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 (d.school) 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 global network of students, the program technically takes place all around the world 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 global events, such as conferences and annual gatherings.
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, and design thinking. During their six-week training, the Fellows connect with their new global 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 global 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 who provide Fellows with hard-earned insights, opportunities for collaboration, and motivation for pursuing their passions. Fellows have benefitted from connections with leaders from Stanford, Google, Microsoft, SAP, Lucasfilm, Adobe, Autodesk, StartX, Draper University and many others.
Is this program relevant to my school?
When students go through our program, they learn to create educational opportunities that make sense for their schools; in that way, the program is relevant to any institution.
What do Fellows learn?
Fellows will learn skills and mindsets including how to analyze their campus ecosystem, define important problems, work on teams, learn from failure, overcome obstacles, and consider the needs of all types of users.
What do Fellows do?
Fellows create educational opportunities that make the most sense for their schools. Fellows are creating student innovation spaces, founding entrepreneurship organizations, hosting experiential events, and working with faculty and administrators to develop courses. They serve as advocates for lasting institutional change with academic leaders and represent their schools at national events. Learn more here.
What is the application process?
The application process is outlined on our Apply page. Faculty sponsors begin the process, and they invite students to apply. The student application asks for video responses to several questions, including what problem they’re most passionate about solving, and how they’d redesign the way their school educates students. They’ll also be asked to submit written responses to questions that will get them to think creatively about problems they’d like to solve at their school.
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 global movement, so we accept as many students as we can as long as they fit the criteria as outlined on our Apply page. We select students who have a genuine desire to create lasting institutional change that increases the number of students exposed to entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity, and design thinking. 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.
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.
Do you accept international students?
Yes! We have Fellows from all around the world. We accept students from all levels of education (undergraduate through PhD) from colleges and universities in all countries.
Can community colleges apply?
Yes! We welcome applicants from community colleges; the fee is $2,000 for a team of 1-2 students.
What if the deadline has passed?
If you are within 1-2 days of the application deadline, email Humera at firstname.lastname@example.org 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 our Apply page.
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 champions need to budget additional funds outside of the program?
Yes. We ask faculty sponsors and universities to cover the airfare and shared hotel accommodation for their students to travel to the Silicon Valley Meetup (at Stanford University) or the Eastern Hemisphere Meetup (this event has taken place in India and the United Arab Emirates in the past). This could mean anywhere from $500 per student to $2,000 depending on which event the Fellows select and where the school is located.
Do we pay for every cohort?
Yes. Faculty champions and schools have the ability to sponsor students in training in each cohort 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.
What do faculty champions do?
The faculty champion’s role is vital, as they play an active role with the Fellows on campus. Faculty champions serve as mentors, sounding boards, and advocates. They clear obstacles for Fellows so that the students can do the work they’re trained to do. Faculty champions have their own community in the UIF network, and connect at in-person events and online to share best practices and tools. Watch our new video about the role of faculty champions: https://youtu.be/Rvr7DVcRxRw
Why should I sponsor Fellows? What is the return on investment?
We train teams of students to survey the entrepreneurial landscape at their schools and identify opportunities for impact. Past projects have included new classes, campus events, freshmen engagement experiences, design challenges, maker spaces and student-run organizations. Our purpose is to cultivate each Fellow as a leader who motivates others to support lasting institutional enhancements that create a vibrant culture of innovation. Fellows provide their campus with a wider breadth of opportunities related to innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking and creativity. Fellows are passionate advocates for all students, so having Fellows provides administrators with a direct line into the student experience.
Do faculty champions need to be tenured faculty?
Faculty champions don’t have to be tenured or tenure track faculty. We’ve had many champions who are directors of innovation centers or leaders of campus programs. Ideally, this person should be in a full time role on campus in order to be the best possible mentor and advocate for Fellows.
Individuals vs Teams
Can schools nominate more than one Fellow?
Yes. Schools may select a team of 1-4 students for each training cycle (these groups of students are called a Leadership Circle). At schools with multiple Fellows, we have seen great success in terms of momentum, teamwork and activities held.
What is a Leadership Circle?
A Leadership Circle is a group of Fellows who have all been trained in the same year. 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.
Would a Leadership Circle require one faculty champion to pay the entire program fee, or could we fundraise across campus?
Get creative! If you can’t find one faculty champion 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.
What does training involve?
Candidates are trained on an online education platform for a 6-week period. During training, they learn to analyze their campus ecosystems to learn which opportunities exist (and which don’t). They use design thinking and Lean Startup methodologies to identify and create educational opportunities that fill gaps they’ve identified. They learn strategies to connect with stakeholders and communicate their ideas to students, faculty and community members. Although this training takes place on an online platform, the majority of their work involves getting up from the computer and talking with other students, faculty and administrators.
Why is training online?
Training Fellows online allows them to be immersed in their campus experience while learning. This is essential, as the majority of their work during training involves getting up from the computer and talking with other students, faculty and administrators. Our online platform allows us to easily share tools and ideas that will get them started. The real learning happens when Fellows apply these tools and ideas to their in-person work on campus.
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 one of our annual University Innovation Fellows Meetups (historically held in March and April).
Do you offer training for faculty?
Yes! The University Innovation Fellows team offers three annual workshops for faculty and teaching staff in higher education, called the Teaching and Learning Studio. These workshops help participants use design thinking to create student-centric learning experiences, inside and outside of the classroom. Learn more here.
How is the faculty training connected to the UIF program?
The University Innovation Fellows team created the Teaching and Learning Studio faculty workshop series, and we host each workshop with a team of visiting facilitators from other universities. Just as we train Fellows to use tools like design thinking to address campus opportunities, we help faculty use similar tools to reimagine their classes, spaces, curriculum and more. Faculty who have Fellows participating in UIF receive a discount on registration. Learn more here.