What is the University Innovation Fellows program?

The University Innovation Fellows program helps empower students to be agents of change at their schools. University Innovation Fellows are leading a movement to ensure that all students gain the attitudes, skills and knowledge required to address complex challenges and compete in the economy of the future. These student leaders create new opportunities that help their peers build creative confidence and develop an innovative and entrepreneurial mindset.

The program was created as part of the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter), which was funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Stanford University and VentureWell. When the NSF grant ended in June 2016, the University Innovation Fellows program became part of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design ( at Stanford University.

When was the University Innovation Fellows program created?

The program was created in August 2012. It began as the Student Ambassador program and was run by VentureWell. When Stanford University partnered with VentureWell on the Epicenter grant, this Ambassador program evolved into the University Innovation Fellows program. In addition to the change in name, the program changed in its mission. Initially, we were providing students with a set menu of offerings to bring to their campuses. Now, we are empowering the students to analyze their school’s landscapes and drive the changes that make the most sense for their schools and ecosystems.

Where does this program take place?

As the Fellows are a national network of students, the program technically takes place all across the country at the Fellows’ schools: this is where the action is happening and where the Fellows are creating new opportunities for students. The Fellows also take part in online training as well as regional and national events, such as the Silicon Valley Meetup.

Is this an internship? When and for how long does it take place?

This is not an internship that ends after a set amount of time. Fellows are a member of the program for as long as they want to remain active on their campuses, even after they graduate from school. When they graduate, they are asked to train a new student or students to take their place on campus to continue the mission and activities that the Fellow began.

How does the program serve students who are attempting to bring more entrepreneurial activity to their campuses?

The program offers the Fellows guidance and support to drive change on their home campuses and increase student engagement with entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity, design thinking, and venture creation. During their six-week training, the Fellows connect with their new national student network, they learn to examine their campus entrepreneurship ecosystems to find the best places where they can make a difference, and they formulate action plans to implement their ideas. The program gives Fellows access to a national community of like-minded students, which allows them to learn from one another and provides opportunities to collaborate. In fact, many Fellows report that they’ve implemented activities and programs at their schools that they learned about from other Fellows. The program also gives Fellows access to entrepreneurs and thought leaders in academia and industry–from Epicenter as well as from around the country–who provide Fellows with hard-earned insights, opportunities for collaboration, and motivation for pursuing their passions. Most recently, during their March 2016 Meetup, the Fellows met with local young entrepreneurs as well as leaders from Google, Google X, Microsoft, SAP, Lucasfilm, Adobe, Autodesk, StartX, Draper University and many others.


What is the cost of the program?

The University Innovation Fellows has a program fee of $4,000 for each group of 1 to 4 students at individual schools during each training cycle ($4,000 for 1-4 students; $8,000 for 5-8 students, etc). These groups of students are called Leadership Circles.

For community colleges, the cost is $2,000 for a team of 1-2 students.

Where can University Innovation Fellows find the funds for the program fee?

Most students are sponsored by departments or colleges. Others will find funding with their entrepreneurship or innovation centers affiliated with the institution (for example, if a school has an incubator space or a research or technology park). Others even look outside the college or university for sponsorships. Be creative. Funding can be provided through multiple sources; the program just requires it come through as one payment.

Do faculty sponsors need to budget additional funds outside of the program?

Yes. We ask faculty sponsors and universities to cover the costs for their students to travel to the Silicon Valley Meetup and any other regional Meetup opportunities. In addition, students and faculty creating impact at their schools may be invited to national conferences to speak about their change making strategies. We recommend budgeting $4,500 – $6,000 depending on how many students are being sponsored. Specifically, institutions are responsible for covering travel and lodging. For the Meetups, we ask that one student representative from each school is in attendance; however, we do encourage the entire Leadership Circle to attend.

Do we pay for every cohort?

Yes. In every cohort, faculty sponsors, colleges or universities have the ability to sponsor students in training for the program fee ($4,000 for each group of 1-4 students). Faculty will also need to submit a new application in order to provide payment for the program fee and identify the new students.

Individuals vs Teams

Can schools nominate more than one Fellow?

Yes. Schools may select multiple students for each training cycle (these groups of students are called a Leadership Circle), and schools can have an unlimited total number of Fellows. At schools with multiple Fellows, we have seen great success in terms of momentum, teamwork and activities held. Schools new to the program may nominate only one Leadership Circle for the first training cohort.

What is a Leadership Circle?

A Leadership Circle is a group of Fellows who have all been trained in the same semester. This provides a way for the candidates to attend training as a team, share responsibilities and reach a larger network of resources (people, organizations, etc.) on campus.  Being part of a Leadership Circle will provide students with greater traction after training because individual students who participate are tasked with finding additional passionate students they can call teammates, whereas a Leadership Circle already has this team created prior to training.

If I wanted to apply together with a few of my friends, would we apply for the Leadership Circle?

Yes, if a group of students wants to apply from the same campus, they would become a Leadership Circle. In order to be considered a Leadership Circle, the faculty sponsor would need to mark this on the faculty application, and applicants would need to provide a letter of support from college or university president, or from a person at the VP-level status.

Would a Leadership Circle require one faculty sponsor to pay the entire program fee, or could we fundraise across campus?

Get creative! If you can’t find one faculty sponsor to cover the program fee, you are more than welcome to fundraise from multiple sources. BUT, please understand that the program accepts the program fee by credit card through the faculty application. It would be on you to figure out how to pool the money so it comes through one source.

What grade levels work best for a Leadership Circle?

We recommend that Leadership Circles span class years, from freshmen to graduate students.

Application Process

Can community colleges apply?

Yes! We welcome applicants from community colleges; the fee is $2,000 for a team of 1-2 students.

What does it mean if I clicked the “apply” button and the web page says, "The deadline has passed?"

If you are within 1-2 days of the application deadline, email Katie at to see if it’s still possible to apply. If it’s not, you can still apply next year! There is one annual deadline University Innovation Fellows program. To see the current application deadline and details, visit

From whom should I get a letter of support?

There are two different answers for this: one for students and one for faculty sponsors.

Students: Your letter of support can come from your faculty sponsor or another mentor on campus with whom have you worked closely in the past. This person should be able to attest to your skills and fit with the University Innovation Fellows program.

Faculty: ONLY if you are applying to have a Leadership Circle on your campus do you need a letter of support.  We ask that you provide a letter from your college or university President, or someone in the VP-level at your institution.

Where should my faculty sponsor submit the letter of support?

Letters of support should be submitted to the address below and sent as a PDF attachment via email to using the subject header format [Letter of Support: Campus Name, Student Name]:

Humera Fasihuddin &
Leticia Britos Cavagnaro
University Innovation Fellows
Hasso Plattner Institute of Design
416 Escondido Mall
Building 550, Room 169
Stanford, CA 94305-3086

Are current seniors eligible to apply?

Yes, as long as seniors are a part of a Leadership Circle with students who will be on campus for at least another year; or if the senior is planning to continue at the institution through graduate school or employment.

Does having multiple students apply from my school affect my chances of being selected?

No. Each student application is reviewed individually. However, applying as a Leadership Circle is heavily considered. For example, if give students apply and one student is ineligible, the other three students would not be affected. Leadership Circles are typically accepted with all members that apply.

How does the program select students?

We like to select students who demonstrate a strong interest in entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity as well as a genuine desire to inspire fellow students and make a positive impact on campus. The Fellows we select are action-oriented, insightful, mature and passionate. They possess a great, positive attitude as well as strong execution and strategic thinking abilities, and they are willing and eager to learn. Read more about the selection process on our apply page:

How competitive is the application process?

The University Innovation Fellows program is a national movement, and we accept as many students as we can as long as they have a institutional support (a faculty sponsor), a letter of support and fit the criteria as outlined on We select students who demonstrate a strong interest in entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity AND also have a genuine desire to create lasting institutional change that increases the number of students exposed to creativity, innovation, design thinking and entrepreneurship. We accept students in all majors as well as graduate students. The Fellows we select are action-oriented, insightful, mature and passionate. They possess a great, positive attitude as well as strong execution and strategic thinking abilities, and they are willing and eager to learn.


What is the anticipated time commitment for training?

Fellows have reported spending 2-10 hours per week on assignments throughout the six-week training. However, students also felt this was a good amount of time to dedicate. Keep in mind that Leadership Circles will have the ability to share the amount of work in each assignment, resulting in fewer hours per week.

How should I balance the training with my classes? Are there certain days of the week/times of day that I need to be involved?

During the six-week training, students will receive an assignment on the Friday of each week and then check in with peers toward the middle of the following week, submitting any assignments due by Thursday midnight. The program does not schedule check-ins like classes. We are extremely flexible with students’ coursework and class schedules. An array of slots will be posted for the students to sign up for, spanning different days and times. Students will not be held to the same day or time each week; they can sign up for whichever time fits their schedule each week. By doing so, candidates will have a better sense of how to manage the requirements of the program while transitioning into schoolwork and class schedule. Training dates as well as the in-person Meetups are designed to avoid critical moments in the academic schedule such as as finals, midterms and designated school breaks.

Does it matter if I am studying abroad during the semester of training?

It depends. It does not particularly matter if you are studying abroad because training is online. However, we suggest finding a team of students who will be staying on campus to participate in this program alongside you as a Leadership Circle (up to four students for the same $4,000 program fee). We have had several students abroad during training so far. This students were very diligent in keeping up with the required work in the program and also had peer students on campus with whom they collaborated. These circumstances helped ensure a successful leadership circle experience. By participating with students located on campus, it will help with the “on-the-ground” work where training assignments require you to get out of the building and talk to students to on your campus. If abroad, you would need to make sure that a solid high-speed internet connection was always available to connect with program participants by videoconference each week. You would also need to ensure ready access to Google App collaboration tools (like Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slide) and the NovoEd learning platform. Depending on your travel limitations, you may miss the Silicon Valley Meetup (historically held in March).

Activities & Resources

Is attendance at the Silicon Valley Meetup optional or required?

In each year that students are trained at a given school, we ask that at least one Fellow from each school is present at the Silicon Valley Meetup. This Meetup allows Fellows to connect in-person with the national community and solidify what they learn through the online training. We do encourage colleges and universities to sponsor all students to attend, but we understand that this is not always fiscally possible. Overall, including the program fee and depending on how many students are in the Leadership Circle, we suggest a budget of $4,500 – $6,000 to cover airfare and lodging.

What sort of activities and resources does this program offer?

The University Innovation Fellows program offers students the opportunity to connect with a national community of like-minded Fellows who are interested in ways to help the students at their schools learn about entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity and design thinking. This peer-to-peer network is essential; Fellows learn from one another about what has worked and hasn’t worked at one another’s schools, and they form cross-institutional collaborations to make an even greater impact. During training, students learn to assess the landscape of opportunities at their schools around entrepreneurship, innovation, design thinking, and creativity to see where they could make the greatest impact. The program gives students access to resources, opportunities, Stanford mentors, and thought-leaders in academia and industry.