09:58 AM

UST Announces 1st Recipients of MAX Innovator Awards

"A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock when somebody contemplates it 
with the idea of a cathedral in mind."
— Antoine de Saint-Exupery (French Aviator, Writer)

Such is the power of imagination.

The forward-thinking University of St. Thomas celebrates powerful thinking within its community and announces the first recipients of UST’s annual MAX Innovator Awards. Honorees are Dean of Libraries and Professor, Jim Piccininni, and Director of UST’s Veteran Services, Trisha Ruiz.

A “Good Problem” Arose

Chief Innovation Officer, Dr. Beena George, said, “During the selection process, we ran into a problem—a good problem. Though we set out to find one individual for the MAX Innovator Award, we ended up identifying two.”

Selection was guided by the following criteria:

  • The focus of the idea needed to be learner-centered. A MAX Innovator idea provides new ways to improve the quality of services or offers unique programming for students.
  • The concept was creative. It demonstrates out-of-the-box thinking.
  • The thought had impact. It contributes to the achievement of the University mission and the Call Toward Tomorrow goals. The idea has the potential to generate revenue or reduce costs.

Powerful Ideas Recognized

Trisha Ruiz is responsible for conceiving and executing multiple first and best in class initiatives within UST’s Veteran Services programs.

  • UST is the first college campus in Houston to have a stand-alone building dedicated to veterans services
  • UST is the first in Houston to have a veteran living and learning center
  • UST has the lowest veteran student to counselor ratio in our region
  • UST has unlimited yellow ribbon program seats, which help veterans pay for their schooling in non-competitive undergrad and grad programs

Jim Piccininni is a future-forward thinker who was the first to propose the Associate Degree program at the University, a program that is now successfully led by Dr. Nicole Walters. Piccininni also is working on innovative changes to the library space to meet the needs of our students. He has a particular knack for curating ideas, connecting the dots and presenting them in a new and meaningful way. Rohit Bhargava describes this trait in his 2019 book as “non-obvious thinking” and as essential to “win the future.”

The University looks forward to more non-obvious thinking, successful innovations and fearless change.

"The air is full of ideas. They are knocking you in the head all the time …
Suddenly, the idea will come through. It was there all the time." 
- Henry Ford (American industrialist)