Strangers Are Just Friends Waiting to Happen

How an interdisciplinary workshop changed our campus life 

By Janette Kaspar, University Innovation Fellow of FH Salzburg (Salzburg University of Applied Sciences)

In our ever-changing world we notice different perspectives and viewpoints from both ourselves and from our peers. It’s natural to have differences in ideas, concepts and executions, and there is always a reason and benefits. But do we, as students and teachers, take them into account?

It has never been more important to be able to work through unexpected situations, to be able to deal with changing environments and to understand each other on a whole new level. Studies have shown that people who broaden their horizons, and who can think outside the box, generally do better than those who stick to just one area throughout their lifetime.

That is where interdisciplinary workshops and design thinking come into play. We noticed at our institution that the different degrees and programs became separated during the pandemic (or perhaps never had been that interconnected to start with). Some peers didn’t even know that certain programs and workshops existed. We decided to change that in hopes of bringing the different degrees and people closer together. And that we did.

In the beginning of Fall 2021, we were able to participate in the first part of a conference held at our university. Many first-year students attended this event, so we decided to use this opportunity to act and promote UIF at FH Salzburg and amongst the new students.

One of our aims is to increase the level of participation and democratic voice students get to have in their own study experience. Thus we held a survey during the conference and received confirmation that a lot of students basically didn’t know each other, had no real connections and were unaware of all the different opportunities at our institution. They wanted more interdisciplinarity.

They also were asked to request topics for the second part of the conference, which was set for Spring 2022 and wished for specific topics that were hardly ever covered. We already had this feeling but seeing it in numbers hit us hard. We had to do something now. The idea of holding a workshop arose almost immediately.

Through our training and experience with UIF we slowly developed the idea to create a workshop as a third part of the conference: a space where students could collaborate and work on the lecture topics from the conference.

Our university gave us a lot of support to organize and develop the two-day event for the conference participants. The first day consisted of four different talks about four different aspects of our day-to-day life, to give the students a better and broader perspective. On the day of the conference, talks were chosen based on results of our survey from the conference part one in the Fall. Day two was our day.

Our cohort hosted an interdisciplinary workshop, as part of the conference with the same title “Climate.Change.Resilience” (but we called it the CCRxUIF workshop). Our workshop consisted of three major components. First we gave the participants an insight into the world of UIF. Inspired by the 2022 UIF Meetup at Stanford University, we did a little wake-up session with the help of some energizing stokes, we introduced the agenda for the day, showed them various creativity methods for the ideation phase that we had learnt from our experience as well as from the book Creative Acts for Curious People and held a brief presentation on Design Thinking. We explained UIF and design thinking to the students, showed them methods for brainstorming and introduced them to Design Thinking. But just these input talks and motivational words would not result in more innovative thinking and collaboration. So we had a special plan in mind. It was important to us that the participants would actually get the chance to apply the Design Thinking steps while working on some of the big questions posed in the talks the day before.

At the UIF Meetup, we were part of an unconference, where students decided what to talk about and how to talk about it. Other participants could decide to join whenever they wanted. We found the idea very interesting and decided to try something similar for our workshop.

Our university allowed us to use the small castle on university grounds to hold our workshop. Each room contained a challenging question that had been discussed during Day 1 of the conference — just a general question, no instructions, no directions. However, just like in the UIF Meetup session “Co-Creation Is the Ghost in the Machine,” we also created a recommended agenda for their time as a group that they could follow if they felt lost. 

We then asked our peers to pick their favorite, something that sparked their interest and something they would love to talk about. Assigning the groups that way resulted in different students, from different degrees, with different viewpoints to all come together to discuss one topic they all had an interest in. The results were interdisciplinary, vastly different and thoroughly mixed groups that got combined by passion.

With some light support on our side — we assigned buddies for every team — the groups worked on ideas, problems and solutions for the topics, identifying issues and coming up with creative ways to solve them.

To motivate our peers even further and keep the energy going, we held a “find-your-mate” type of game during lunch. The instructions had been given in the welcome bag. Each student received a bag at the beginning of the day containing a notebook, pens, stickers and a card. Each card had a game printed on it. Have you ever seen people doing a push up competition in the middle of lunchtime, or someone suddenly speaking anything but their mother tongue? Starting a big game of “Marco Polo”? We certainly did and it was a blast! 

After lunch, the groups finalized their work and presented what they had come up with. We heard about how to reduce pollution by equipping cargo ships with hydrogen motors, how higher education could change the way we think about our failures, how you can use AI and still be cautious with it, and many more ideas and future projects.

The workshop was a success. The students loved interdisciplinarity, working together and getting to know each other. The final presentations were also held in front of a representative of the rectorate, and we received a lot of positive feedback. The rectorate has now asked this to be an annual event as part of the conference for our first-year students, in order to ignite our university spirit and to bring interdisciplinary innovation to our institution.

We believe we can notice how people now come together more often for new projects, our university is becoming more and more lively every day.

We can see the change. We can see what UIF taught us and what we can give the students at our university. For us as fellows it is wonderful to see that we have an impact at our very own university and that we can help to bring that motivation to innovate and improve our peers. Design Thinking and innovation to our peers. We saw different viewpoints and offered them to the students. It is clear that some of them gained a new perspective.

The original article can be found in the Events section of the 2021-2022 Change Forward Journal— Visions and Voices of Higher Education’s Future.

Is an impactful life work life possible?

Create impact through your profession without owning an impact enterprise

by Zişan Özdemir, University Innovation Fellow from Boğaziçi University

When I was a newcomer at the Chemical Engineering department, it was quite disturbing for me to realize that I would be working for companies producing petroleum-based products. Because, I thought I was going to work in industries that don’t care about their damage to the environment. (At that time, my knowledge of chemical engineering consisted only of what was taught in lectures.) This awakening demotivated me for a while but it didn’t take too long.  

Thankfully, with the help of a schoolmate, I discovered alternative ways of using my major for better purposes. With impact-oriented experiences (projects, trainings, internships, etc.) I gained throughout my college life, I was able to shift my career to the field I wanted. Long story short, if you haven’t discovered impact-oriented career opportunities yet, I’m writing this article exactly for you!

“With the mindset shift to the cross-sectoral approach, we are more aware than ever before that the participation of all stakeholders, a collective transformation, is essential to fully achieve sustainable development.”

The combination of pandemic conditions and increasing social and environmental awareness has been a massive wake up call, and people got the opportunity to rethink their career choices. Many people began to feel the need to change their jobs and look for a “purpose” in what they do. When it comes to “purposeful” jobs, thankfully, it’s been a long time since the only way to make a social and environmental impact was volunteering for an NGO. However, we still witness far too many people rushing towards just one option: becoming an impact entrepreneur! Of course you may start your own impact-oriented business if you have an idea to solve real-world problems and make a profit at the same time. However, impact entrepreneurship is more than owning an impact-oriented business, it’s a mindset! (Yes, I’ve also been asked many times why I haven’t founded an impact venture yet. The answer is very simple: I still don’t have a solid idea and not everyone has to found a start-up.)

With the mindset shift to the cross-sectoral approach, we are more aware than ever before that the participation of all stakeholders, a collective transformation, is essential to fully achieve sustainable development. From government to non-profits to impact ventures to venture capitals to academia, and the rest of the traditional for-profits, there’s a role for all organizations to contribute to the transition to sustainability. It’s a must! Therefore, you can make an impact as a policy-maker, impact investor, sustainability consultant, academician or intrapreneur. (We can extend this list as long as we want.) But first, you have to decide why and for what you want to make an impact. (Climate change? Poverty? Inequalities? Human rights?…) Which problem in the world is bothering you the most?

Besides all these, of course, you don’t need to have “sustainability” or “impact” in your title to make an impact in your position. There’s a growing number of impact enterprises or corporate companies that truly care about sustainability and impact out there. If you sincerely believe in the company’s mission and vision and if you enjoy the working conditions associated with the company’s culture, you may genuinely find fulfillment by joining such an organization, which is one of the alternative ways to use your expertise to make an impact.

In an ideal world we expect everyone to look after society and the environment in what they do, but I’ve tried to compile ways we can do our best until we get closer to the ideal (based on my own experiences). I believe we will achieve better as we demand. (fingers crossed!)

I’ve found my way to create impact by managing the carbon footprint of companies as a sustainability consultant @3pmetrics, and I want to contribute to decarbonization more and more!  


Finding a Great Team

A great team can help us shine and tackle problems effectively

By Macarena Oyague, Marcela Yeckle, Mia Townsend and Mirella Rivas—University Innovation Fellows from Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología

Being inspired all the time is difficult even for creative people. It is a hard reality we’ve come to realize because, despite our urge to create a positive impact in every person that crosses our path, at times we may feel like our motivation can falter, becoming a never ending storm in which negative aspects are eclipsing our desire to change the world. And this is a completely normal feeling. Also, at some point in our lives, we may be facing difficult situations in personal matters as well as in the professional side. Sometimes we may even feel alone trying to overcome this, but surrounding ourselves with colleagues that can match those pieces of your soul can help you to overcome every situation and make you believe that the rainbow at the end of every storm will appear. Digging even more in this topic, an inspirational teamwork is not about a competition to discover which star is shining more. On the contrary, it is about sharing our inner light with someone who needs it the most at a particular time. 

It is human to feel that someone has qualities that you admire, but it is also human to accept that you also have qualities that someone else would admire. The key to making a great team is to identify and appreciate the different abilites each person has and help them in the one they need to improve. Maybe one person can be the best at speaking in front of people but is not so good at managing bad news, and someone else could be capable of creating peace in chaos but is too shy to express their ideas. Together, they can improve all the difficulties, and that is the kind of empowerment we found at the time we start working as a team. 

Inspiration is about empowering the people around us to find their own path and be happy. We know that this can be seen as an idealistic philosophy, but it is seen in that way because there are always people who try to turn off the light in others. We are conscious that it is difficult to continue if someone is telling you that you won’t succeed. 

In our particular case and story, all of us have known each other for a short amount of time, but ever since we had started to work together in different initiatives, workshops, projects and even talking about life itself, we came to realize that this philosophy made us achieve a lot and learn as well. We inspire each one of us through difficulties in work and life, and come with crazy and amazing different ideas to overcome anything. This is the kind of group you can be with and think that you can overcome anything that comes in your way. 

Designing ideas and projects involves working harder. For that reason, you need to know that envy and competition are something that will always be there by the ones that only want themselves to succeed. We as a team, Mia, Mirella, Marcela and Macarena, have discovered a helpful insight to you: find a great team that helps you to literally shine with your inner selves and make you believe that at the end of every storm a rainbow will appear. 

The original article can be found in the Perspectives section of the 2021-2022 Change Forward Journal— Visions and Voices of Higher Education’s Future.

Emancipated Impact for Indonesia

Bridging Indonesia students to government funded opportunities with Kampus Merdeka

By Nurrizky Imani, Vincent Junition Ungu, Elan Yudhoprakoso, Fajar Kenichi Kusumah Putra—University Innovation Fellows from Universitas Gadjah Mada

As students, we never imagined that the lessons we learned in University Innovation Fellows would have such a profound effect on our fellow students. Ever since the very first training session, our Universitas Gadjah Mada team has been functioning below its potential. Due to everyone’s busy schedules outside of UIF, we regularly fell behind the target. Because of everyone’s varied schedules, we occasionally had to catch up on last week’s work. We even sometimes wonder if we’ll be able to sustain the impact beyond the UIF leadership period as we near the end of the training. It turns out, we underestimated how much it would grow.

“We discovered a missing piece of the puzzle in our community regarding how students have strong technical skills but insufficient work experience.”

During the most recent training, we developed an ambitious plan to establish three strategic priorities on campus. We thought it was too ambitious and the fact that Nurrizky, one of our fellows, was leading the UIF UGM in a different time zone  12 hours while on exchange at the University of Pennsylvania. In the end we develop these three priorities : 1) Creating a space for students to obtain industry internships. 2) Providing students with mentoring opportunities for preparing them for international experience through exchange students. 3) Creating an environment where students can learn about product engineering jobs and opportunities.

Our strategic objectives were determined by what we had learned as product engineering students in technology. We discovered a missing piece of the puzzle in our community regarding how students have strong technical skills but insufficient work experience. This has become an endless loop from which students cannot escape. On the other hand, we discovered that the Indonesian Ministry of Education is pushing a massive program called “Kampus Merdeka,” which translates to “Emancipated Campus,” to encourage students to learn off-campus via internship and exchange program. 

This allowed us to test our first strategic objective, “Mentoring Kampus Merdeka: Internship,” in which we established a mentorship program to assist students in obtaining their first internship. This mentoring program instructs mentees on how to compose a personal branding and interview. During the implementation, we were able to identify nine mentors with various business and engineering responsibilities. In addition, 42 individuals signed up to be mentors, and 18 students were selected as their mentees. With only one month of mentoring, we provide the students with learning activities and modules that give them a comprehensive understanding of each interview process. This Mentoring assists mentees in obtaining their initial internship. After 5 months, 75% of our mentees were offered internships. Our first endeavor has inspired us to make a second significant contribution. 

On our second priority called “Mentoring Kampus Merdeka: Exchange”,  we assisted students in applying for the Indonesia International Student Mobility Awards (IISMA). This mentoring program provided students with the opportunity to study at partner universities outside of Indonesia, including the University of Pennsylvania, Melbourne University, UC Davis, and more than 50 other institutions. UIF UGM created a mentorship program that assists students with the review of their essays and each step of the activity, such as the interview and test administration. We were able to attract up to 30 mentees and assist  20 students during the second round of applications for this mentorship. We were ultimately able to help 10 students be accepted in the program. It was remarkable that ten students were able to gain international experience in world class universities. This simple, cost-free but powerful mentorship has helped students have their best college experience.  

The impact of UIF UGM has led to unimaginable opportunities for students in our campus, and this has led them to a new journey of learning opportunities. This impact was not something that we expected in the first time and this led us to be excited with our next impact both on campus and also in other communities.  You can check our impact in instagram on @uif.ugm 

The original article can be found in the Operations and Student Life section of the 2021-2022 Change Forward Journal— Visions and Voices of Higher Education’s Future.

Re-Futuring Starts From Campus

Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can with whom you can!

by Magdalena Ionescu, Faculty Innovation Fellow from Sophia University

Faced with an impending environmental collapse, more than ever before our generation is asking itself: what are we leaving to the next generation? Frankly, however, it seems to me that the question needs to be rephrased! Rather than focusing on what we leave to the next generation, I believe it is far more important to ask ourselves what we leave in them. 

Let me explain. 

The 20th century was powered by an industrial mindset that has been characterized as defuturing, since, in treating the earth as a resource rather than a responsibility, it has effectively led to a colonization of the future, thereby robbing future (human and non-human) generations of the resources necessary to fulfill their own needs.

I believe that by far the biggest task before us today is that of shifting away from this de-futuring mindset (on which all major systems and practices are based) to a re-futuring one. Framed as a challenge, this can be formulated as: how might we enable a shift in our self-perception as separated from nature to radically interdependent on the entire array of animate and inanimate components that make up the Chain of Life? And how might we redesign our socio-political and economic systems to reflect this perception shift in ourselves as “responsible custodians”, rather than “entitled owners” of our natural world? 

Without this perception shift, any current and future attempt to avert the impending ecological disaster caused by our rampant crossing of planetary boundaries is doomed to fail, amounting to nothing more than greenwashing. After all, as Einstein famously enunciated, we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. 

So, what to do?

Age-old wisdom informs us that change comes in only two ways: by accident or by design. Although not a task we have chosen for ourselves, we cannot be as reckless as to passively wait for an accidental change! In truth, the only way in which we can assume the responsibility our generation has been entrusted with, is to intentionally envision and design the blueprint for the sustainable kind of future we wish for ourselves and our children. Therein lies my own power and responsibility as an educator.

I embarked on this University Innovation Fellows’ journey a little over two years ago out of the need I felt to open up new spaces where my students could explore on their own terms solutions to some of the big challenges we are facing. With its mission to equip students with the changemaker mindset and the tools required in the process of creatively designing and implementing solutions to challenges on and off campus, UIF has been delivering. 

Although they have just recently embarked on their journey as changemakers, the UIF Sophia fellows are already contributing to their community, putting their knowledge and skills to use in a flexible and mobile way. In various ways they are reframing the debate around sustainable campus life and facilitating the co-creation of solutions/practices towards sustainable futures.

Starting on a journey like this with your students may seem daunting. It did for me! At first, all I could see were limitations and obstacles. But throughout any period of self-questioning and self-doubt, I kept reminding myself: “My students need this! And our communities need them!” I realize now the only thing that was truly required was my openness to the new and the trust in myself and my students that we would eventually find a way. We did, and, inspired by Jacqueline Novogratz’s advice to “be more interested than interesting” and to “let the work teach you”, we are continuing along this path with passion and confidence.

Sophians Toward Sustainable Futures

by Mana Short, Giuli Nagai, Haruka Oizumi, Hana Saeki, Maria Sjoeblom Bjoerndalen, Kokoro Kuroiwa and Tomohiro Loeer—University Innovation Fellows from Sophia University

  • We are collaborating with organizations on campus, such as KASA Sustainability and the Sophia Office for Sustainability Promotion, to organize forums about campus sustainability. Through these cross-campus partnerships, we are striving to close the student-teacher hierarchical divide and bridge the seniority gaps in Sophia by bringing students, faculty, and staff together for collective discussions on how we may drive change for sustainability from within our campus and beyond.
  • We are stepping beyond the university campus and building bridges with secondary education institutions by hosting youth-empowerment workshops. In April 2022, we partnered with RISE to deliver a 40-minute workshop for students at Seisen International School based on the theme of the Butterfly Effect. Our workshop, RISE Together for Change, guides students to find their strengths, encourages them that they are enough to create the change they want to see in the world, and shows them the power of taking action together with others.
  • We are breaking down disciplinary silos in the Sophia Program for Sustainable Futures (SPSF) by bringing together students from a wide range of different departments to tackle sustainability challenges using elements of Design Thinking and Systems Thinking. We have designed a workshop for SPSF students intended to empower them to move from being passive bystanders to becoming active change-makers who use their skills and knowledge in the process of shaping socially just and ecologically sustainable futures.
  • We are fostering both creativity and a culture of collaboration across professions and status by creating spaces where campus stakeholders unite to take concrete actions towards solving challenges on campus. The SDGs x Innovation Sparker Workshop is a university-wide event that our team will carry out in October 2022 that applies design thinking skills and tools to SDGs related challenges.
  • We designed an experiential learning program where design thinking, with its core elements of empathy and creativity, acted as the foundation for participants to develop new skills and feel empowered in their work of opening new pathways for sustainability on campus. We tested this 8-day prototype in March in collaboration with Green Sophia, a student organization taking on big environmental challenges on campus. Going forward we intend to use this learning program as a way to gather multiple stakeholders (students, professors, student affairs and administrative staff) behind a campus design challenge. 

The original article can be found in the Perspectives section of the 2021-2022 Change Forward Journal— Visions and Voices of Higher Education’s Future.

Diseña Tu Vida Universitaria

How can we help students design a fulfilling university experience?

By Valeria Aguayo, Danae Chipoco Haro and Diego Muñoz—University Innovation Fellows from Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología

I’m excited, it is the first week of the semester. I’m going to study a lot, I’m not going to fail any course. I think about the classes I’m taking, I hope to have good professors. “You must take the most of college to find a good job” says Mom. But one part of me doesn’t want to work. What is a “good job” anyway? It is the first week of the semester and I’m excited, yet at the same time afraid.


Thinking about the future

During our freshman year, we don’t know much about the various activities and programs that our institutions can offer. Sometimes we are even overwhelmed by the information and some of it gets lost. But at the same time, we want to enjoy this time because we know it is going to be unique. Not all of us get to immerse ourselves in activities that will drive us closer to our goals. Some of us are trapped between classes and assignments. We think constantly about the future, but we cannot plan it.

Design Thinking for Life

Design thinking is a methodology to create and develop solutions. It has become one of the most used methodologies when designing prototypes and innovative services or at the moment we launch our first start-up. This human-centered process has allowed many companies to discover unsatisfied needs of their customers and improve their products. 

If design thinking has helped companies to succeed, could it do the same with our lives?

We can approach life planning through several ways. Design thinking sparks our curiosity and invites us to learn from others and ourselves; set us into a constant iterative process allowing us to learn fast and improve. Many times, our lives are not a straight line path and our problems are not resolved by consecutive steps. We are complex beings with many wishes and interests. We change all the time, as we discover new things. Thus, we need a plan with multiple options and objectives. By developing several life plans we have the chance of imaging different paths, each of them exciting in a unique way. In this way, we learn what works.

With the objective of showing freshman students these tools, we invited them to think about what they want and how they want to do it,to evaluate the different opportunities that college offers to take the most of it. Above all, give them confidence to take risks, try new things, to think as a designer and to build their path.

To show these tools to college freshmen, we invite them to reflect on what they want to do and how they want to do it, evaluate the various opportunities college presents to them to decide how to make the best use of their time there. Specially, give them the security to dare to take risks, try new things, think like a designer and build their way step by step.

Hands on!

Inspired by the books Creative Confidence and Designing Your Life, we discovered several tools to apply them in the design of university life and professional career. The first challenge was to select a few and how to present it to freshmen in a short time.

One of the distorted thoughts is the belief of finding a passion to dedicate yourself to it as your occupation. This generates fear or insecurity in people who enjoy doing different activities and do not know which one to choose as a “passion”, or others who do not believe they have found it yet. Therefore, we decided to start with an introduction to remove that fear and give them the confidence to find their occupations without having a passion in mind. Then, we went with them through three activities.

  1. Take part in meaningful activities. Before forming life plans, it is necessary to get to know ourselves and what we like to do. For this reason, we presented this part of the workshop, in which a diary of different activities carried out on a day-to-day basis is made and different comments are written about them. In addition, the level of commitment you feel with these activities and how much energy it demands or gives you is evaluated. This is how the students were able to get to know each other better through their day-to-day life.
  2. Build a north. If you want to pursue a journey, its because you want to enjoy all of it, not just one part of it. In the case of life plans, we want to create paths we will enjoy in all aspects important to us. But how do we know that? First we need to know what is important to us, and how we will treat those important aspects of our life. In this activity, students were given several questions regarding their occupation, hobbies, interpersonal relationships to guide their thoughts and how to best complement them.
  3. Design several futures. After the students get to know themselves better, we encourage them to plan their next five years. First they had to think about a plan with the resources they currently had. Then, they were asked to forget their constraints and focus only on what they wanted. To help them evaluate their plans, indicators were added at the bottom of the activity sheet: resources needed, how much they liked it, confidence, and coherence between the plan and what they have learned about themselves in previous activities.
  4. Identifying doubts. When thinking about our future plans it is normal to have doubts about them: am I ready for this? Are there job opportunities within my city/country? Are people currently working on the field fairly paid? But what’s important is to solve our doubts. Thus, we created a space for students to write down their doubts and solve some of them (the ones we could) among the people in the workshop. Finally we encourage them to talk with people that have done things related to their plans to solve their doubts.
Credit: Ariana Beraun Gasco

What have we learned along the way?

Most universities seek an integral education of their students and give them several opportunities for complementing their technical formation.

However, the way of communicating opportunities is usually not adequate. In addition, the number of opportunities can overwhelm the students and decrease their focus to take advantage of them.

Therefore, it is important for students to have spaces to think about what they want to do or what they want to try, so that they can take the most of this experience. Moreover, college is an important space for discovering new things and getting to know themselves better. As a result, it is common for students to change their goals along their years. Thus, developing these life plans at several stages of their career help them to focus on what they want. Moreover, allows them to identify questions and doubts which motivates them to solve and allows students to gain confidence to pursue their goals.

What Now?

A team of University Innovation Fellows at UTEC started the program “Diseña Tu Vida Universitaria” to teach students at several levels of higher education design thinking tools to plan their lives. This creates spaces to connect students at several stages and disciplines with alumni. Moreover, it facilitates experiences for students to get closer to different professional paths in their fields of interest that helps them in their career choices.

The original article can be found in the Events section of the 2021-2022 Change Forward Journal— Visions and Voices of Higher Education’s Future.

How Might Education Change to Prepare for the Future?

And what role does the workforce play?

By Harrison Kellick, University Innovation Fellow from University of Technology Sydney

Looking towards the future of work, technology should only replace or automate what we don’t need to think about. Human-centric skills cannot be programmed and will continue to grow in importance. I spoke with Humera Fasihuddin at the 2022 University Innovation Fellows (UIF) meetup at Stanford University, she said that “90% of problems are human problems [and] there are some tech problems that’ll require a human touch too.”

The pace of education is failing to keep up with the rapidly changing skills market. As universities typically offer long term study, with courses of three to five years, there is little room for integration of current in-demand skills. Interest is growing for the just-in-time learning approach, which may address the shortcomings of traditional educational institutes by delivering training on an as-needed basis for the learner. Learning is heading towards short form content or micro-credentials, in intensive and practical bursts to match industry needs, which can be referred to as flexible learning.

The rapid transition to online learning throughout the COVID-19 pandemic brought competition between education institutions to a global stage. For the first time, individuals can now complete micro-credentials based anywhere in the world from the comfort of their own home. The market is crowded by organizations targeting flexibility and costs, such as LinkedIn Learning and Coursera, driving up competition. Despite promoting fewer barriers to entry, these platforms are still in their adolescence and continue to struggle with financial and accessibility barriers.

Another emerging problem is the disconnect between secondary education, tertiary education, and the workforce. Secondary education fosters an environment in which students compete against one another for their rank and final mark, only to join a workforce dominated by teamwork and collaboration. Ise Lyfe’s and Bre Przestrzelski’s workshop at the UIF meetup ‘Co-creating is the ghost in the machine behind great design’, explored our human desire to be independent by nature through the lens of puberty. A child is heavily reliant on their parents for everything, whereas a teenager has a drive to be their own person. However, once independence is reached, many people stop there. My favorite quote from this session was “Independence is childish, and maturity is being interdependent with one another.”

A crucial step in the transformation of education is for organizations and industries to be more vocal about what they are looking for in a candidate. For example, a consultation company in the United Kingdom is now hiring school students in listings that call for transferable skills that students already possess, such as a knack for organization. This allows them to avoid competing for graduate talent and provides emphasis on the crucial role of human-centric skills in the workplace. Similarly, organizations are partnering with tertiary education to develop work-integrated learning, where students receive credit for work experience. When organizations are vocal, they help break student perceptions and highlight that flexible education is a legitimate and welcome pathway. Educational institutions will need to integrate flexible approaches to keep up with the rapidly changing paradigm of work.

To explore this, the UTS UIF 2020 team have curated workshops highlighting important skills of the future and how students can develop them, and have recently embarked on a project encouraging students to develop a portfolio that evidences these skills. As I approach the end of my degree and transition into the workforce, I’m interested in exploring new perspectives within this system and the impact that reflexivity or self-awareness has on a student’s experience joining the workforce.

I encourage you to consider what role you play in this evolving complex system; how might we encourage active, life-long learning?

The original article can be found in the Perspectives section of the 2021-2022 Change Forward Journal — Visions and Voices of Higher Education’s Future. 

Earning a Degree When you Have Kids

Building student-centered supports for student-parents

By Erica Hernandez, Faculty Innovation Fellow Candidate from Bowie State University

As I rush into class a minute late, quickly logging into the instructor computer station, I suddenly hear the unexpected sound of a toddler squealing in delight. This adorable visitor is the two year old daughter of one of my students. The student gets her daughter settled into watching a video while also getting her own notebook out for class. Today, this student-parent is trying her best to balance caring for her daughter with pursuing her own education to create a better future for her growing family. There are a myriad of challenges that student-parents must overcome to earn a degree. How might we help student-parents to attain their educational goals while also honoring the importance of their role as parents?

“The Faculty Innovation Fellows (FIF) program has provided a great community for feedback, ideas and encouragement for this project. One of the best pieces of advice came from a Faculty Innovation Coach: ‘try stuff’.”

Student-parents make up approximately one in five college students in the United States, for a total of 3.8 million students (Ascend & IWPR, 2020). Student-parents frequently face barriers to graduation such as a lack of institutional resources geared towards students with children, challenges balancing family and school responsibilities, and feeling isolated and different from other students. However, it’s not all bad news: many student-parents find supportive faculty and staff at their institutions. Student-parents report that they are motivated to graduate because they want to set a good example for their children and gain financial independence for their family (Ajayi et al., 2022). At Bowie State University, I found that there are many individual faculty and staff who are supportive but there are no institutionalized services for student-parents. I decided to focus on creating a set of institutional supports to increase student success while ensuring that student-parents feel seen and valued. 

The Faculty Innovation Fellows (FIF) program has provided a great community for feedback, ideas and encouragement for this project. One of the best pieces of advice came from a Faculty Innovation Coach: “try stuff.” I started by reaching out to faculty and staff who support students with different types of special needs to find allies with the power and willingness to support student-parents. I found campus partners whose existing services, from tutoring to medical and disability accommodations, might be adapted to meet the needs of student-parents. From this, I started building support among colleagues to propose a Student-Parent Resource Center. In July 2022, I will apply for a federal CCAMPIS grant to provide financial support for student-parent childcare expenses while also providing wraparound support services using existing campus resources. I am also working with colleagues at different institutions to create a research hub to compile existing research about student-parent support services and educational outcomes.

“I realized that an effort to support student-parents will be more impactful if the voices of student-parents are included from the beginning stages of design.”

Another essential concept that I learned through FIF at the 2022 Silicon Valley Meetup was “co-creation”. I realized that an effort to support student-parents will be more impactful if the voices of student-parents are included from the beginning stages of design. I have been honored to work with University Innovation Fellows who are student-parents themselves. They are very effective advocates for positive change for student-parents, and their voices have guided this effort. The Fellows also connected me with other student-parents to launch the Student-Parent Association. This will provide an opportunity for student-parents to connect with other students like them, reduce isolation, and advocate for impactful positive change on campus.

Bowie State student with her two children
Credit: Eric Anderson

Over my first year in the FIF program, my project has taken a three-pronged approach to supporting student-parents: proposing institutional supports, starting a research hub to consolidate national efforts, and launching a student-organization to amplify the voices of student-parents. My vision is that all student-parents feel seen, valued and supported as they attain their educational goals. Creating these supports at a Historically Black College / University (HBCU) like Bowie State University elevates HBCU’s as part of the national conversation about student-parents. Considering the millions of student-parents in the United States, finding an effective, scalable solution for increasing student success among student-parents will have a dramatic impact on the education and financial independence of both the student-parents and their children.

This article was featured in the latest edition of the journal, Change Forward, published by the University Innovation Fellows program. Read the journal online here.

Just Breathe

My anxiety and grief management journal

By Navya Chelluboyina, University Innovation Fellow from Kakinada Institute of Engineering and Technology

Editor’s note: This article mentions suicide

This article was featured in the Perspectives section of the latest edition of the journal, Change Forward, published by the University Innovation Fellows program. Read the journal online here.

Working from home, lockdown did not affect me much as an employee of a multinational corporation. Life remained undisturbed even after relocation of work location. Piles of targets to meet daily along with home routine kept me busy for months after lockdown was imposed. 

Everything was in flow! I lost track of days that went by without talking to a special close person in my life. I kept on postponing my thought of giving her a phone call to have a small chat. One day when I did, I received the news that she quit her life (suicide). I denied the very fact that she no longer existed. I believed it wasn’t true yet I was afraid to ask for the truth one more time and chose to stay in denial not for minutes or days but for months. 

“Little did I know I had high functioning anxiety. When I went to little family gatherings, my whole body shivered with fear out of nowhere.”

I shut myself behind my room door from everything that connected me to the outside world. I resigned from the company I had then worked in. I cut off communication with everyone. I completely isolated myself. 

Little did I know I had high functioning anxiety. When I went to little family gatherings, my whole body shivered with fear out of nowhere. I was able to reach out to one or two friends who kept on saying “try to stay calm” while my whole consciousness shifted into my brain, bouncing side to side with sharp unfocused consciousness, going blind to the physical world around me. I made instant judgments that everything and everyone around me were having bad intentions about me. I used unhealthy distractions just so that I didn’t need to feel the pain and suffering. That temporary dopamine kept me happy for a small period of time only. So I got used to that temporary happiness more and more. 

I wished it never happened and rethought every possible situation.“I should have done that,” “ I wish I knew,” “ Where did I go wrong,” “did I ignore or haven’t been supportive,” “only if I had the chance.” This loop of self-worth questioning kept on rolling inside my head for several days, draining me physically and mentally, and at the end making it another non-productive day. 

The whole grief process and unhealthy choices disrupted my overall emotional health and cognitive thinking. All I could think of was bad outcomes, and focusing on career growth has become the most difficult and impossible thing. 

“I kept on collecting coping mechanisms and focused on only one thing: consistency in showing up for myself every day.”

There was a day I got tired of all the suffering and begged for help. I felt being dragged down more as the choices I made haven’t been healthy so the very point of giving a start to change has become the toughest thing to conquer. The first thing I cried out loud and many times was, “I don’t want to suffer anymore! Let go of this pain.” 

I observed that saying this out repetitively for a moment some heavy load was removed. I was desperate to change and I started exploring grief coping mechanisms. I kept on collecting coping mechanisms and focused on only one thing: consistency in showing up for myself every day. 

In April of this year, I happened to see a call for articles for this journal. I read through all the articles in last year’s journal, inspecting the range of topics presented. I felt a connection with “Daring to Dream Bigger,” by Maria Romina Dominzain de Leon of the Universidad de Montevideo. She described a few meditation techniques which I decided to include in my routine. In her article, she carefully chose words for deeper understanding. From this, I acquired valuable information to self-regulate my emotions. Her article about herself gave me ignition, and from that point of time, I was led in a different path of thinking and attitude towards life. 

I wondered — if she influenced this much change in my personal life into a smoother way of living just by her article with only words, perhaps I could also influence people by sharing my journey with anxiety and grief. 

“Through this process I promised myself that I would hold on and not give up to the darkness made by my mind. I am proud of what I have accomplished, and I believe that you can accomplish the same.”

With that in mind, I would like to share my coping mechanisms:

  • My emergency tool to ground myself is “Mindful Breathing.” Yes! It is the most effective solution: 2 short inhales – Hold air inside lungs for at least 3 seconds, exhale through the mouth and then repeat 3x times.
  • Self grooming to stay away from negative thoughts. 
  • Increasing physical activity mainly outdoors to deal with my crowd fear (rope jumping, running, going on dates alone).
  • Preparing my diet meals.
  • Maintaining a journal to keep check on my emotional health. Writing every thought that makes me feel blocked. 
  • Most importantly, meditating daily as simple as focusing on air flow while inhaling and exhaling (2-10 minutes) 

It can be hard to ask for help when you need it the most. I hope that this journal on my anxiety and grief management, and these coping mechanisms, can help you as well. Through this process I promised myself that I would hold on and not give up to the darkness made by my mind. I am proud of what I have accomplished, and I believe that you can accomplish the same. 

Discover “Who do you want to grow into?” before thinking “What do you want to be?”

A program to discover, design, and prototype your future dreams

by Stephane Yu Matsushita | Faculty Innovation Fellows candidate | Tohoku University

“Which class, program or career should I choose?”

This would be one of the most important problems that many students in University encounter, not only during their campus life but also over their long lives. The first-year student might ask “Which liberal arts class should I choose?” and the third-year student will ask “Which lab should I choose?” The master’s student may ask “Which of the various educational programs should I take in addition to my major?” or “Which career should I choose?” University offers a wide variety of courses, programs, and support to encourage students to be talented people or leaders in some fields. However, there are not many programs that can guide students to think and answer the question: “Who would I like to be, and what do I need to learn to be like that?”

The initial plan of my project was to develop a co-created education program by faculty and students. Students would design their own learning programs with the support of faculty, which brings a dozen variations of entrepreneurship and innovation education. I thought it was a very interesting and student-centric project, and I started interviewing students about what kind of thing they wanted to learn.

“Leadership” and “Facilitation”… sounds good.

“Sports,” “Hobby,” “Cooking”…OK, might be interesting.

“Something cool”, “Nothing else”….hnnn.

Of course, some students gave me very interesting ideas, but most of the ideas were hard to connect to an education program. The biggest finding from the interview among 15 students was that it was difficult for them to think about what they wanted to learn in addition to the curriculum in their major. Why is it difficult? By diving into a deeper level, I reached a hypothesis: Most of the students limit their future vision within an extension of their major. If we would like to change higher education to be much more diverse and creative, we should first give students the opportunity to think, design, and prototype their future with a diverse mindset.

After getting this hypothesis, I redesigned my project to build a program to discover, design, and prototype the future dream of each student. The program is constructed in 3 parts (steps). Through these 3 parts, students can learn how to think about what kind of person they want to grow into, how to shape their ideas in real life, and how to take initiative. Students can find themselves in unexpected ways through experiences they did not anticipate when they entered university.

Part 1: Future Vision Lab

FVL is a place where students can thoroughly imagine and create their own careers, and future dreams, and envision the future they wish to pursue and the paths that will lead them there. Students will learn how to find their dream and move toward it by empathizing with themselves, reflecting on their own success and failure experiences, brainstorming their future, and prototyping/testing their future.

Part 2: Prototyping Factory

PF is a place to foster a mindset of making ideas real through systematic prototyping exercises. Students will learn how to shape their ideas and adjust them to their needs by doing rapid prototypes and testing them out of the classroom.

Part 3: Future Challenge

Future Challenge is a place for taking the initiative to test the acquired abilities (future vision, prototyping mindset/skills, etc…) in a practical setting to enhance the willpower and challenging ability to take on difficulties. Several programs in terms of 1-3 months, co-working with a social entrepreneur, creating a business model in a global team, and trying to implement digital transformation in the citizen, will be prepared. Students will select one program which fits their wisdom and tries to put their ideas, and visions into action.

Everyone had a dream as a child. But dreams mature and change over time as we move forward. Maybe there could be a moment we lose sight of our dreams and get lost. It would be wonderful if we could have a program to help, guide, and mentor students to find, design, and pursue their journey to reach their dream.

This article was featured in the latest edition of the journal, Change Forward, published by the University Innovation Fellows program. Read the journal online here.

Iterative Mindset

Finding happiness in a constantly changing job market

by Mae White
University Innovation Fellow
, IE University

This article was published in Change Forward, an annual publication from our program that features work by Fellows and their Faculty Champions.

A year ago, I came to my mom half in tears feeling defeated. I complained to her that as I prepared to graduate, I didn’t even know if I liked visual design enough to keep doing it as a job. I believed happiness could only be achieved when I reached a certain professional level, and I wasn’t going to get there if I didn’t land the perfect job. In hindsight, my hopeless outlook stopped me from jumping on opportunities that were not an exact match for my career, but were available at least. It made me wonder if this attitude was preventable. Was there a way to feel more capable of tackling problems by changing our expectations? 

This brings us to the essence of design thinking. There are various phases of iteration, trial and error, and starting over, that I’ve ignored when it comes to my career. In order to better utilize design methodology in our lives, we must view our own careers as a problem solving process. By embracing this iterative nature, we can shift our mindset to one that is not only resilient to, but expects constant change.

The double diamond method is a tactic to create a solution by gathering information from stakeholders, users, and their environment to arrive at an outcome best suited for them. The original idea hardly stays the same after going through this process. This can be applied to our career journeys as well.

The discovery phase is all about finding out which problems we care to solve. At this stage, we need to decide which values we want to let dictate our lives; is it money? Is it a passion? Can we fuse the two? What does society need right now that I can provide? We may find the focus shift away from ourselves and instead the problems we find most urgent. As we learn more about the world around us, the “how might we” questions start popping up. Can we join companies that are asking the same questions?

The second step is narrowing down these experiences to a niche that works best for you, and is provided by a greater need from the community. Though it’s no easy feat, define which mission you want to dedicate ample time to (it doesn’t have to be just one! It may also change later). Finding the answer to this question can give us more confidence to start the “prototyping” phase.

Rapid prototyping is where we try new jobs/projects constantly and when they don’t work out, we should ask ourselves “Why?”. What did our superiors tell us? What mistakes can we avoid making in the future? Maybe there are new things we didn’t know we wanted to pursue further! In dead end situations, pivoting is definitely an option.

Finally, when we find that our efforts are slowly making a dent in the problems we try to solve, it means we’ve arrived at our solution. This doesn’t mean to stop! Maybe we start something new, or inspire others who want to create the same changes you have to work alongside you.

The main takeaway is that we will feel defeated if we create a plan or idea of how our careers ought to be. Design thinking is all about being flexible and willing to pivot when an opportunity presents itself or our environment changes. Happiness can be attained throughout our design process; it’s not waiting for us at the end. Deciding to have an optimistic outlook on our circumstances, knowing that the road ahead will not be a smooth one, can make all the difference in motivating ourselves to move on to the next step. So, where will your design journey take you?

Influencing Students to Become Advocates on Campus

Why we held a paid changemaking workshop to empower student leaders

by Ryan Chapman, Joey Gruber, Marissa Morales and Lavanya Uppala
University Innovation Fellows
, University of Nebraska at Omaha

This article was published in Change Forward, an annual publication from our program that features work by Fellows and their Faculty Champions.

While students learn the skills to implement lasting change in their communities through their college education, they are often not provided the context, time, or incentive to do so. However, numerous examples, identified both through our own research and through UIF training, have shown that when students are presented with these opportunities without barriers, immense positive change is often enacted. 

To facilitate these avenues of innovation and entrepreneurship, we hosted a paid changemaking workshop. The results of the workshop showed that when provided the tools and motivation to do so, student civic engagement and empathetic problem solving of community issues increases.

More specifically, during the course of our UIF training, we found that many problems facing students at our home institution, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), were rooted in the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on education. We conducted several student interviews regarding these issues. Through the surveys, students reported feeling isolated from other students and felt unheard by both professors and university administration. Additionally, students did not feel as though they had sufficient financial support to participate in changemaking efforts while supporting their university tuition, and therefore felt that they were blocked from participating in these innovation efforts.

Based on these feelings, and as both a resource for interested students and an experiment to show UNO administration, we developed a 3-day changemaking workshop that aimed to teach students the proponents of leading change, apply design methodologies for developing solutions to change, and compensate students for learning, leading, and improving our university. We wanted to create a workshop that would inspire and empower students to create change for issues they see on UNO’s campus and connect them with faculty to initiate collaboration. We also wanted to pay the students, so that students with financial adversities had the opportunity to participate

We began our planning of the workshop by working with Vice Chancellor Dan Shipp and Assistant Vice Chancellor Kristina Cammarano, and Director of Student Development Harnoor Singh. It took our group about 3 months to locate funding to pay students $9 an hour, create an agenda, design the curriculum, invite students, and execute the overall event.

Participation in our workshop was open to all enrolled UNO undergraduate and graduate students. Our workshop was advertised via social media and via email communication through various university organizations.

Our workshop was held via Zoom over the course of three days. Each day consisted of a two-hour long session split into two hour-long halves. The first hour of the session was an informational section to teach participants the proponents of that day’s activities. Each day also included student speakers who had been involved in student-led change at UNO. The second half of each session was devoted to working in groups to focus on each day’s task. 

When developing the workshop, we defined our metrics of success as the number of projects that students developed solutions for, the number of students who joined our new organization, Mavs for Change, after the workshop, and the number of faculty who attended the workshop.

We believe that our workshop was successful based on our defined metrics. Our workshop included five student speakers, six faculty, staff, and administrators, and 27 general participants. We had originally only budgeted for 20 students, but based on the level of interest, we expanded. During the workshop students identified three areas that needed reform: Campus Safety/Security, Accessibility, and Mental Health. Students in our workshop developed five solutions to problems that they have seen at UNO. These included issues in the areas of Accessibility, Mental Health, and Campus Security. 

By the conclusion of the workshop, all five groups had proposals for carrying out their work in the future. Since our workshop, students have taken several steps to implement change at UNO. One of the groups focused on accessibility of the UNO website has presented to the Chancellor’s Wellness Committee and is working with administrators to implement their proposed revisions. Another group from this workshop pursued increasing accessibility to CAPS, through working with administrator Cathy Pettid following the workshop. 

In total, we had seven participants of our workshop join our organization, Mavericks for Change, which we created at the same time as our workshop. This organization serves to create an environment where students feel comfortable and welcome to bring forward issues they are passionate about and to foster collaboration between a diverse group of students (follow us at @mavsforchange on Facebook and Instagram). 

To obtain additional metrics on the impact of our workshop, we created a post-survey gaging student’s experience at the workshop and what they learned. From this survey, we found that students’ interest in changemaking at UNO increased, and students reported wanting to continue work on projects. Furthermore, students were able to retain the method of changemaking used in the workshop evident through their descriptions of what they had learned.

Based on the results that we observed and the response that we received from students, we believe that our workshop was a success. The substantial turnout demonstrated that a large population of students at our university were interested in leading movements and developing new ideas to solve problems. We attribute the sizable attendance, in part, to the funding that we offered to students. Offering payment appeared to make the workshop more accessible to students, and we hope to use this idea to help create new funded positions for students to be involved in solving university problems. Along with this, the transition of some of the participants to Mavericks for Change provided a sign that workshop participants are interested in continuing their work.

For us as fellows, the workshop was an excellent opportunity for us to convey the skills that we learned through UIF training to a broader audience. The presentation and visual materials that we created are things that we plan to use in the future for additional workshops or other teaching moments. Seeing how much of an impact our workshop has had makes us excited to continue our work and to incorporate these new ideas and individuals into Mavericks for Change.

A Faculty-Led Movement Inspired by Students

How a small community of UIF mentors are disrupting higher education

by Ilya Avdeev, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Mary Raber, Chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals, Michigan Technological University
Miriam Iliohan, Co-founder and Manager of DesignLab, University of Twente
Nick Swayne, Founding Director of JMU X-Labs, James Madison University
Faculty Innovation Fellows program community leaders

Making a difference in higher education is much more fun than one might think. It is about giving and receiving empathy from your community, students and colleagues. It is about showing that you can work together and make bold moves if we trust one another to find the connections.

Our work with students has emboldened us to think about creating our own movement. We all experienced the enthusiasm of our University Innovation Fellows who brought this experience back to our campuses and immediately leapt into action to bring about positive change. This led us to wonder: 

“How might we bring this same sense of empowerment and engagement to our faculty and staff?” 

“What if faculty and staff were introduced to the same tool sets and mindsets of innovative change?” 

“What if faculty and staff were also part of a community of practice where wild ideas are encouraged, experimentation is the norm, and sharing of diverse perspectives is valued?”

Building forward from the successful student-focused UIF program to create a similar program for faculty and staff provided the opportunity for us to explore these and other questions. At our schools, this approach has taken hold and is helping to transform our culture into one that emphasizes collaboration across disciplinary boundaries, the mindsets and tools of design, and innovating to transform the educational experience.

Back when we were new Faculty Champions, during one of our first UIF Silicon Valley Meetups, leaders from Google’s Project Aristotle presented their work on building team effectiveness and system change at Google. We were asked to consider: what is the core element of strong teams and effective system change? The answer was psychological safety.

As long-time Faculty Champions, supporting the UIF experience as it unfolded for our students, we felt the distinct lack of such physiological safety amongst faculty and staff at our schools.  Faculty would certainly have a role in being the institutional memory for our UIF projects, but we didn’t have the same support structures we were providing for students.  

The five of us (the authors plus Katherine Christopher of Grand Valley State University) began meeting regularly, sharing ideas about what was working, how to support each other and how to help faculty at other institutions. Over time, this team solidified into what we called the Fab5. The Fab5 provided a virtual place to recharge and talk, share new ideas, a means of testing concepts and prototypes, but most importantly, it provided the psychological sounding board we needed to build our own movement. 

As a group, we felt a growing pull to support new faculty as they started innovation movements on their campuses. For many faculty, this is a lonely journey. We thought, what if we connect these “nomads” and fuel their passions for change by the energy of the UIF student movement? We tried several technical solutions, added events to in-person meetups, and tested several prototypes of online programs.

It wasn’t until a UIF Meetup in Salzburg in 2019 that the idea to create a program for faculty solidified. There, at one point during the week, a group of Faculty Champions sat in a castle on a mountain top, sharing a personal moment of why we joined this movement. Each story being unique of its kind, we took the time to listen. Time to really listen and reflect on what the other Faculty Champion was telling about their journey of becoming an empowerer of change. The community feeling of empathy grew throughout the day, with hugging, inspiration walks along the river or city excursions just to talk a bit further about what makes us tick.

As a result, we worked with UIF co-director Humera Fasihuddin to launch the Faculty Innovation Fellows Program. Knowing there are others “out there,” having a judgment-free place to share, getting support and encouragement from respected team members has been transformative in so many ways.

The Faculty Innovation Fellows Program is now a two-year experience for Fellows’ Faculty Champions that helps them expand the innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E) movement at their schools. Much like the student Fellows program, the Faculty Innovation Fellows candidates design ways to improve their institutions. They connect with a community of like-minded educators from around the world to advance projects, gather feedback, and share what they learn.

There are currently 18 candidates in the cohort. We are a year into the program, and the more we learn, the more we want to explore.

Whose job is to reinvent higher ed? Administration? Students? Faculty? These are uncharted waters for most Faculty Innovation Fellows candidates. Where does what we do here fit? Research, teaching, service? Something else? We are collectively trying to figure this out. We are not expected to spend our time reimagining higher ed by our administration, by our executive committees or even by our peers. And yet, we do. Because we can. Because we have to. 

Faculty Champions from around the world share similar questions: How do I demonstrate to my Dean that UIF can be scaled? How do I incentivize other faculty to join me? How do we make sure that our students take credit for their work (both academically and non-academically)? How do we make others understand our work?

This prototype has already proven that a community of practice is stronger and more creative than the sum of its parts. We can now point to a “portfolio” of pilot projects yielding real gains for students, faculty and campuses around the globe. More importantly, we have created a small (as of now) community of practice.

At our schools, we sometimes look for that explosion of energy that we give on a daily basis, with a warm cup of coffee, to students and staff to empower in their work, and to go beyond. To not see the barriers that the institution can give, but which insights we can give the institution to make change. 

Two years ago, a team of faculty set out to pull together like-minded people in an effort to innovate higher education. Completing their first year of work, the team has realized significant progress. We’re just getting started, but the movement has momentum and the combined energy of the founding faculty. Change in higher ed seems impossible, but it doesn’t have to be, and the Faculty Innovation Fellows are leading the way.

This article was featured in the UIF journal Change Forward 2020-2021. Read the journal here.