Shadow a Student Higher Ed Challenge


What’s it like to be a student at your college or university?

Let’s find out together! The University Innovation Fellows program is excited to announce a higher education pilot of the Shadow a Student Challenge in collaboration with School Retool, another program. The original Challenge, run by School Retool for the last two years, asked K-12 teachers, principals and administrators to shadow a student at their school for one day. More than 2,500 K-12 educators have participated, and we are excited to test this challenge in higher ed with presidents, deans, provosts, faculty, program directors, and other academic leaders.

About the Challenge

As educators, it’s important to our work to continuously connect with the students at our schools. There’s no better way to practice empathy than by putting yourself in the shoes of your students.

Participants in this challenge are higher education leaders who agree to shadow a student at their institution for one whole day. We encourage you to think about the students you don’t know much about or with whom you do not typically interact: a first generation student, a commuter student, a student in a work-study program, a transfer student, etc.

You don’t have to do this alone! We encourage you to find other administrators or faculty who want to participate alongside you, but we do ask that each of you follows a different student to gain even more insights and learnings about the student experience at your school.

Before the Challenge:

  • Sign up, download the toolkit, and be on the look-out for emails from us.
  • Recruit other school leaders to shadow students with you (try for 4-6). They should be administrators, faculty, or staff.  

During the Challenge:

  • Spend one whole day shadowing a student at your school.
  • Tweet about your experience (throughout the day and after) using the hashtag #shadowacollegestudent. We’ll respond to and retweet your insights on our @uifellows handle. Be sure to check out the hashtag to see others’ insights as well!

After the Challenge:

  • Reflect and share a 500-word paragraph about your insights from the day.
  • Meet with the team of shadowers from your school and discuss observations and experiments you want to conduct to improve the student experience.
  • Attend a 30-minute interview in the weeks following the Challenge (via videoconference). This can be solo, or with the team of shadowers from your school.

The toolkit

Our free toolkit supports you through all four steps: Prep, Shadow, Reflect and Act. Download the toolkit (pdf) »

Sign-up deadline

We are asking participants to sign up for the Shadow a Student Higher Ed Challenge by April 14.


The Shadow a Student Higher Ed Challenge will run from April 20 to April 27. Participants will select one day during that week to shadow a student.