Director of Innovate Blue, Professor of Psychology

Oscar Ybarra

Oscar Ybarra, the Director of Innovate Blue, has more than 19 years experience in higher education, principally in research and teaching. Oscar also has leveraged his scientific research to create his own start-up that deals with mental sharpness and brain fitness. Oscar came to Innovate Blue as a U-M Professor of Psychology, where he has developed courses on entrepreneurship, intelligence, and life success. His course on the social psychology of entrepreneurship was recently highlighted by as an interesting alternative to traditional courses in this area. Oscar’s course combines concepts on adaptive thinking and decision-making with actual learning by doing.


Oscar provides the strategic direction and intellectual leadership for Innovate Blue, as well as guaranteeing execution through his chairing of two campus-wide committees: the Innovate Blue Curriculum Committee comprised of associate deans, directors of entrepreneurship centers and units, and U-M faculty; and the Entrepreneurial Unit Leaders group (Leaders from all U-M entrepreneurship units and programs) assembled to unite, strengthen, and leverage the insights of the U-M entrepreneurship community. The curriculum committee’s work has resulted in the policies guiding curriculum development for the U-M campus-wide minor in entrepreneurship.


Oscar continues to be an active researcher at U-M, where he has spearheaded scientific breakthroughs on how to improve cognitive function, decision-making, and the role of social networks in emotional outcomes. Oscar’s research has been published in the top journals in psychology, and his work on cognition and aging has been used in presentations before U.S. congressional hearings. His work on social interaction and mental exercising, as well as his work on facebook use and reduced emotional wellbeing, has received significant media attention across the world, including China, India, Europe, Argentina, Australia, Korea, Iran, and many outlets in the United States such as Forbes, the New York Times, U.S. News & World Report, and the Washington Post. Oscar has recently begun to study entrepreneurs to better understand the entrepreneurial mindset and the educational experiences that can help cultivate innovation and creativity.


Oscar did not take the typical path from high school to college and then the workplace. At the end of his junior year in high school in Alpine, Texas, Oscar dropped out of school, earning his GED. It took him three years to regain his footing and then go on to college. After receiving his BA in psychology and a Master’s degree in Pubic Administration, Oscar started his PhD in Experimental Psychology at New Mexico State University. Oscar worked with several experts in social psychology, cognitive engineering, human factors, and bio-evolutionary psychology, who helped shape his views on learning, intelligence, and the importance of social connections for adaptive cognition. Oscar came to U-M after finishing his PhD in 1996.