Julia Maddox | Movers & Shakers 2019 – Innovators

Julia Maddox joined the River Campus Libraries at the University of Rochester in 2016 as the founder and director of the iZone, a space for “Imagination, Ideas, Innovation.” Maddox had just under two years to begin developing the service that would activate the 12,000 square foot, $3 million project. “Since our physical space would take a year to design and build, we dubbed it our ‘prototyping phase’ and embarked on a period of fast and furious experimentation and iteration,” Maddox says.

Julia Maddox

CURRENT POSITION

Founder & Director of Barbara J. Burger iZone, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester, NY

DEGREE

BA, George Washington University, 2006

HONORS

Martin E. Messinger Libraries Recognition Award, University of Rochester Libraries, 2018

FOLLOW

facebook.com/iZoneRCL; izone.lib.rochester.edu

Photo by Katie Finnerty Photography

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In the Zone

Julia Maddox joined the River Campus Libraries at the University of Rochester in 2016 as the founder and director of the iZone, a space for “Imagination, Ideas, Innovation.” Maddox had just under two years to begin developing the service that would activate the 12,000 square foot, $3 million project. “Since our physical space would take a year to design and build, we dubbed it our ‘prototyping phase’ and embarked on a period of fast and furious experimentation and iteration,” Maddox says. During this time, Maddox, one staff member, and a small team of student staff organized more than 50 events, workshops, and classes and hosted over 2,000 students to test ideas.

Open since August 2018, the iZone is a buzzing hub of innovation and creative problem-solving. “By the time our doors were ready to open, we were confident that we’d found a recipe that would help us achieve our vision of [assisting] all students to explore ideas for social, cultural, community, or economic benefit,” says Maddox. According to Mary Ann Mavrinac, vice provost and dean of libraries and a nominator, Maddox’s infectious “passion, energy, collaborative spirit, expertise, and creativity [led to] a program far beyond the aspirations of the initial planning team.” Along the way, she’s also built a peer-to-peer teaching model by hiring a diverse and inclusive group of student staff that is 60 percent female and represents 12 majors and nine nationalities.

The iZone is a place for students and faculty alike to fall in love with “real human-centered” problems before developing potential solutions, says Maddox. Programming includes storytelling events to spark ideas, workshops that teach problem-solving, partner programs, and consultation sessions. The iZone has allied with campus life staff, senior capstone programs, marketing and design courses, and outreach librarians. Among its most successful events are Screw Up Nights, at which students and faculty share their failures, and Creators & Catalysts, interviews with a changemaker who saw a problem and made a difference.

“My job,” Maddox says, “is to help people recapture their creative confidence and use it as a force for making the world a more empathetic, solutions-focused place.”

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