The following post is a reflection of two faculty sponsors: Landon Young of William Jewell College (Missouri) and John Santa Lucia of Wayne State University (Michigan). Both faculty sponsors had the pleasure of joining Fellows at two separate meetups; the first was the Southeastern Regional Meetup in Greenville, South Carolina, from October 3 – 4, 2014 and the second was the Mid-Atlantic Regional Meetup in College Park, Maryland, and Washington D.C. from November 1 – 2, 2014. Each meetup had a unique theme dedicated to the strengths of the universities being represented and the resources within local community relationships.
Southeastern Regional Meetup
It takes a special person to be an entrepreneur. It takes courage, vision, innovation, optimism, energy, perseverance, team building, leadership, and technical skill. Few people have the winning combination of skills needed for success. However, three students from Wayne State University — Nikolas Upton, Siwatu Sanders, and Pradeep Bhat — have these skills in spades. All three of them successfully completed the training for the University Innovation Fellows (UIF) program. Nationwide, only 168 students have completed the program to date.
As a faculty sponsor, it is a privilege to mentor Nik, Siwatu and Pradeep. I have been working with them to refine their business ideas and their ideas for spreading entrepreneurship at Wayne State through business short courses and the creation of a “maker space” for 3D printing, prototyping and fabrication. The capstone event for the UIF training was a regional meeting October 3-4 in Greenville, SC. This was attended by 68 students from throughout the U.S. and our hosts from Clemson and Furman University were wonderful. I was thrilled to be able to participate in this event.
We started out at 9:00 PM with an overnight road trip from Detroit to South Carolina. The road trip itself was a great opportunity to have extended conversations with the students. Their energy and optimism is infectious. At the UIF meeting we were treated to some wonderful talks from local entrepreneurs and various instructional games from the Design Thinking Group. The students participated in several workshops that involved brainstorming business ideas in small groups, making elevator pitches, writing business plans, dancing (!!!), and performing real marketing research by performing polls of people on Main Street. As a faculty sponsor, I had great fun mostly observing the incredible creativity of the students. It was also fun to jump in and offer some guidance and to ask some probative questions.
I love the social idealism of this generation. Most of their business ideas involve socially conscious issues such as care of the elderly, how to deal with student loan debt, green technologies for energy and waste disposal, engineering prosthetic devices for handicapped people, and engineering clean water for poor countries. One of the unique aspects of the regional meeting was that the structure of the meeting was engaging, instructional and FUN! Quite different than the usual classroom didactic. I think that more faculty sponsors should be encouraged to go to these meetings so that they can import some of the entrepreneurial ideas into their curricula. Entrepreneurs like Nik, Siwatu, and Pradeep give me optimism for the future of our country.
Professor and UIF faculty sponsor, Wayne State University
Mid-Atlantic Regional Meetup
I am thrilled that I chose to attend the University Innovation Fellows (UIF) Mid-Atlantic Meetup at the University of Maryland with my students! It was a provocative weekend that helped me to better understand the goals and activities of Epicenter and the UIF program. I was able to experience the activities with students first-hand, and this shared experience reinforced the bond with students and gave us a shared vocabulary, vision and purpose.
The hands-on activities gave the students experience in materializing their ideas into tangible products and designs, and we all had a blast laughing at ourselves as we fashioned virtual reality wearables out of fuzzy pipe cleaners!
The meetup took several serious turns as well. As a group, we discussed national trends and specific ideas for William Jewell College, including an outline that we developed for changes in the student curriculum. The most meaningful take-away for the students was being guided into a mindset of empathy, which gave them insight into other points of view, including the perspective of a customer, a friend, and an administrator on campus.
As a faculty member and advisor, I was able to meet the staff and organizers from Epicenter. Over the course of the two-day gathering, I saw the passion and knowledge that they brought to the table and learned the specific methodologies that they use. This group of driven and focused individuals guided the students with care and gave specific as-needed instruction to each Fellow. The group accomplished so much together, and I left inspired by the relationships forged and the innovative dialogue we shared. I cannot wait for the next meetup when I can join students and advisors in shaping the next phase of the UIF program.
Professor and UIF faculty sponsor, William Jewell College