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New campus-wide initiative launches at Research + Innovation Week event on March 25

New campus-wide initiative launches at Research + Innovation Week event on March 25

Findings Staff Report | Feb. 17, 2020

Happy accidents. You know them. They’re those chance encounters between two people that happen and result in something great. Ideas that light up in the minds of an audience listening to an inspired speaker. Connections made in the brain, when eyes land on a piece of art or ears catch a creative idea.

At the University of Cincinnati, Kathie Maynard, Jess Kropczynski and Farrah Jacquez know happy accidents are bound to happen at the Good Discovery(s) Festival coming up in late March during UC’s Research + Innovation Week.

The second-annual civic art, design and tech festival, produced by Steve Ramos Media, is geared towards creatives, entrepreneurs, the public and industry leaders.

Anyone from the UC community and beyond can participate in the all-day event, dedicated to disruptive ideas and real-world solutions to real-world problems, such as childhood poverty, homelessness, access to quality health care, education, jobs, and more. (Look for more logistics at the bottom of this article.)

With these goals in mind, Good Discovery(s) is a perfect place to launch a new initiative at UC, say the three Ph.D.s gathered in Associate Dean Maynard’s office.

Queue the Urban Futures Institute.

The UFI name is a work in progress, says Maynard, but the mission of the institute is clear: Make UC a leader in the development of participatory research methods that are inclusive, solution-minded, and successful in creating positive social change in Cincinnati, the region, and beyond. 

"The institute’s academic leadership team is a powerhouse," says Jennifer Krivickas, who oversees Strategic Initiatives & Signature Programs as an associate vice president for research at the University of Cincinnati. "Kathie, Jess and Farrah have expertise in community engagement, participatory research methods, civic tech, smart and connected communities, and social innovation. This combination of expertise is unmatched."

The Urban Futures Institute is an initiative within the Urban Futures Pathway, which is one of nine pathways for success in UC’s Next Lives Here strategy.

So why do Maynard, Kropczynski and Jacquez make a good team?
Maynard was a middle school teacher, who decided to go back to school for a doctorate in educational curriculum and instruction to become a change agent in schools. She led the creation of the UC Scholars Academy and the Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative, breaking new ground in the connection of UC to prospective college students and fostering partnerships between schools and partner organizations across the tri-state. The success of both programs earned her the associate deanship, a new role in the College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services as of five years ago. Maynard’s office fosters partnerships across the university and with many community partners. 

Kropczynski recently joined UC's research faculty after completing a postdoc in the College Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State. Along with teaching courses in the School of Information Technology, the federally-funded researcher is the leading member of one of the emerging Digital Futures teams—the Smart Synergies Research Team—and her primary interests are in the design and evaluation of civic technology to support collective action. From city planning to emergency management, she’s interested in online platforms and information sharing—technological solutions to problems that affect everyone, especially underserved communities. 

Jacquez is a professor and assistant head of the psychology department at UC. She has a doctorate in clinical psychology. In her work, she partners with community stakeholders to do research promoting health equity. Currently, she collaborates with immigrants, refugees, and high school students as co-researchers. She strives to find new ways to involve the individuals who are being studied in the creation of the studies themselves. She is also currently supervising four doctoral students and several master’s level students doing community-engaged research for health equity in her UC PITCH Lab.

The institute will be more than a place of connection, the leadership team points out—it’s about real research and real results. They’re dedicated to developing evidence-based practices and models that move the needle toward positive change in society. 

“When you think about the institute coming to life in the new Digital Futures building in a couple years—it’s really an exciting endeavor,” says Vice President for Research Patrick Limbach. Digital Futures will be a leased space that houses three Urban Futures Pathway initiatives: the UC Urban Futures Institute, Digital Futures, and the UC Urban Ethics Center. 

“Several of UC’s top researchers and research teams will be spending 100 percent of their time in the new research facility,” Krivickas says. “Digital Futures will also drive public engagement, providing a comfortable and safe environment for people to enjoy. That includes meeting spaces, a café, and programming meant to inspire and inform.”

A great place for the institute to grow, Maynard says.

First, though, they'll be on the lookout for happy accidents at at Good Discovery(s) Festival, those chance encounters, good ideas, connects made with potential to change our world for the better. And they're still looking for faculty partners and to start collaborating with local community agencies. Questions? Want to get involved? Contact Maynard at

More about the Good Discovery(s) Festival

What: The Good Discovery(s) Festival, presented by the Urban Futures Initiative and Steve Ramos Media

Attendees will share a day-long agenda with innovators via brainstorms, design sprints, panels, presentations, and workshops. Gain new ideas, insights, and inspiration from thought leaders building products and services making an impact for good in Greater Cincinnati and beyond. 

Who: Anyone! The entire UC Community and Creatives, entrepreneurs, industry leaders, and NGOs from outside UC

Where: UC’s Tangeman University Center

When: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 25 

More: Presenters are Cincinnati innovators working from the bottom up to impact their communities for good in the categories of Arts & Culture, Community & Wellness, Food Innovation and Innovation & Startups. There will be keynote presentations, panels, trade-floor activations and a networking area. Watch for details being released soon at

Thanks to Kailah Ware, Sunny Blu Art Agency, for the photo from the first Good Discovery(s) Festival.