Increasing innovation through storytelling
By Libby Maness
Kendel Rogers is a storyteller. She brings people’s ideas and inventions to life.
As the Outreach Specialist for HSC Next, she regularly engages with an impressive roster of innovators – students, scientists, clinicians, educators and entrepreneurs – from The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth and the Fort Worth community.
“The innovation potential on our campus and in our city is amazing,” Rogers said. “There are ideas, inventions and startups that are growing right in front of us.”
HSC Next is made up of experts dedicated to increasing innovation and entrepreneurship across HSC and Fort Worth. It is Rogers’ job to promote innovators, highlight their work and increase awareness about how HSC Next can support them.
“My role focuses on storytelling,” Rogers said. “Whether it’s a feature on the newest startup in town or the latest invention HSC Next filed a patent application for, I get to be in the middle of it telling the story.”
Rogers also has a personal reason that guides her in her work. Her father, who had Type 1 diabetes and passed away in 2020, is a key reason she believes strongly in what her department and HSC are doing.
“My dad is the reason I want to work to find new solutions to our health care problems – so that other people don’t have to lose their loved ones prematurely,” said Rogers, who also serves on the board of the Tarrant County Diabetes Coalition.
Rogers enjoys the fact that HSC Next focuses on two main efforts. The first is building a stronger local innovation ecosystem. This is a collaborative effort with community partners – municipalities, nonprofits, investors, universities and entrepreneurs – to make Fort Worth a better place to be an innovator.
The second effort is focused on filling and managing a pipeline of innovations. This includes managing the HSC patent portfolio and supporting biotech startups that are growing on campus. Both the ecosystem-building and innovation pipeline efforts provide Rogers with ample opportunities for storytelling.
The Innovate Fort Worth podcast is produced by Rogers and has been key in sharing the stories of innovators. The podcast showcases the importance of innovation by featuring local innovators and entrepreneurs. Through Innovate Fort Worth, individuals share their stories and ideas with the community. Since it debuted in 2019, the podcast has told more than 50 stories – all from HSC or Fort Worth locals.
HSC Next also recently launched the Innovation Challenge initiative that allows anyone from HSC to submit ideas to the different challenges sponsored by HSC Next or affiliated partners. Every applicant receives feedback, and semifinalists are chosen based on the idea’s potential to become a new commercial technology or business. Semifinalists receive coaching on the next steps to prepare a pitch for their idea in hopes of receiving further mentorship and funding through HSC Next.
From promoting the Innovation Challenge program across campus to telling the incredible stories of local innovators, Rogers has been an irreplaceable part of HSC Next.
“Whether it’s through our podcast or the Innovation Challenge, the HSC Next team is committed to guiding students, staff, faculty and local entrepreneurs to become the hero in their innovation story,” Rogers said. “The best part of my job is seeing those stories take shape right in front of me and getting to tell the story to the world.”