News - SMART productivity and learning: Five reasons to cheer the SMART Center in Greenville

SMART productivity and learning: Five reasons to cheer the SMART Center in Greenville

Carla Morris

The SMART Center on Greenville’s historic square has served students, community groups, and businesses well, even in a year of pandemic. This good word comes from the Center’s Director of Operations Elaine McNamara, whose summary of 2020-21 activities gives four reasons to cheer the Center’s work nurturing startups, growing professional networks, and inspiring innovation.

One: SMART Center amenities filled needs and inspired creativity

The Center’s esport and podcast studios, demonstration kitchen, restaurant, conference facilities, and office spaces facilitated productivity for these SMART Center users:

  • Tenants in the Center’s office space—GU alumni among them—who say that the Center’s amenities favorably impressed their visiting  
    clients.  
  • GU students, including its student government association, esport team, chemistry students, improvisational comedy troupe Joyous Chaos, Panther basketball and football teams, Entrepreneur Club, and students enrolled in GU’s Professional Business Leaders class.
  • Podcasters who brought their creativity and connections to the SMART Center’s podcast studio. Listeners can now select from more than 50 SMART Center Podcast episodes and student podcasts as well.
  • GU faculty, coaches, departments and office staff who used the Center’s conference facilities for meetings and retreats.

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Director of Operations Elaine McNamara (foreground) regularly engages members of Greenville's business community via podcasts.

Two: SMART Center collaborations empowered good work

Nonprofits hosting events sponsored by local businesses can now use the SMART Center at no charge. This SMART Reach program benefits local nonprofits like these who tapped Center resources last year:

  • Eden’s Glory in its fight against human trafficking;
  • Restore Network, in its support of foster care;
  • CORE Community, as it lifts community members out of poverty;
  • FAYCO, in its push to help young adults with disabilities transition into independence; and
  • Project Parenting, as it comes alongside and supports families with young children.

Three: SMART Center spaces strengthened community

Community groups and businesses used the SMART Center for meetings, dinners, training seminars, job interviews, and more. In 2020-21, these included:

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The SMART Center includes meeting and work spaces for groups of all sizes. 

Four: SMART CENTER programs informed and educated

Collaborations throughout 2020-21 included the development of these ongoing SMART Center programs:

SMART Talks: Tap an expert! Informational discussions open to all occur the first Wednesday of the month at no charge. Prior speakers have included experts on Illinois’ “Fair Tax” Amendment, consumer fraud, COVID-19 vaccines, filing 2020 taxes, PPP loans and other grant programs, and the Southwestern Illinois Broadband Initiative.

The Bond County Business Network: Converse and connect over lunch. Open to all, this lunch on the second Tuesday of each month gives community members a chance to network and introduce themselves and their businesses to each other.

SMART Works Job Seekers: This group supports folks hunting for jobs or seeking career changes. SMART Works Job Seekers meets every Tuesday evening to discuss topics like self-marketing and interview skills. A Saturday workshop is available for those who have difficulty attending during the week.

SMART Works Business Books: Participants in this monthly book club discuss a new book each month. Selected books focus on leadership, entrepreneurship, and/or team building. This group meets on the third Thursday of each month.

Five: The SMART Center keeps moving forward

Events on the horizon include:

  • A new restaurant
  • Cooking classes
  • Family Fun Fridays hosted by the City of Greenville and taking place in front of the SMART Center
  • “SMART Marts”
  • Live music
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SMART Center Director of 
Operations Elaine McNamara

To learn more about SMART Center offerings, amenities, and reserving space for your conference or gathering, contact Director of Operations Elaine McNamara at [email protected].

This story was published on June 08, 2021