a small but mighty team.
creating a more inclusive
Robert Kerr of Springfield is leading development of the new University of Illinois Springfield Innovation Center in downtown Springfield as Executive Director of Innovation and Opportunity. Rob has spent more than 20 years in higher education and economic development and previously served as Director of the UIS Office of Continuing & Professional Education (CAPE). Rob holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Loyola University Chicago & an MBA from Benedictine University, & he is completing his doctorate in public administration at UIS with an emphasis in public policy.
Ben Hage has been named Director of Innovate Springfield, the University of Illinois Springfield’s business incubator located in downtown Springfield. He is a leader in entrepreneurship, leadership development and business education. Hage most recently served as the executive director of iVenturED Inc. where for eight years he led the Sangamon CEO program, an accredited high-school program teaching entrepreneurship and leadership to high school seniors in Sangamon County.
Before leading the Sangamon CEO program, Hage worked as a CX business analyst for Horace Mann in Springfield. Between 2013 and 2015, he served as an entrepreneur and founder or co-founder of multiple startup projects in retail, robotics, education and marketing.
In 2020, he was named to the Springfield Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 list. He is a Six Sigma yellow belt, a TEDx presenter and previously served on the NPR Illinois Community Advisory Board.
Trish serves as Business Incubation Program Coordinator at Innovate Springfield, which means she wears all the hats. She grew up in nearby Petersburg but spent most of the last two decades in Portland, OR before returning to Central Illinois in 2017. While living in Oregon, she earned an undergraduate degree in Organismal Biology and a Master of Science Teaching degree, both from Portland State University. She is delighted to be working for an organization that has such a clearly positive impact on the local community, due to its mission to support local entrepreneurs and increase equity. When not at work doing the job she adores at Innovate Springfield, Trish spends her time cooking, gardening, birding, hiking, hanging with family, co-leading her daughter's Girl Scout troop, mastering her fermentation skills, and otherwise doing her best to live a life full of gratitude and creativity. Returning to Springfield has been a joy - especially the opportunity to participate in the vibrant and dedicated downtown Springfield community and support local economic development.
Daisy Solorzano serves as our GPSI Community Support Specialist at Innovate Springfield. She is a first year graduate student at the University of Illinois-Springfield pursuing a masters in public administration with a certificate in community planning. She moved to Springfield in August of 2020 as a transfer from Kankakee Community College, to finish her undergraduate career, which she completed in May of 2022 with a bachelors in political science. What she is looking forward to the most during her time at iSPI is the opportunity to learn how to influence and help grow the business side of a community, and to be involved in a collaborative space. Outside of iSPI and being a grad student, Daisy is a Lobbyist for three companies, and a signed model with Images Agency in St. Louis. During her free time she enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her family.