The University of Arkansas announced Wednesday (March 17) Justin Urso as the new director of the McMillon Innovation Studio, an interdisciplinary facility and set of programs housed in the Sam M. Walton College of Business serving students across campus and industry partners across the state.
Jessica Salmon was the previous director. She departed in November 2020 but is still with the UA as an adjunct lecturer and executive education facilitator. Rachel Sullivant, the assistant director, served as interim director during the interim.
“The McMillon Innovation Studio reaches a diverse, interdisciplinary population of students who are driven to use their time at the University of Arkansas not just to learn but to create meaningful change in the world,” said Sarah Goforth, executive director of the UA’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which oversees the studio.
“Justin is the perfect person to design the experiences and connect the mentor communities that help students create new products and services that address important problems and needs.”
According to a UA news release, Urso has a diverse background that includes working with startups and helping companies expand by harnessing their data. He also brings the studio a wealth of experience mentoring and coaching student teams on product strategy, software and app development and business model design.
“I’m excited to not only be part of the amazing University of Arkansas staff but to be part of the Walton College and OEI, all of which have had a profound impact on positively shaping my life,” Urso said. “When the opportunity came about, it didn’t take me long to realize how great a fit it would be.”
Since 2017, Urso has served as a strategy consultant at Concord Adams, a company he co-founded that provides custom website design and development services. In 2014, he co-founded Skosay, a retail technology company that landed high-profile clients such as Tyson Foods and Kellogg’s.
Urso also co-founded Big Box Karaoke in Fayetteville. The popular karaoke bar and restaurant was named Small Business of the Year by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce in 2019.
Urso has been a mentor to the UA Office of Entrepreneurship and Delta I-Fund since 2014 and a member of the Walton College DREAM Advisory Board since 2018.
Urso officially started in a part-time capacity on March 15, with plans to transition to full-time later this year.
“I can’t wait to get started working with students and seeing their passion for innovation, entrepreneurship and solving problems come to life,” Urso said.
“I’m most excited about the opportunity to help to connect them to amazing opportunities in our community, whether it be building something of their own or helping them pave their way to becoming a great and innovative leader in an organization.”
Sullivant, who has been interim director of the studio since December 2020, will continue in her previous role as assistant director. Sullivant also will continue to oversee the studio’s design teams, which allow students to harness human-centered design principles to solve problems in an array of industries.