than a physical tool.”

April 28, 2023
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