Belmont University Appoints Sociologist, Social Innovator and Nonprofit Leader Dr. Josh Yates to New Institutional Role

Yates to establish and lead University’s Transformational Innovation Hub, focused on developing opportunities that drive human and community flourishing

To support its vision of being a University that helps solve the world’s most complex problems, Belmont University today announced the appointment of Dr. Josh Yates, a leading cultural and community sociologist, nonprofit executive and social innovator, who most recently served as Executive Director of the Ormond Center at Duke Divinity School. Beginning June 1, 2022, Dr. Yates will serve as the Founding Executive Director of the Belmont University Transformational Innovation Hub, a new University initiative focused on developing a generation of Christ-animated innovators who collaboratively design and implement creative solutions to complex societal problems.

“We are delighted to welcome Josh Yates to our campus and are very excited about the creation of our new Transformational Innovation Hub,” said Belmont President Dr. L. Gregory Jones. “Over the course of his career, Dr. Yates has devoted his work in both research and practice to better understand how communities and their people thrive. In his new role, he will lead teams across Belmont and in partnership with communities and organizations to search for creative solutions to complex problems to radically champion the pursuit of life abundant for all people.” 

In addition to his most recent role with the Ormond Center, Dr. Yates is the Founder and CEO of the Thriving Cities Group, a national nonprofit that combines research, training, community organizing and technology to help communities across the country thrive. Prior to his role at Duke, Dr. Yates served as an Assistant Professor of Sociology and as the Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. As a scholar, Dr. Yates has pursued research on human thriving as well as understanding the realities that make it more or less possible in the contemporary world. As a practitioner, he works to translate this learning into practical frameworks and tools that equip leaders and organizations to take action and cultivate thriving ecosystems. 

“The opportunity to come to Belmont to establish and lead the University’s new Hub is the perfect culmination of my professional efforts thus far,” said Dr. Yates. ”I am energized by the work Belmont is already doing to solve the problems that keep communities from flourishing, and I look forward to leading the Hub to help further those efforts.” 

Dr. Yates’ expertise will serve as the foundation for the Hub’s work, which will be organized by a series of Studios that align with many of Belmont’s key priorities including the future of cities & regions, health, education, impact investing, reducing poverty and more. The Hub will serve as an innovation laboratory and incubator where a variety of stakeholders—including members of the Belmont community, other professionals and community experts—will come together to learn, experience and engage through real world application. 

In his new role, Dr. Yates will collaborate with other key leaders and teams across campus to further Belmont’s university-wide efforts to impact the community through entrepreneurial problem solving. These partners include the Thomas Cone Center for Entrepreneurship, the University’s recently announced Belmont Accelerator for Social Innovation Collaboration (BASIC) and the Belmont Data Collaborative, among others.