Innovation Connector: Home And Resource Partner To Shafer Leadership Academy

*Original Story posted on the Muncie Journal.*

Innovation Connector Home And Resource Partner To Shafer Leadership Academy

Muncie, IN—A professional and beautiful building, and amenities such as plenty of free parking and back-office staff support,  adds to the credibility and professionalism of an organization. Align these attributes with matching values and missions and you find a resource partner that calls the Innovation Connector their home—The Shafer Leadership Academy.

“Shafer Leadership Academy is a non-profit organization that helps people learn how to lead. Our mission is to grow local leaders for East Central Indiana,” said Mitch Isaccs, Executive Director for Shafer Leadership Academy. Isaccs, along with program director, Tisha Gierhart, agree that the Innovation Connector adds to the success of their organization because people see the Innovation Connector as highly credible. “When we can hold classes in a beautiful facility like the Innovation Connector, it is a huge benefit,” stated Mr. Isaccs.

The Innovation Connector is well known as the place to go to grow entrepreneurial ideas, thus, creating more 21st century businesses. The seamless connection between the Innovation Connector and Shafer Leadership Academy is not only having similar values and missions, but believing connection drives innovation.

“In the 20th century economy, you picked a company, worked there for 20-30 years, retired with a pension and you lived a very nice middle-class lifestyle, “explained Isaccs. “The reason why places like the Innovation Connector are so important is that this is NOT the economy of today. In the 21stcentury economy, the average person is going to have seven jobs in their career. They have to be able to innovate. They have to be able to be adaptable. The Shafer Leadership Academy nurtures this. And by nurturing entrepreneurship, the community is nurtured.”

Most people find Shafer through professional development opportunities provided by their employer. In honor of it’s ten year anniversary, Shafer Leadership Academy recently launched a scholarship campaign with goals to increase scholarship opportunities. For example, if you are a non-profit under one million dollars, you may be eligible for Shafer Leadership Academy scholarships. Neighborhood Associations are also a growing group of organizations that are eligible for scholarship consideration.

“The Innovation Connector is a perfect home for the Shafer Leadership Academy. Our values and mission expectations align so well that this makes a great partnership,” said Ted Baker, Executive Director of the Innovation Connector.

Shafer Leadership Academy offers workshops that last a day or less, eight week programs and custom programming for human resource managers, business leaders, nonprofit teams, and higher education.  Detailed opportunities can be found at

“Being here at the Innovation Connector has opened doors for meaningful connections and friendships.  I feel the Innovation Connector creates an environment that influences others to be energetic, inspiring and authentic. I am and feel I can be myself at the Innovation Connector. The Innovation Connector is home to me,” said Tisha Gierhart, Program Director of Shafer Leadership Academy.

Emergence: Personal Foundations of Effective Leadership is Shafer Leadership Academy’s core leadership program. It is an eight-week highly interactive and engaging training opportunity ideal for emerging or experienced leaders seeking to enhance their leadership capabilities. At the end of the program, participants can expect to be better equipped to lead the change they want to see in the businesses, non-profits, civic groups, and communities they represent.

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Tracy McCormick-Dishman is a local Marketing & Communications Consultant, who writes about her visits to area businesses and agencies. Follow her travels on Facebook,  Twitter (#HeyDish) and 

Coding Connector Gives Kids Computer Coding Experience And More

*Original Story posted on the Muncie Journal. *

Innovation Connector’s “Coding Connector”
Gives Kids Computer Coding Experience and More

Ryan Hunter presents to students at the the Coding Connector’s “Day of Code Foundations 1 & 2” held on Saturday, August 26th. Photo by: Mike Rhodes

By: Tracy Dishman—

Muncie, IN—The Innovation Connector has a unique opportunity for young people to learn “the language of the future” — computer coding.

Techwise Academy and the Innovation Connector, along with a handful of other community resources, have partnered to create the Coding Connector. This hands-on program offers camp and workshop-style opportunities, as well as weekly computer coding classes for ages 5 years old through high school age young adults.

Located in a newly remodeled computer lab in the Innovation Connector, the Coding Connector lab holds 15-20 computers, tablets and students comfortably.

Students are pictured during the Coding Connector’s “Minecraft Party.” Photo by: Lorri Markum

“About a year and a half ago, Techwise Academy, run by Ryan Hunter and Brandon Coppernoll, were holding coding classes at the Innovation Connector,” described Ted Baker, Executive Director of the Innovation Connector. “As I watched them and got a good feel for what they were doing, I knew that a “joined forces” connection would be a great fit for our community.”

With the assistance from the Innovation Connector, the newly formed Coding Connector received a $10,000 grant from AT&T to purchase computers and tablets. “The students would bring in their own computers when the coding classes were first offered. I noticed that it took the first part of each coding class for Ryan and Brandon to set up each of the computers and prepare for the lesson, cutting into the time of actual learning’” stated Mr. Baker. “Through the AT&T grant, Ryan and Brandon have the tools they need to spend more time with the students doing what they love to do the most: teaching code.”

The students learn not only how to code, but also learn how to problem solve. That’s probably the most important thing we teach. Whether or not they are going to be computer programmers, they’re going to need to know how to problem solve and learn to work in groups. The Coding Connector experience teaches our kids not to be afraid to make mistakes—and to learn how to take a complex problem and break it down into simpler parts. —Brandon Coppernoll

A $30,000 grant from the George and Frances Ball Foundation has also assisted in moving the program forward. The grant money supported the upgrade of a dedicated computer lab within the Innovation Connector facility, along with, the front and back end work of the Innovation Connector team members. Creating flyers, connecting with area schools, social media and other marketing initiatives are just a few of the responsibilities of Alexis Dishman, Administrative Assistant at the IC, that the Foundation grant supports. “The full list of classes is available by clicking on the Coding Connector link at the top of the website. “An interested student, parent or teacher can sign up online or simply call the IC to get registered,” said Ms. Dishman.

“Coding Connector classes charge a minimal fee and scholarships are available. It takes time and resources to manage the money- in and money-out of the program,” said Baker of Lori Albert’s responsibilities, Financial Director for the IC. “This program is designed to be sustainable.”

When asked about what he wanted the community to know about the Coding Connector, Ted Baker said, “The classes are designed to be fun.” And feedback from students and parents reflect this program goal.

“The overall idea for this partnership is we want to be on the cutting edge of technology and the development of that type of work in our community,’ continued Baker. “We believe that since this is the language of the next generation, [these coding classes] are imperative for the future of communication. We believe entrepreneurial ecosystems include more than just current businesses, but also future business. The Innovation Connector and Techwise Academy, together with other non-profit agencies and support organizations in our community, are empowering and nurturing the future of this new language.”

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Tracy McCormick-Dishman is a local Marketing & Communications Consultant, who writes about her visits to area businesses and agencies. Follow her travels on Facebook,  Twitter (#HeyDish) and