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The Power of a Peer Community

University Innovation Fellows shared strategies for student-led change in higher education at the James Madison University Regional Meetup in November 2015.

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At the James Madison University Regional Meetup, University Innovation Fellows share their insights and lessons learned from creating activities, events and spaces at their schools. Photo by Laurie Moore.

by Laurie Moore
Originally posted on epicenter.stanford.edu.

Students circulated the room, their voices echoing off concrete floors and high ceilings. They wandered from one rolling whiteboard to the next, where their peers presented what they’d learned from creating activities, events and spaces at their schools. The presenters wrote insights on the whiteboards as they talked — a live poster session without paper or graphs. Instead of rotating to the next whiteboard when instructed, some students remained at the same board, taking detailed notes on the topic and asking follow-up questions. Many of the discussions extended over lunch and throughout the day.

This showcase of activities was one of many highlights of the University Innovation Fellows Regional Meetup hosted by James Madison University (JMU) on November 14-15, 2015. Titled “Own It. Do It.” and held at JMU X-Labs, the meetup provided an opportunity for Fellows to connect in person and learn from one another about how to engage their peers around innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity and design thinking.

UIF-JMU-Regional-Meetup-2015-01

The event, designed by JMU Fellows and faculty sponsors, was attended by 40 students from 13 schools in addition to JMU: Clemson University, Dalhousie University, Furman University, George Mason University, Grand Valley State University, La Salle University, Morgan State University, North Dakota State University, University of Portland, University of Virginia, Villanova University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and William Jewell College.

Speakers and activities included a welcome from JMU President Jonathan Alger; an icebreaker with Outriggers, a student-led event facilitation group; a two-part design thinking challenge led by professor Justin Henriques and UIF program co-leader and Stanford d.school lecturer Leticia Britos Cavagnaro; a talk by Marty O’Neill of Corsum Consulting; and a tour of the Harrisonburg Printers Museum from museum owner and excavator Timothy Moore, a JMU University Innovation Fellow who helped design the meetup.

James Madison University President Jonathan Alger welcomes the Fellows. Photo by Daniel Stein/djsphotovideo.com.

James Madison University President Jonathan Alger welcomes the Fellows. Photo by Daniel Stein/djsphotovideo.com.

To kick off the meetup, President Alger welcome the attendees on Saturday morning, accompanied by the Provost, Associate Provost, Dean of Engineering and other faculty leading the innovation movement on campus. Alger spoke of the importance of the Fellows’ work both at JMU and at other schools. “I was excited for JMU to host this event with student leaders from across North America because I believe that this sort of convening leads to the exchange of a wide variety of ideas and approaches,” Alger said later. “Our vision is that all students can learn how to be change agents in the university and in the world.”

Exchanging ideas was the thread that connected all of the activities during the event, as was discovering a community of like-minded individuals.

After President Alger’s introduction, participants talked with Presidential Innovation Fellows Emily Ianacone and Steven Babitch, who discussed projects that required them to work on “problems not yet defined.” One such project resulted in a platform to facilitate more dialogue between diabetes patients and their health care providers.

Presidential Innovation Fellows Emily Ianacone and Steven Babitch discuss their projects with the Fellows. Photo by Daniel Stein/djsphotovideo.com.

Presidential Innovation Fellows Emily Ianacone and Steven Babitch discuss their projects with the Fellows. Photo by Daniel Stein/djsphotovideo.com.

The connections between the University Innovation Fellows and the President Innovation Fellows seemed to go far beyond the names, with both groups working to create lasting change: one in higher education, and one in industry and the nonprofit sectors.

“The world around us is constantly evolving, and it’s important to have people who are creating change and evolution at large institutions like universities,” Emily Ianacone said.

“I think it’s hugely important for Fellows to engage in actual projects that they care about,” said Steven Babitch. “They’re working across different teams and bringing their collective experiences together. That’s how the real world works.”

As the first of many sessions designed to strengthen their relationships with one another, Fellows participated in a team design thinking exercise. With the campus bustling with activity from parents weekend, meetup participants set out on foot to interview JMU students about challenges they faced on campus or in the community. Later that afternoon, teams designed solutions and pitched their best ideas to faculty and administrators. This helped teams understand the different perspectives of all the stakeholders involved in creating change at a school.

Fellows took part in a design thinking exercise to explore challenges faced by students on campus. Photo by Laurie Moore.

Fellows took part in a design thinking exercise to explore challenges faced by students on campus. Photo by Laurie Moore.

Another session was the whiteboard presentation circuit, where students presented on activities they’d created including hack-a-thons, pop-up classes and makerspaces. Fellows noted the value of these opportunities to learn from one another and build strong relationships with other students who are just as passionate and motivated as themselves.

“I just learned how to host my own TEDx event in literally 15 minutes from one of the other Fellows,” said Iyanna Patterson, a Fellow from Morgan State University. “Everyone here is so welcoming and so quick to share information. We’re hearing success stories and learning from every single person.”

“It’s important for us to share the knowledge of what we’re all doing,” said Collier Apgar, a student at JMU. “Then you know you’re not the only one trying to create change.”

These personal connections lasted throughout the day as the participants explored three businesses that are redefining downtown Harrisonburg: the BlueHub coworking space, jewelry entrepreneur Hugo Kohl, and Pale Fire Brewing Company. Students who hadn’t known one another 48 hours earlier were discussing projects and how to implement what they’d learned at JMU back at their own schools.

“Every time students get together in groups, dynamic things start happening,” said Nick Swayne, Executive Director of the 4-Virginia program and coordinator for the program at James Madison University. “Whether it was in the whiteboard clusters or other parts of the meetup, they were really talking—not just about flowery stuff, but how they’ll go back to their schools and make something big happen.”

The community that the Fellows created at the meetup is one that will last despite the distance between them. “Being in a peer community like this is continuing to be of more and more value to me,” said Bradley Dice, a Fellow at William Jewell College. “We really care about one another’s ecosystems and about transforming the whole of higher education and not just our own schools.”

A Weekend of Fashion and Creation

Sometimes you’ll make stuff that’s crap and people will applaud it, and sometimes you make something that you think is brilliant and no one cares. You just have to keep creating. — Kevin Wolfgang, Director of TechStyle Lab at Kent State

Originally posted by Zack Jones on medium.com

I had the pleasure of spending a weekend in the Kent State University Fashion TechStyle Lab with the University Innovation Fellows Program. As an entrepreneurship major, creation is something I’m strongly interested in, but physical making and hands-on work have never been in my skill set.

We were first given a tour of all the cool tech in the lab. There was a laser cutter, a weaving machine, a body scanner, and a 3d printer, to name a few. Then, there was a demo time for us to learn basic skills that we might need during the makeathon. I chose to learn how use Adobe illustrator for the laser cutter and the basics of arduino. Next, we were sent off to create anything wearable.

My Arduino set up and ready to blink an LED

After fumbling around trying to make magnetic shoelaces for about 2 hours, I pivoted to making a scarf. This is when the magic happened. I looked at this clean piece of fabric and tried to picture the end product. This was the toughest part. I had to think not in three dimensions, but FOUR! How can anything be conceived like this? Not only did the piece have three physical dimensions, but I had to envision what it would look like after I flipped it inside out and factored in this motion associated with the time dimension!

Luckily, the lab was full of experts who were willing to help to no end. This, to me, was the beauty of the experience. The willingness for people to share their knowledge and pass on their expertise was evident. With this help, it truly felt like anything was possible. I had no idea what I was doing at any given moment, but the people that surrounded me completed me and helped me achieve a final product.

 
The scarf I made on display at Kent State University

Here are a few takeaways from my first Makeathon/Hackathon experience:

Creation is amazing: conceiving something, putting in the work and seeing it come to be is extremely rewarding. It’s always a learning experience because unforeseen obstacles always arise.

Focus is powerful: You’d be amazed at how much you can accomplish in a few focused hours that you devote to a single project.

You have more time than you think you do: We’re all busy. No one feels like they have free time and newsflash: you’re never going to feel ready to start something new! (For more on that, check out this Ted Talk.) You need to set time aside in the future to get out of your comfort zone and you will not regret it.

More people need to try this! I’ve come back to campus with a renewed enthusiasm for encouraging innovation on here at University of Delaware.

Overall, the Hackathon/Makeathon environment was incredibly inspiring. Not only was I able to create something, but I was able to witness everyone around me turn their ideas into reality. I feel gifted to have had this opportunity to travel and learn from so many talented people.

Thank you to all that made this possible and I’m looking forward to Delhack this weekend!

Zachary_Jones_Headshot_Square_small.jpegWritten by Zack Jones, University of Delaware
Zack Jones is studying entrepreneurship and technology innovation at the University of Delaware. To learn more about him and his priorities for campus, click here:
http://universityinnovation.org/wiki/Zachary_Jones
http://universityinnovation.org/wiki/University_of_Delaware_Student_Priorities

Tags: UIF Events

Do-Think-Make: Engage in Design Thinking & Creativity at Texas Tech

The Texas Tech University Innovation Fellows, composed of Marshall Head, Victoria Young, Valente Rodriguez, Taylor Persons, Francis Atore and Benjamin Simmons, were able to host an innovative thinking event on their university campus called Do-Think-Make. This event was similar to the activities at the recent University Innovation Fellows 2015 Annual Meetup.

The goal of the Do-Think-Make event was to:

  1. Encourage cross-pollination of ideas and information between students of different backgrounds
  2. Help students overcome the challenges brought about by being in unfamiliar situations and environments
  3. Show a fun and exciting way design thinking could be presented

Event participants composed of 40 students from the Honors College, engineering, wind sciences and South Plains College. The Do-Think-Make event was sponsored by the Edward E. Whitacre College of Engineering, National Wind Institute, Honors College, Group NIRE and South Plains College.

Held on April 18th from 10 am to 2 pm, the Do-Think-Make event began with a rock paper scissors warm-up, whereby the loser became a fan of the winning team until only two teams are left at the end. The students also took part in a table activity where they were asked to come up with eight ways to improve the innovative ecosystem on their campus. They then chose an idea they liked best and expanded on the idea. The table then voted on one another’s idea and the table clustered as a team around the idea with the most votes. The final idea was then graphically prototyped and pitched by the table to the rest of the groups. It was observed that innovative spaces were a popular theme, with 60% of the groups choosing it as their project of choice.

The students were then engaged in a creative sound exercise where they imitated and created new sounds with their peers, namely sound ball. Sound ball had the highest reviews, due to the fact that it initiated the most laughs and challenges. STEM majors do not often practice sound creation and imitation, and may be one reason it was the most challenging; however, it was also named as the “most fun” portion of the overall event.

At the end, as the students were taking part in a maker space design challenge, that constituted a physical prototype, we were joined by a member of the community who is currently in the process of building a community maker space. This member of the community was able to witness the raw energy of the students as they conveyed their needs and interests. The community maker space, namely Ubiquitous Labs, is envisioned to promote local entrepreneurs and complement design education in the local schools. The event then ended with a wind turbine challenge where students were given 45 minutes to design a wind turbine for a building.

The amount of ideas and prototypes generated within the 5 hour period was immense, but even more important were the bonds that were generated and ideas that were exchanged. It is currently a great time for the Lubbock community, as new technologies and practices emerge. Companies such as Wayne Brown Institute are collaborating with emerging startups to help them understand their venture readiness, while organizations such as Lubbock Economic Development Alliance (LEDA) are providing resources and incentives to retain innovative businesses. As departmental and community stakeholders continue to merge their strengths, the region will continue to grow, resulting in a lasting positive impact.

Penned by the South Plains College & Texas Tech University Innovation Fellows

/pen/ verb. past tense: penned
write or compose.

Be the Hustle, Not a Part of it

Students found brainstorming in the School of Architecture.

Students brainstorming in the School of Architecture.

by Jaime Arribas Starkey-El
University Innovation Fellow, Morgan State University

On December 7, the Sunday before the start of finals week, Morgan State University students gathered for the first ever Be Your Own Boss (BYOB) Summit. The four-hour event was planned and facilitated by the Morgan Entrepreneurship Society Executive Board and their faculty advisor.

 In order to create buzz for the event, large neon brainstorming posters were strategically placed around Morgan State’s campus. The posters asked what came to mind when one heard words like Innovation or Entrepreneurship. The responses that were generated gave valuable insight into the creative minds of Morgan students, contributing significantly to the planning of BYOB.

 The event kicked off with active sessions that cultivated a spirited, attentive, and friendly atmosphere. First was a modified game of rock, paper, scissors. The game showed students that just because you don’t have your way, doesn’t mean you can’t be a winner. Next, students were given random topics from “renewable energy” to “Kanye West” and asked to brainstorm what came to mind when they heard that word (similar to the posters placed around the school). The students then played an adapted version of musical chairs in which they mingled to gain new perspectives for their topics.

Attendees trading ideas for their topics.

Attendees trading ideas for their topics

After a few rotations, attendees were asked “How might we draw connections between two card topics that may not typically be thought to relate?” Following this question, the students were split into random teams and tasked to form “creative collisions” for new venture ideas using their topics. After 10 minutes of synthesizing and devising, they then competed in a pitch competition. The winning group managed to turn “Nelson Mandela” and “Facebook” into an app that helps people find mineral markets in developing nations.

Attendees forming creative collisions.

Attendees forming creative collisions.

That session was preceded by a presentation on Being Your Own Boss. Attendees explored the differences between a hustler and an entrepreneur and why they should strive to “be the hustle” rather than be a part of it. They were shown how the lean business model canvas serves as a framework for startups to discover a profitable, sustainable business.  The attendees were also shown how the canvas could help them make efficient lifestyle choices, identify their major, volunteer their time, manage their budget, identify semester goals, or even choose a career. To conclude, they identified their startup type (small business, social, scalable, etc…) and learned about Moonshot ideas.

After the presentation, attendees participated in a lengthy entrepreneur/CEO panel discussion. The panel consisted of Marvin Johnson, a Morgan State alum who is the founder of an IT services firm, Justhink45, and Chiko Abengowe, the CEO and Founder of Perfect Office Solutions. Some key takeaways included the importance of building a strong network, maintaining a work-life balance, and identifying application-based platforms for managing ventures.

Entrepreneur Panel Session featuring Marvin Johnson of justhink45 and Chiko Abengowe of Perfect Office Solutions.

Entrepreneur Panel Session featuring Marvin Johnson of Justhink45 and Chiko Abengowe of Perfect Office Solutions.

 All in all, the event was a success despite the creative constraints of a 2 week planning process  and the removal of most of the brainstorming posters around campus. Both undergraduate and graduate students were in attendance and many majors were represented. It was good to see a lot of interdisciplinary collaboration taking place. The event showed students the power of working with like-minded colleagues in the realm of entrepreneurship. Students reported that they were inspired and never thought they could be so productive in such a short time. The BYOB is solid evidence that Morgan students are ready to participate in the creative economy, take direct control of their futures, and become their own bosses.

The Be Your Own Boss Summit was led by Morgan State University’s Entrepreneurship Society, below. Pictured left to right: Jaime Arribas Starkey-El (University Innovation Fellow), Iyanna Patterson (Secretary), Mareco Edwards (Treasurer), Chiko Abengowe (Perfect Solutions), Marvin Johnson (Justhink45), Mary Foster (Entrepreneurship Society Advisor), Adrien Feudjio (Vice President)

Morgan Entrepreneurship Society and guest speakers, Marvin Johnson and Chiko Abengowe.

Morgan Entrepreneurship Society and guest speakers, Marvin Johnson and Chiko Abengowe.

 

Fellow Jaime Arribas Starkey-ElAbout the author:

Jaime Arribas Starkey-El is a University Innovation Fellow at Morgan State University. Jaime has a strong passion for the possibilities of creativity and innovation. He loves to learn, he loves to discover, and he always wants to know more. As a Fellow, Jaime has worked to increase the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit on campus. His current goal is to bring a dedicated ICE (innovation, commercialization, and entrpreneurship) center to his campus. For more information, you can find a full bio here, along with his student priorities for Morgan State.

Manifesto: We Believe Students Can Change The World

Fellows are boldly proclaiming that all peers across campus should engage in innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking and creativity as a means to make a difference in the world and enhance every individual’s potential leadership abilities. They are declaring this to be a movement. Inspired by a deeper calling to advance their campus innovation ecosystem and strengthen the future economic prospects for their peers on campus, Fellows have put forth this Manifesto as rallying cry for others, across organizations and academic disciplines, to join them in this cause.

Create Something Every Day: A Guide to Becoming a Producer

By Elliot Roth

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????CREATORS CREATE to

hone their CREATIVITY.

Engineers are artists. The best of them are making something everyday to exercise their creativity and problem-solving abilities. But, all too often intention is overshadowed by procrastination.

Everyone is guilty of procrastination. It’s easy to promise yourself that you’ll do something but it’s a different matter to actually do it; that’s why gym membership purchases increase after New Year’s. That’s why so many entrepreneurs are starters rather than finishers. However, there is a way to become a finisher, and it starts with a few key steps.

Put yourself on an information diet

It’s 9 p.m. on a Sunday night as I sit down to write a paper at my computer. I jot down the first sentence, then check Facebook to see if my friend has responded to my most recent message. Three hours later, I’ve still got one sentence and I’m watching Harlem Shake videos.

When the entire world is at your fingertips, you can lose yourself for days in mindless junk. Distractions are endless, and while you gorge yourself on information, your bloated mind is drained of the motivation to create. Deadlines keep piling up, you’re always rushing everywhere, and you’re stressed and drained at the end of the day. That is the way your brain feels when you only consume information.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Turn off your phone. Turn off your internet. The best way to keep yourself honest is to have a way to keep track of the days you produce content. This could either be a distinct schedule, or a calendar that you cross off as you go. The trick is to be accountable to someone other than yourself. If you’re accountable to a calendar, a deadline, or a certain amount of time at a certain hour, you are more likely to succeed.

As an entrepreneur, you’ll see leaps forward if you pick a specific time each day to work on your project. Many articles state successful people take a couple hours in the morning to start their day with creating. The trick is to wake up and immediately begin so that you start your day out on a positive note by creating value.

Consuming without producing anything of value is a waste of resources. Consumption should have meaning. Each bit of information you take in should lead you to new ideas. New ideas stimulate a snowball effect, through which you gain greater insight and knowledge. Without the outlet of creation, the knowledge you gain stagnates and eventually evaporates. The best way to work out your mind is to make something.

Do something. Do anything. Just get started.

This mantra has been especially helpful to me in writing. The best advice I ever got about how to write was simply: “Write every day.”

While that may seem daunting at first, particularly if you don’t have a good idea, it is far better to do something than nothing at all. The minute pencil touches paper, thoughts become reality and you immediately discover ideas that you would never have realized without starting to create. The same holds true for any discipline. Write, draw, doodle, craft, play. These simple “paper prototypes” allow you to begin finding new knowledge.

Don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfect. Something is always better than nothing. Yoda and his crazy green Jedi knowledge are dead wrong. The truth is, most effort ends in failure. Despite this fact, amazing things happen when people try.

A problem that many wannabe entrepreneurs face is that they begin many projects, but don’t follow them through to completion. The reason they don’t succeed is because they aren’t consistent.

Consistently improve

When I was in 11th grade, my friend Dan got an award for attendance. It turns out that he had missed a single day of school in 11 years (he’d had the flu). He was top of the class and got in to a prestigious school with a full ride scholarship.

Dan illustrates the rewards of consistency. By going to school every day, Dan learned and practiced far more than his fellow classmates. Attending class became a habit, so much so that when senior year rolled around, he didn’t skip a single class.

Consistency favors sustainability over speed. If you’re going to dedicate yourself to becoming an entrepreneur, you must think on a larger timescale. Begin building positive habits early so that they become a part of you. The most important thing to remember is to strive to improve consistently. Bill Gates improved Microsoft consistently as a CEO.

A side benefit of consistency is that people will be more honest with you about your work. It’s far easier to tell someone that their baby is ugly if they are going to make another one tomorrow. Honest feedback leads to dramatic improvement and stronger relationships. It is much harder to be honest with yourself.

This past April, I tried to write a poem every day for National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo). Thirty poems in thirty days is a HUGE challenge. At first, I was very dedicated and stayed up late writing. But then I started to slack. After missing a day or two, I couldn’t keep up and quit halfway through the month.

There were a few key elements missing in how I went about this gargantuan task. Primarily, I failed to develop a routine. I was continually distracted by “more important” things, and cared more about the outcome than the process. I wasn’t able to delay gratification in order to create something of value.

Delay gratification

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????In 1970, a Stanford experiment conducted by a psychologist Walter Mischel tested children on their ability to delay gratification. He placed a marshmallow in front of them and told them that they could eat it, but if they waited they could have a second one. The amazing results showed that the children who could delay gratification were much more successful later in life than their counterparts.

Long-term rewards are arguably better than short-term rewards. However, it is difficult to see the steps involved in getting to the end result. The best way to achieve is to be consistent in your work. Produce something simple and easy every day and you will get closer and closer to your goal.

Practice makes permanent

Producing content on a regular basis leads to many valuable things. At first everything you make seems terrible. Don’t despair. Over time, you’ll improve your skills as you learn through producing. You get comfortable with making new things. All this practice will enable you to hone your skills, so that when you have an epic idea, nothing can stop you.

The more you put out into the world, the more you receive. However, beware of sharing your small successes. Recent studies have shown that if you share what you are working on, you are less likely to follow through. So don’t share. Commit first and work out the early kinks, get into a habit, gain momentum, and then tell the world.

You will begin building a skill-set that can advance you personally, and produce ever-improving quality projects that will attract other creative people. Other self-made experts will come out of the woodwork and share ideas with you.

Don’t worry if the content you produce is not up to par yet. Malcolm Gladwell writes in his book Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours to accomplish mastery of any subject. Most communities accept this fact, and welcome newcomers with open arms. The entrepreneurship community is like that; serial entrepreneurs mentor young entrepreneurs because they want to give back. The only way for young entrepreneurs to improve is to consistently practice. Originality comes from practice. Mastery comes from practice.

If you follow these steps, and produce consistently, nothing will be able to stop you. So go and start creating. The path to 10,000 hours of mastery begins with a single hour of creativity.

elliotrothElliot Roth is a Junior in Biomedical Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University. His interests are myriad and include slam poetry, music, international jewel thievery, being an EMT, and writing incredible articles as a Student Ambassador. You can reach him at rothet@vcu.edu and follow him on twitter @rothet.