Fellows Featured On White House Blog – November 7, 2014

In this year’s proclamation of November as National Entrepreneurship Month, President Obama stated:

Across our Nation, in laboratories and around kitchen tables, passionate and creative entrepreneurs are developing new sources of clean energy, cures for life-threatening diseases, and inventions that will transform the way we see the world. America has always been a country of risk takers and dreamers – where anyone who is willing to work hard can turn a good idea into a thriving business – and our spirit of ingenuity remains a powerful engine of growth, creating jobs and bolstering our economy. This month, we recognize the grit and determination of American inventors and innovators and their many contributions to our Nation, and we reaffirm our commitment to support these entrepreneurs as they develop the products, services, and ideas of tomorrow.

University Innovation Fellows take inspiration from these words. They embrace Epicenter‘s mission to expand the innovation ecosystem in engineering… but they take it one step further. It is their belief that ALL students – not just engineers and business students – need tools that foster their creativity, innovation, leadership and entrepreneurial mindset. Why? Because the workforce requires it. Today’s graduates need to be better prepared for the skillsets and mindsets of their future employers. Students need to know how to come up with the really bold ideas that solve our society’s most throny problems, while also knowing how to execute on those ideas. Fellows understand this and work with faculty, administration and peers to identify, reframe and create infrastructure, programs and language that reaches a broader segment of the student population with essential learning opportunities, resources and more. With the speed that only comes from knowing they’re going to graduate soon, Fellows are laser focused on create lasting institutional change.

Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy featured the work of nine University Innovation Fellows who are implementing unique offerings based on the assets of that campus/region and their own personal passion and interest:

Bre Przestrzelski, Clemson University

Greg Wilson, University of Georgia

Lauren Abston, University of Oklahoma

Ryan Phillips, University of Oklahoma


Meenu Singh, Atin Mittra, and Valerie Sherry, University of Maryland


Mary Wilcox, Arizona State University


Ben Riddle, Furman University

We are very proud of their work and the impact they are making on their campuses. For the entire White House blog post, including their stories of making change in higher education, click here: http://1.usa.gov/13RFhF0. To learn how to become a Fellow, visit http://www.dreamdesigndeliver.org/apply.

~ Humera Fasihuddin, Leader, University Innovation Fellows

Twitter: @ihumera

Hypothesis Affirmed! Greenville, SC Ignited By Southeastern Regional Meetup

Last week, we tested and affirmed a theory. Our hypothesis was that we could bring together a group of Fellows with other college students interested in creativity, innovation and design thinking and replicate the energy of our Annual Meetup at Google and Stanford at a place far from Silicon Valley. We chose Greenville, South Carolina. Why? Because of our star University Innovation Fellows who happen to be in that region… Ben Riddle of Furman University and Bre Przestrzelski of Clemson University, and their amazingly supportive faculty sponsors Ross McClain (Department Chair, Art, Furman) and John Desjardin (Faculty, Bioengineering, Clemson).


Ben and Bre’s work analyzing the Furman and Clemson Innovation & Entrepreneurship ecosystem informed their strategic plans to enhance that ecosystem (Furman Student Priorities, Clemson Student Priorities). They completed this work last year, over a 6-week WebEx-based program to become University Innovation Fellows and, as part of their training, flew to Google Headquarters and Stanford’s world-renowned d.school (the Hasso Plattner Design Institute). Over three days, 88 Fellows from all over the nation soaked up the innovation culture in Silicon Valley and discussed ways to lead a movement in student innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship on their campuses (March 2014 agenda, and photos). The Annual Meetup was transformative; both Ben and Bre saw the opportunity to replicate the magic and attract peers on campus.

Again, why Greenville? Program leaders, over the year that followed, discovered just how cool of a community Greenville, SC is, as both Fellows reported back the success and overwhelming support they received from institutional and community leaders. Greenville has a strong history of public-private partnership dating back to the entrepreneurial Mayor Max, under whose leadership the city attracted a major Hotel Chain and narrowed a four-lane thoroughfare into the charming downtown Main Street filled with great restaurants, culture, art and more. So, when the pair invited Epicenter and its founders, Stanford University and VentureWell, to co-facilitate design thinking and lean startup sessions with local experts, program leaders enthusiastically agreed. Thus was born the plan for the…

Southeastern Regional Meetup, Hosted by Clemson University and Furman University

SEregionalsmallEpicenter organizers, University Innovation Fellow program leaders and Fellows flew in from California, Massachusetts, Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, New York and the Virgin Islands. Fellows drove from North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and even as far away as Michigan and Massachusetts! They were joined by 20 Furman and 20 Clemson students. All had one thing in common: a desire to learn the techniques of design thinking and lean startup, two approaches used to develop strong human-centered ideas and develop scalable business models around them. Using real-world issues from the Greenville community, students applied new-found techniques in observation, empathy, brainstorming, prototyping, customer segmentation & value proposition development.

Students developed low-resolution prototypes and articulated real opportunities to improve Greenville – a more friendly main street and redesigning the eating experience. Students learned by doing and they discovered that their entrepreneurial mindset could be honed on real-world challenges in their local community. On the flip side, community members saw students as motivated and capable individuals who bring a fresh-perspective and an open mind to arrive at highly innovative and achievable solutions to their challenges. One student openly remarked during the debrief, “I learned more this weekend than in the entire semester,” a sentiment often heard by many who first encounter hands-on and experiential learning opportunities. The mood at the reception with community and academic leaders was one you’d see at a sporting event, as evident by the Bear Ninja Cowboy video posted below. This kind of enthusiasm for learning can transform our nation’s higher education institutions. We look forward to replicating this success in Washington D.C. and at UMD on November 1st and 2nd, ringing in National Entrepreneurship Month with an invitation only Meetup for 100 University Innovation Fellows. More on that soon!

~ Humera Fasihuddin, Leader, University Innovation Fellows (on behalf of Leticia Britos Cavagnaro, Katie Dzugan & Laurie Moore)

A Big THANK YOU to our Collaborators and Supporters

We are extremely grateful to the many local community members, without whom, this past weekend would not have been possible:

Design Thinkers Group USA, especially Joel, Marc and Susan, for their tremendous efforts in co-designing and co-facilitating a two-day experiential learning experience with our colleague Leticia Britos Cavagnaro from Stanford.

John Desjarin, Clemson, for his awesome giant room-sized Business Model Canvas exercise, imparting Lean Startup skills to participants in an experiential way (and his moral support).

Ross Mclain, Furman, for forging an unprecedented partnership between a liberal arts institution and a major research university (and his moral support).

OpenWorks, for being so accommodating and allowing us to use their open work space for our activities on Friday (see agenda below).

Greenville Health System, especially to Robin, for joining us to discuss what you should never do in an interview — and making it funny.

Clemson MBA at ONE, for giving us access to their swanky new space on Main Street.

Also a special shout out to Envision SC, the Spiro Institute, Ten at the Top, SCBio and all of our additional facilitators and guests of honor.

Fellows Southeastern Regional Meetup Collaborators and Sponsors

Fellows Southeastern Regional Meetup Collaborators and Sponsors

Fellows Southeastern Regional Meetup Agenda

Fellows Southeastern Regional Meetup Agenda

58 U.S. Students Named University Innovation Fellows by NSF-Funded Epicenter

For Immediate Release
October 2, 2014

58 U.S. Students Named University Innovation Fellows by NSF-Funded Epicenter

Palo Alto, CA – Fifty-eight students from 26 higher education institutions across the United States have been named University Innovation Fellows by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter).

The University Innovation Fellows program empowers students to become agents of change at their schools. The Fellows are a national community of students in engineering and related fields who work to ensure that their peers gain the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to compete in the economy of the future. To accomplish this, the Fellows advocate for lasting institutional change and create opportunities for students to engage with entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity, design thinking and venture creation at their schools.

This new cohort of Fellows brings the total number to 168 Fellows from 85 schools. The program is run by Epicenter, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Stanford University and VentureWell (formerly NCIIA).

“It is so critical for students to have an entrepreneurial mindset in today’s economy. They need more than just technical skills to solve the big problems our world is facing,” said Humera Fasihuddin, leader of the University Innovation Fellows program for Epicenter.

“This mindset helps students learn to be flexible, resilient, creative, empathetic. They learn how to identify and frame problems rather than simply solving what’s put in front of them. With these skills, students will be able to leave school better prepared to tackle challenges and create new and fulfilling jobs for themselves and others.”
Individual Fellows as well as teams of Fellows are sponsored by faculty and administrators at their schools and selected through an application process twice annually. Following acceptance into the program, students complete six weeks of online training, where they connect with their new network, examine their current entrepreneurial ecosystems and formulate action plans to implement their ideas. Throughout the year, they take part in events and conferences across the country and have opportunities to learn from one another, Epicenter mentors, and leaders in academia and industry.

Fellows have created student design and maker spaces, founded entrepreneurship clubs and organizations, worked with faculty to design courses, and hosted events and workshops. In the last academic year alone, Fellows created 553 activities, 22 new spaces and 65 innovation and entrepreneurship resources at their schools.

“Fellows are having a powerful impact at their schools,” Fasihuddin said. “They are working alongside students, faculty and their university leaders to help all students learn an entrepreneurial mindset, dream big and pursue their career aspirations.”

Learn more about the University Innovation Fellows at http://epicenter.stanford.edu/university-innovation-fellows and http://www.dreamdesigndeliver.org.

About Epicenter:
The National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter) is funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Stanford University and VentureWell (formerly NCIIA). Epicenter’s mission is to empower U.S. undergraduate engineering students to bring their ideas to life for the benefit of our economy and society. To do this, Epicenter helps students combine their technical skills, their ability to develop innovative technologies that solve important problems, and an entrepreneurial mindset and skillset. Epicenter’s three core initiatives are the University Innovation Fellows program for undergraduate engineering students and their peers; the Pathways to Innovation Program for institutional teams of faculty and university leaders; and a research program that informs activities and contributes to national knowledge on entrepreneurship and engineering education. Learn more and get involved at http://epicenter.stanford.edu/.

Media contact:
Laurie Moore
Communications Manager, Epicenter
(650) 561-6113


A Quiet Revolution In Greenville, SC

A quiet revolution is taking hold in Greenville, SC, led by students at Clemson and Furman. Described by some as “A post recession ‘power to the people movement,” students are recognizing the gap between skills acquired at college and those needed by Google, Apple, Microsoft and other growing employers in the nation. The gap can be narrowed by hands-on and experiential learning opportunities. University Innovation Fellows have made it their mission to reach all students, across all majors, to join the movement.

Join us at the Southeastern Regional Meetup on Friday, October 3 through Sunday, October 5. And remember Fellows: we have your hotel rooms covered! You just need to get yourself there.

This event is hosted by the University Innovation Fellows in collaboration with Bre Przestrzelski of Clemson University and Ben Riddle of Furman University.

Forty lucky Clemson and Furman students will join University Innovation Fellows from across the nation in a day and a half of play that will ignite Greenville and the surrounding community.Students will participate in design thinking and lean methods on real challenges in the surrounding ecosystem that inspire their passion.

One lucky Clemson and Furman student who participates in the entire regional meetup will be invited to attend the University Innovation Fellows Annual Meetup at Google Headquarters and Stanford’s D.School in the Silicon Valley on February 19-22, 2014.

Fellows and invited guests: Register for the Southeastern Regional Meetup today!