Located within Rush Rhees Library, the Barbara J. Burger iZone is named after University Trustee Barbara J. Burger ’83, whose lifelong passion for libraries and innovation inspired her $1 million lead gift.
“This is now the place to be,” University of Rochester Board of Trustees member Larry Kessler told the audience at the formal dedication of iZone during Meliora Weekend. “I’d like to offer the board’s gratitude to Barbara whose philanthropy, vision, and leadership is what brought us to this day.”
Burger said she’s fascinated by how learning has evolved.
“You don’t just sit by yourself and read lots of books the way we did when we were on campus," said Burger. "But how do you get these good ideas out of your head? Most good ideas go to waste.”
Burger, who serves as president of Chevron Technology Ventures—the Houston-based venture capital arm of the California-based company—is essentially a professional innovator. She sees the iZone as a collaborative environment “that gives people with ideas, passions, and complementary skills the programs and resources they need to turn their visions into plans and, ultimately, actions. The ideas—all in some way focused on changing the world—are seeds, and the elements of the iZone will help them as well as their owners grow,” Burger said.
Designed to help students explore and imagine ideas for social, cultural, community and economic impact—the 12,000 square feet space now offers dozens of events, programs, and workshops for students to participate, gather, and collaborate.
“We empower students to solve the problems that keep them up at night, whether it’s addressing gender-based violence, or brainstorming ideas of why women’s clothing often doesn’t have any pockets,” said Julia Maddox, iZone’s inaugural director.
Maddox, who has been closely involved with the ultra-modern interior design of the space, says it’s her job to help students “tackle their own wild ideas” for building a culture of innovation and problem solving.
The creation of the iZone comes in direct response to students’ request for a collaborative space to explore ideas that can be applied to campus and beyond. To that end it has partnered with a variety of campus and
community stakeholders and resources, such as the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship, the Rochester Center for Community Leadership, the Gwen M. Greene Center for Career Education and Connections, the College of Arts,
Science, and Engineering, the Warner School of Education, the Eastman School of Music, the Simon Business School and others.
Located on Rush Rhees Library’s ground floor, the space boasts collaborative workspaces, consultation and team rooms, exhibition areas, and computer workstations where students from all disciplines can meet with like-minded
peers. Students benefit from a community of experts—including faculty members, librarians, local business leaders, and entrepreneurs—with whom they can consult for assistance in developing their ideas.
Maria Hackett ’19, a Russian major and an iZone fellow, told the audience that she “can attest to the power of multi-disciplinary change making and exploring ways to make a unique impact on our world thanks to the support of the iZone.”
Calling it a “labor of love” that was begun five years ago, Mary Ann Mavrinac, vice provost and the Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of University of Rochester Libraries, credits Burger with starting a movement of helping libraries stay relevant, irrespective of a changing environment.
“From our collective heart—we thank you,” Mavrinac told Burger to rousing applause.