Meet Dr. P
Dr. Will Patterson
Dr. Will Patterson (Dr. P), Director of the Hip Hop Xpress Double Dutch Boom Bus Innovation Lab & Data Center, organizes his work under STEAMGenius.org to promote Black cultural wealth. This wealth is rooted in and acquired by individuals in places and spaces that are undervalued, underestimated, and marginalized.
Dr. P also holds appointments at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, as Clinical Associate Professor in the College of Fine and Applied Arts and Lecturer in the Technology Entrepreneurship Center, Grainger College of Engineering. In 2021 and 2022 he held the Fiddler Innovation Faculty Fellowship at the UI National Center for Supercomputing Applications. He is a co-principal investigator on grants with Engineering Professor Lav Varshney (and others) related to artificial intelligence and music creation. STEAMGenius has received other funding from the cities of Champaign and Urbana, Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband (UC2B), and the Mental Health Board of Champaign County; STEAMGenius partners with other youth-serving organizations like the Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club, DREAAM.org, and local school and park districts.
In 2010, Dr. P launched ‘N Search of the Hip Hop Xpress, an early version of the Innovation Lab & Data Center in an Airstream trailer. The Xpress was based on Tuskegee Institute’s Jessup Wagon, a moveable school to learn about sharecropper culture in the Delta South. Outfitted with computers, recording equipment, digital turntables, microphones, headsets, video games, and mixers, the trailer showed up at various community events, schools, and libraries in Champaign-Urbana and in East St. Louis, drawing local residents of many ages together around music, memories and skill-sharing. The latest version of the Hip Hop Xpress, the Double Dutch Boom Bus, was primarily funded by the University of Illinois System’s Presidential Initiative to Celebrate the Impact of the Arts and Humanities in 2019. The Hip Hop Xpress team won an award for Excellence in Public Engagement in 2021 from the Office of the Provost at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Since the late 1990s, Dr. Patterson has worked with youth at the Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club in Champaign and University of Illinois (UI) students on projects that included fashion, spoken arts, and STEM. As Associate Director at the UI African American Cultural Center from 2005-2008, Dr. Patterson was vital to the internet-based radio station, WBML, and Griot, the literary magazine. In 2006, Dr. Patterson received the Campus Award for Excellence in Public Engagement as well as the local arts council’s ACE Award. He held a central role with the collaborative Youth Media Workshop (with WILL-TV, College of Education, and College of Media) that taught over 30 African American middle and high school students how to use media tools to produce documentaries about their communities. In 2008, Dr. Patterson was a Fellow with the University of Illinois Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership. Previous courses taught by Dr. Patterson since the early 1990s—at the UI, at the Boys & Girls Club, at the Urban League—have examined leadership, arts and social change with youth-created media incorporated into the learning process. Hip hop is about the next generation. As the father of three young adults—geniuses in their own right—Dr. P lives this commitment. He imparts a compelling urgency to uplift generations of Black innovators and makers.