About the Program

The University Innovation Fellows program empowers students to become agents of change at their schools. The Fellows are a global community leading a movement to ensure that all students gain the attitudes, skills and knowledge required to navigate a complex world. These student leaders from schools around the world create opportunities to help their peers build the creative confidence, agency, and entrepreneurial mindset needed to address global challenges and to build a better future.

Fellows create student innovation spaces, start entrepreneurship organizations, facilitate experiential workshops, work with faculty and administrators to develop new courses, and much more. They serve as advocates for lasting institutional change with academic leaders, lending the much-needed student voice to the conversations about the future of higher education. 

In addition to the student program, the University Innovation Fellows team offers a faculty workshop, the Teaching and Learning Studio. This in-person experience helps higher education teachers and administrators use design thinking to create student-centric learning experiences.

The University Innovation Fellows is a program of Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (d.school). The program was created as part of the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter), a five-year National Science Foundation grant.

About the Fellows

The program has trained 2,910 students at 314 schools around the world. They range from undergraduates to PhD students and engineering majors to architecture majors. All of them demonstrate a passion for innovation, creativity and the entrepreneurial mindset as well as a drive to make a lasting impact at their schools.

Some Fellows work independently on their campuses and collaborate with their faculty and peers, while others work in a team of up to four Fellows at a campus.

What the Fellows Do

Fellows are working with peers, faculty and administrators to create new learning opportunities for students at their schools to engage with innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking and creativity. Check out a few examples of their activities »

Fellows build resources that will last beyond their time on campus. They:

  • create innovation, collaboration or maker spaces
  • found clubs
  • raise funding
  • host speakers
  • organize competitions
  • work with faculty to create courses
  • engage incoming students during orientation
  • lead workshops that expose students to creativity, innovation, design thinking and tools to hone their entrepreneurial mindset

Fellows collaborate with their faculty, deans, trustees and other institutional leaders. They:

    • discuss ways to enhance the educational experience by engaging other students in hands-on, applied and self-directed learning opportunities
    • advocate and lead cross-departmental and cross-institutional partnerships
    • collaborate to hold new course offerings that incorporate creativity, innovation, design thinking and entrepreneurship within and alongside traditional coursework

Fellows contribute to the national dialogue on their needs in higher education. They:

  • speak at national conferences about their work
  • collaborate with other fellows regionally and by discipline
  • advocate for changes in policy that can help support a nation of young people who possess an entrepreneurial mindset, a passion for solving society’s most pressing problems and the necessary attitudes, skills and abilities to make a difference in the world


Interested students should begin the application process here. Students apply as a team along with a faculty champion from their schools. Current Fellows interview applicants about their BHAG (big hairy audacious goals). Competition is strongly discouraged as we promote a safe environment of information sharing. After the interview round, students are invited to join us in this global endeavor and become candidates in training.

Training & Support

University Innovation Fellows program leaders train candidate Fellows during an intensive 6-week period to conduct in-depth analyses of their campus ecosystems and provide them with tools and resources. They explore frameworks including Design Thinking and Lean Startup, and use their new knowledge to develop unique projects that address needs at their schools.

After training, the Fellows receive year-round mentorship, connect with one another digitally, and attend national conferences and events. This global network of like-minded students helps our Fellows learn from one another and create multi-institution collaborations.

Silicon Valley Meetup

The UIF Silicon Valley Meetup takes place annually in March at Stanford University and Google. Fellows who trained the previous fall and Faculty Champions are invited to attend this 5-day experiential event. Read about the last Meetup here.

In order to attend the Silicon Valley Meetup, Fellows will be required to demonstrate that they’ve made or started to make an impact on campus. The UIF team will ask them to share an update on their projects about two months after they complete training. Fellows who are able to demonstrate impact will receive an invitation to attend the Meetup. What does impact look like? This doesn’t mean that a project has to be completed. Fellows just need to show that they’ve made progress, taken some action, learned something new about their goal or audience, or pivoted from their original project.


Fellows and their efforts on campus have been celebrated by their schools, regional publications and national organizations such as the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy under former President Barack Obama. Visit our Fellows in the News page to read the articles.