Awareness to Action

Identifying and working through barriers to doing anti-bias work

by Laura Parson—Faculty Innovation Fellow, North Dakota State University

The murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests in the summer of 2020 led to a wider awakening about the importance of activism for racial justice. Along with the MeToo movement and activism for gender equity, there have been increased calls for more conversations, resources, and discussions about how to create more equitable professional and educational settings. Those calls have intensified in higher education, a historical site both of injustice and change. Yet, as the political divide in the United States has deepened, rifts between those fighting for social justice, those staying silent, and those actively working to subvert civil rights movements have grown. 

“Doing anti-bias work requires that one be able to process emotions like guilt, shame, anger, and fear in a way that acknowledges them, provides strategies and opportunities to [work] with them, and suggests a path toward action.”

This Faculty Innovation Fellowship project, “Awareness to Action: Identifying and working through barriers to doing anti-bias work” seeks to reach those who think they want to do anti-bias work but are not sure where and how to start – perhaps reaching those who are staying silent because they are unsure of how to react to and process conversations about power and privilege. 

Doing anti-bias work requires that one be able to process emotions like guilt, shame, anger, and fear in a way that acknowledges them, provides strategies and opportunities to [work] with them, and suggests a path toward action. The Awareness to Action project seeks to create programming for higher education faculty, administrators, and staff that, without accusation or judgment, helps participants identify one’s positionality (e.g., understand layers of privilege and how privilege and marginalization impacts their position in the institution) and provides strategies to respond and work through any resultant guilt and shame with a focus on self-compassion as a tool to develop empathy. The programming will cover different higher education roles (e.g., teaching, administration, service, advising) and allow participants to consider if and how their identity is implicated in each context.

Over the next two years, the Awareness to Action projects aims to develop, test, and refine programming for higher education faculty, administrators, and staff to help them understand and work through their positionality in order to better serve stakeholders who identify as traditionally marginalized persons in higher education. The final aim of the project is to develop programming that would be available to faculty, staff, and administrators. Program content areas will 1) focus on the ways to identify one’s positionality; 2) strategies to respond and work through any resultant guilt and shame with a focus on self-compassion as a tool to develop empathy, and 3) lessons that focus in on different areas of life (e.g., work, daily life activities, social media) given what one knows about their positionality. This project began as a book proposal, but as I have worked through the Faculty Innovation Fellowship program, it has evolved into developing an institutional program that may, at some point, be accompanied or supported by a supplementary text or workbook that could also be worked through independent of the programming.

Awareness to Action programming will pull together resources and supports from a variety of fields into one cohesive program. For example, while identifying one’s overlapping identities and how they relate to one’s privilege, referred to as positionality, is not uncommon in the academic qualitative research fields, that content is needed in an accessible format with examples from day-to-day academic life that uses language that describes without ascribing responsibility. Additionally, support is often needed to discuss one’s different reactions and emotions to questions about power and privilege that pulls from psychology, neurology, and mindfulness. Finally, while empathy has been well-discussed in some circles, the role that research suggests self-compassion and empathy can play in the social justice movement has not been discussed in a way that is accessible and includes strategies that promote both. Awareness to Action aims to do all three in accessible language, with concrete strategies, supported by examples. 

“The goal of the programming is to provide a primer on working through the emotions and reactions that often come before and may arise as one is beginning justice work that might cause them to retreat.”

One final note: The intent of this program is not to replace existing programs and books created by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) who discuss the impact of racism and concrete ways that white people can be allies and work toward racial justice – instead, the goal of this project is to create an intervention that seeks to help individuals be ready to engage with anti-bias programming, learning, and action. The goal of the programming is to provide a primer on working through the emotions and reactions that often come before and may arise as one is beginning justice work that might cause them to retreat. I hope that programming will be complementary to books like Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad and How to Be an AntiRacist by Ibram X. Kendi. Altogether, programming will also suggest specific resources authored by BIPOC to learn how to take activist action and the final chapter will review and organize those resources comprehensively.

The original article can be found in the Enhancing the Higher Ed Ecosystem section of the 2022-2023 Change Forward Journal— Visions and Voices of Higher Education’s Future.

Designing Mobile Clinic with the Community

Connecting universities and disciplines around formal/informal learning opportunity

By Ilya Avdeev, PhD—Faculty Innovation Fellow; Alex Francis, PhD and Antonina Johnston—University Innovation Fellows from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee 

During the summer 2022, our human-centered design lab’s team at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) was approached by the Froedtert Hospital leadership with an intriguing proposal to get involved in designing a future mobile health clinic addressing women’s health in the community with limited access to healthcare. Moreover, the question on everyone’s mind was how might we involve the broader community to be involved in the clinic design from the start? As academics, we saw an opportunity to tie this real-world project to curriculum. Complexity of the task offered us a chance to engage medical, engineering, nursing, art and design students in interprofessional formal and informal learning of design principles and their practical application.

An 18-inch rule

Resembling an unfinished tiny house at the framing stage, everything in the 8-foot-tall, 24-foot mobile clinic model displayed for two months in the MCW lobby was designed to be moved around, including mockups of mammography equipment and other OB-GYN elements constructed of foam core boards. A tool for learning and discovery, the mockup model supported creative process and facilitated full-scale exploration of design possibilities.

Interestingly, the mockup model was also considered a fire hazard because it was built within 18 inches of the ceiling. We used this unexpected hazard, reported by the fire department, as a metaphor for pushing boundaries and testing the limits of what is traditionally accepted. This project represents an experiment in collaborative, community-driven design, where we work with the community, not simply design for them.

Mobile clinic development project – a platform for experimentation

We saw tremendous potential for creative exploration and discovery when Dr. Mark Lodes and the Population Health Team proposed last summer that the Human-Centered Design Lab participate in developing the mobile clinic. This project clearly would challenge our ideas and assumptions about academic collaboration, the adaptability of medical curriculum, and the creative confidence of stakeholders involved, including Milwaukee community members and organizations, and an intricate network of MCW/Froedtert Health individuals.

For the past six months, the following questions have guided and driven our work forward:

·   How can we involve a wide range of diverse stakeholders in our design process and empower their creativity and sense of control?

·   What would a collaboration between University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) and MCW students look like?

·   How can we balance the dynamic nature of a real-world project with a structured curriculum to benefit learners?

·   How can we bring value to the Froedtert team developing the clinic through innovative design-based activities?

·   What can we learn about incorporating healthcare design projects into medical education?

Expanding our design team

Designing with the community, not just for them, is the cornerstone of our approach. Developing a mobile clinic is like putting together a puzzle where the pieces are not yet clear, and the final picture is uncertain. Creativity and innovation are required to overcome the ambiguity.

We took a unique approach by expanding our design team beyond the Population Health and Human-Centered Design Lab teams. We included anyone from the stakeholder map interested in contributing their expertise and ideas to the problem space (issues such as access to healthcare, managing chronic conditions, insurance coverage gaps, staffing, scheduling, safety, and business models) and the solution space (clinic layout, workflow, atmosphere, technology, services offered, etc.). There were 150 designers in total!

This approach is like citizen science or distributed scientific inquiry projects, where the collective intelligence of many individuals is more impactful than the brilliance of a few. By engaging stakeholders early on, we also cultivate buy-in and support for the pilot implementation and future iterations.

Snapshots from design sprint. Group of people and also discussion at white board.

Design sprints – exploring problem and solution spaces through play

To engage a broad range of stakeholders and tap into their collective imagination, we arranged a series of 90-minute design sprints. Over the course of multiple sprints, 100+ designers were invited to collaborate in teams of four to tackle 10 different scenarios centered around a person in need of medical and social care at a mobile clinic.

To guide the design process, each team was provided with a framework prompting them to consider the needs and wants of the patient, necessary actions and workflow, clinic layout and ambiance, and technology elements involved. Using low-resolution prototyping techniques, such as brainstorming and building mockups with LEGO blocks and foam core, participant teams rapidly designed the clinic for each scenario. At the end of each sprint, each team presented their ideas and “walked” us through their clinic prototypes, providing valuable insight and inspiration for the design process.

This activity allowed us to equally engage experts, novices, providers, and patients in creative play. By randomly assigning teams and encouraging diverse participation, we were able to cultivate an environment of imaginative play, where experts, novices, patients, and providers alike could contribute. These design sprints not only highlighted the complexity of the design challenge but also demonstrated the passion and commitment of the community toward making this mobile clinic a reality.

Collaboration with students and curriculum

This project also provided a valuable opportunity to bring together students from different disciplines and backgrounds. Engineering and design students from UWM worked together to design and construct clinic models as part of their coursework in the ME-405/ART-405 Product Realization course, taught by Drs. Avdeev and Francis. UWM and medical students from the Health Systems Management and Policy Pathway participated in joint design workshops, and graduate nursing students from the UWM College of Nursing played a critical role in piloting the design sprints at UWM before the clinic model was moved to MCW. Medical students also facilitated and participated in the design sprints at MCW, making this a truly interdisciplinary and collaborative effort.

Including students in the design team proved to be highly enriching and fulfilling. However, we also encountered challenges in aligning this dynamic project with the structured medical curriculum. This highlights the need for reimagining and streamlining integration of such projects into the curriculum in the future.

What Have We Learned?

More than 500 ideas were captured during 6 design sprints. We developed a map of design variables that helped focus ideation on critical areas of the clinic (Figure 1). After capturing 500 ideas, we analyzed the data and synthesized the following themes or idea clusters (Figure 2).  We then clustered ideas within a theme (Figure 3).  

What’s Next?

With a talented and diverse design team made up of both community and internal stakeholders, we have been gifted with a wealth of ideas and perspectives. Our challenge now is to carefully put these pieces together to support the mobile clinic development project. Our goal is to produce a result that will not only inform and inspire the development team, but also have a tangible and meaningful impact on the communities it serves.

Circle diagram divided into fourths with arrows pointing outwards. Segments are: Neds/wants; actions; floorplan and workflow; ambiance and tech.
Figure 1
Figure 2

The original article can be found in the Enhancing the Higher Ed Ecosystem section of the 2022-2023 Change Forward Journal— Visions and Voices of Higher Education’s Future.

The Life of the Mind

Using mental health education to give back to myself and my community

By Chibuikem Iheagwaram—University Innovation Fellow, Fisk University

In the last year, I have learned that feeling the fear and doing it anyway is the true definition of courage. It all started in August 2021 when I landed in the USA from my home country Nigeria, via a combination of flights that had lasted 32 hours and 30 minutes. Now, I was in a foreign land and needed to learn how to integrate myself into my new reality. Research has shown that when a person moves to a new country, they usually need six months to begin adjusting. Culture shock was the first thing I encountered: the weather felt different (four seasons compared to the two seasons I grew up with in West Africa), social dynamics, academics, amongst other things. Though I consider myself to be a very adaptive person, my mental health soon started to take a beating as I worked to build my new support system.

“I felt like a student whose interests had no home to fit themselves in. That inspired me to start an organization of my own whose sole mission was to enrich the minds of others through exposing them to neuroscientific, psychological, and mental health education.”

An important part of my story is that I took five gap years before college, and this hiatus was not voluntary, but due to financial lack. Hence, I had to retrain my mind to adjust to an academic setting. One of the good things that came from my gap years was going on medical mission trips to rural communities in Nigeria where I developed a passion for mental health. As a person who was always prone to asking questions to uncover the ‘whys’ behind life, I soon realized I was already thinking like a scientist. The day I came across a self-help book that expounded on the relationship between mental health and physical illness, was the day I fell in love for the first time. That was when I became familiar with the terms – neuroscience and psychology – and became passionate about exploring them.

In my first-year of college, I ardently searched for a student organization at my institution that could expose students to the fields of neuroscience and psychology, but there was none. There was no club or course dedicated to neuroscience education. I felt like a student whose interests had no home to fit themselves in. That inspired me to start an organization of my own whose sole mission was to enrich the minds of others through exposing them to neuroscientific, psychological, and mental health education. This was new since such a club had not existed at my school since its inception 157 years ago. In fact my school did not have a neuroscience major. 

In the second semester of my freshman year, I discussed my ideas with a professor I was doing neuroscience research with, and he excitedly offered to be a faculty advisor for the potential organization. I was the only first-year student in his laboratory at the time and even though my coursework was demanding due to being dual-enrolled at Vanderbilt University where I was taking a psychology honors seminar, my passion for neuroscience was my drive for wanting to start the club. In summer 2022, I was doing research at Johns Hopkins Medicine and going through a mentorship program at Harvard Medical School. These experiences further propelled my innovative thinking. Starting such an organization felt uncharted and scary but with the assistance of my professor, the Dean of Natural Science and Math at Fisk University, and a few friends, a constitution was created, and we registered the club for launch in the fall of 2022. We decided to name the club AXON. Our motto would be “Vita le mentis” – Latin translated as ‘the life of the mind’.

On the day of my school’s organization fair, I had minimal expectations. I had resolved in my mind that this project was not in a bid to inflate my ego but was a chance for me to give back to my community. At the end of the fair, we had 70 students sign up for the organization. My executive board and I planned a couple of events including an introduction to what our club stood for, one discussing the fundamentals of neuroscience and psychology, as well as other seminars with resource persons from Johns Hopkins University, Harvard Medical School, and Meharry Medical College. Going through the UIF program also in fall 2022, I was able to learn design thinking skills that helped me bring my imaginative ideas about AXON to actualization. As a creative with a bunch of ideas to further neuroscience education on my campus, I soon learned how to identify the stakeholders at Fisk and beyond that could help in the execution of those ideas.

As word continued to spread about our organization, we grew past 100 members. Though we initially struggled with securing funding, eventually we received a grant from an anonymous donor. One of our projects with the grant was to launch a scholarship initiative to assist a Fisk student who had significant financial need. In Spring 2023, we planned field trips and community outreach projects, as well as a computational neuroscience event where we invited a neuroscientist from Johns Hopkins to give a talk on machine learning, deep learning, and artificial intelligence. Eventually, due to significant interest from students at other schools, we began to envision creating new AXON chapters at other colleges in the Tennessee area and beyond.

Looking back, even though I was uncertain about starting AXON, I am astounded by how well it has been received. AXON has become a neuroscience support system for me as well as other students at my school. I am happy to have created such a space. I have learned that feeling the fear and doing it anyway, is the true definition of courage. Dear reader, I hope you know how important it is for you to chase your dreams because the world will be better for it. Keep imagination and innovation alive!

Axon logo and QR codes for Instagram and Linkedin

Check out our impact on Instagram and LinkedIn at “AXON Neuroscience Clubs”.

The original article can be found in the Focusing on Belonging and Wellbeing section of the 2022-2023 Change Forward Journal— Visions and Voices of Higher Education’s Future.

Rural Connections

Leveraging I&E ecosystems to strengthen university-community partnerships

By Hallie Neupert—Faculty Innovation Fellows candidate, Oregon Institute of Technology

When we think of a university town, it is easy to imagine two distinct and largely separate networks: “the town” and “the gown.” Structural and organizational differences between universities and their communities contribute to this disconnect. Those immersed in community and economic development, however, recognize that universities are an integral part of their communities rather than separate from them. To close this gap, universities should engage in learning and scholarship that both furthers their academic mission and addresses the needs of their communities. Doing so will build social capital and mutual respect, creating a foundation upon which universities and communities can collaborate on shared visions and goals.

In rural communities, limited disposable income, intergenerational poverty, and subsequent workforce challenges can hinder economic growth. For universities that reside in such communities, providing access to university resources can help leverage shared expertise while strengthening a sense of place and willingness to engage among stakeholders. Actively building these kinds of collaborative networks not only improves university-community partnerships but may also improve economic development outcomes.  

But what role should a university play in their community’s broader economic development ecosystem? While there is no one right answer to this question, there are strategies that connect and strengthen organizations, creating stronger communities and regions.

The Ecosystem Landscape

Community and economic development proponents have adopted the language of ecosystems, recognizing that communities are made up of complex, adaptive, and interdependent networks of people and organizations. This includes entrepreneurial ecosystems which collaboratively connect people and resources, and innovation ecosystems which share knowledge and skills unique to invention-based enterprise. Together, these overlapping ecosystems support broader economic development efforts to improve economic well-being across communities.

In my home state of Oregon, the Lemelson Foundation is at the forefront of ecosystem discussions. Through their work they have proposed common capacities and roles necessary to support thriving innovation ecosystems including mentors, conveners, evaluators, catalysts, and advocates. How communities choose to identify with these roles offers opportunities for them to leverage their assets innovatively and creatively. 

My community is constrained by the same socioeconomic challenges common to rural communities. And development of my community’s economic development ecosystem, while moving forward, must also navigate these challenges. Using the Lemelson framework, organizations in my community are working to convene and connect innovation and entrepreneurship resources as well as catalyze and leverage those resources to elevate economic well-being. As my university reimagines its engagement in this space my focus is on the student, both the roles they can play and the experience they can gain. 

To support and lift up the organizations already doing good work in the ecosystem, my Faculty Innovation Fellows (FIF) project advocates for increased student engagement to strengthen connections between university and community. Bringing university resources to oftentimes underfunded and understaffed community projects provides valuable learning opportunities for students, enhances a culture of collaboration, and strengthens sense of place, leading to more intentional integration of universities in their local ecosystems while giving students real-world problem-solving experience. 

A Pilot Project 

In Fall 2022, I led a diverse group of university and community stakeholders in piloting a day-long design thinking workshop, enlisting area high school, community college, and university students. While this workshop provided participants with an opportunity to apply human-centered design to ideate innovative solutions to a community challenge (How might we increase tourism in our small, rural town?), it also marked the culmination of a year-long collaboration throughout which community members informed the design of this university experience. The project demonstrated the benefit of incremental and sustained collaboration across stakeholder groups; the importance of listening to the community’s needs and aligning goals; and the need to build capacity to ensure this work is sustained and supported. My FIF project builds on this, using the tools provided through the University Innovation Fellows program to leverage student engagement to explore solutions that will work for my community. Specifically, it will:

  • Focus on Collaboration: Rather than lead this work, how might we socialize a model of sustained collaboration?
  • Prioritize Connections: What are the university-based systems and processes beneficial to connecting stakeholders across the ecosystem?
  • Redefine Success: How do we share vision? Are our goals aligned? Do we have a common set of objectives across all community organizations that clarify our direction and outcomes?
  • Increase Awareness: How might we increase visibility of university resources and programming to optimize university contributions to the economic development ecosystem?

In this moment, when both the community and the university are eager to embrace innovation and entrepreneurship to support economic growth, my project looks to bring town and gown together to create experiences that will shape how students engage with our community while formalizing university-based infrastructure, systems, and processes to support this work and ensure university-community relationships are long standing. Shifting our focus from one another to instead focus on the student creates a catalyst for collaboration across the ecosystem. Moreover, when students are the nodes that connect universities and their communities, they become contributors to the ecosystems that help communities thrive.   

The original article can be found in the Enhancing the Higher Ed Ecosystem section of the 2022-2023 Change Forward Journal— Visions and Voices of Higher Education’s Future.

Ten of my Favorite Classroom Activities

How a surprise dose of empathy for my students inspired me to reinvent my classes

By Charles M. Wood, Ph.D.—Faculty Innovation Fellow, University of Tulsa

Early in my teaching days, I invited a guest speaker to share their work and experiences with my class. After introducing the speaker, I took a seat at the back of the room to listen and take notes. The speaker did almost exactly what I had been doing – bringing up a deck of PowerPoint slides then reading through and elaborating on each bullet point. After 20 minutes, I was pulling my hair out with boredom. I asked myself, “How do the students do this all day?!” and I resolved to improve the way I teach.

Ideation and prototyping

I began looking and brainstorming for experiential in-class exercises that related to my course material. I started collecting an assortment of failed products that I called my “Wall of Shame.” I began a daily practice of scouring the internet for current and thought-provoking news stories about our class topics. And I researched how other great teachers engaged students. After a few years of this, I had a collection of hands-on experiences and exercises that I now build into nearly every class session I teach. Here are 10 of my (and my students’) favorites. I hope there are a few that are new to you:

Main LessonExercise Name
Innovation ideas can come from odd combinationsTwo Buckets
The best innovations start by considering real human needs and problemsiWish
Every student is an innovator, but in unique waysInnovation U
Learn what it feels like not to edit yourself or others during brainstorming sessions100 Uses
Innovations often arise when technology meets human needR&D
Experience how collaboration improves outcomesInnovation Challenges
Experience how building on each other’s ideas improves outcomesBuild-Up
If stuck, stop pushing and jiu jitsu your creative mind to pull ideas forwardVisioning
Gain empathy for a group of people to consider product improvementsElder-lympics
Find lessons and nuggets of good / promise in failed productsWall of Shame
Two different groups of post-it notes
Two buckets activity

Two Buckets

Share with your students several innovations that have come from unusual combinations. For example, Netflix began as “Book of the month club” + “DVD rentals,” is “venture capital” + “relief for developing nations,” Google Ads is “Online auctions” + “Online ad placement,” etc. Then ask students to form teams of 3-4 people. Each team should randomly draw a major brand name from one deck of blue index cards, and a product category from another yellow deck. Then, tell the students, “Congratulations, you now work for the company on your blue card, and they have asked you to develop a new product for them in the category on the yellow card.” The task is to figure out the new product’s features and benefits, who might buy it, what it should be named, and at least one ad idea. After about 10 minutes, they should stand and tell the class what they came up with. The combinations are never the same twice (e.g., Lego fast food, Colgate theme parks, Cover Girl concrete, Porsche toothpaste).

Debrief ideas: “How did you feel about this challenge at first?” “Which of the results do you think have the most potential?”


Ask students to think on their own about a problem or hassle that a particular group faces often – it is easiest to choose from their experience as students. Examples of problems include avoiding parking tickets, getting help with remembering people’s names, finding a list of today’s fun events in the region, repelling bugs, etc. Then they should make groups of 2-3 and share their ideas with each other and decide on one that they believe can be solved by an app. In effect they are saying, “I wish I had an app that could ____.” Then, distribute large whiteboards that are made to look like iPhones and ask them to use dry erase markers to draw the app interface on them. Large sheets of paper with an iPhone outline can also work fine if they use thick markers. After a few minutes, each team should present their idea.

Debrief idea: “Do you think that identifying a problem first helped you develop a better app idea?” 

Innovation U

This take-home assignment involves each student creating a display that contains their unique qualities and interests. In whatever format they choose, they are asked to display their favorite quote, an inspirational person, what they know the most about (outside of family and school), when they have experienced “flow,” their Jung typology, which of Gardner’s multiple intelligences they have, and a 3-D item of some sort. The results are always creative, inspiring, and encourage students to appreciate others’ differences as strengths.

Debrief idea: “What did you learn about your classmates and yourself through this exercise?”

100 Uses

This is a well-known exercise, and I use it to illustrate the benefits of not editing ourselves or others during brainstorming. Ask teams of 3-4 students to work together to come up with 100 uses for a basic material (e.g., newspapers, plastic bottles) in 10 minutes. This is challenging, but I find that it helps lower inhibitions for sharing ideas. After the activity, ask them to remember the feeling they get during the exercise of welcoming and celebrating any and all input.

Debrief ideas: “Was this stressful for you?” “How did you come up with so many uses?”

The R&D

The standard design thinking process starts with empathy and ends with testing and retesting prototypes. This exercise asks students to work that process in reverse. Starting with a list of new technologies and inventions in materials science, nanobatteries, AI, etc (drawn from a site like R&, ask students “what other needs might we meet using this technology?” One example is spider silk (5x stronger than steel) finding application in improved ropes, fabrics, or camping equipment.

Debrief idea: “Does this technique seem to help you better develop new product ideas on your own or in a team?”

Innovation Challenges

These events can take many forms, but the simple challenge is simply to “Add Value” using basic materials such as unused pizza boxes, old computer diskettes, old CDs, post-it notes, etc. The resulting student creations can be surprisingly impressive! If there  are prizes, we often bring in outside judges from the community to help determine winners.

Debrief idea: “In what ways are you more comfortable innovating and creating with your hands?”


Write several “How might we…?” questions at the top of large index cards. Students form a circle of 7-10 people, and each student receives one of these cards. In the line beneath the question, each student writes an idea to address it, and passes to the right. The next student reads the next card and must build on, improve, or expand on the previous idea given, and they add this to the next line. As the cards progress about halfway around the group, encourage wild and out of the box ideas for the remaining entries to the cards. A variation of this is the “The Worst Idea Ever,” where each student in a smaller circle receives a card with a description of a truly terrible product idea (taxis filled with bees, shoes made from ice, fish flavored toothpaste, haircuts given by monkeys, etc) and their task is to make each idea worse somehow. Then, after the cards have made their way around, the students group up and their task is to uncover and identify nuggets of what could be a good idea somewhere among the awful.

Debrief idea: “How is this similar to any improv sessions or performances you’ve experienced?”


Use this website to create a fictional but authentic-looking news story about an amazing thing your school did or an innovation award students at your school received Tell students that you came across this news story, but sadly, it’s incomplete – and ask “What might we have done to earn this recognition?” Ideas for new noteworthy activities usually arise!

Debrief idea: “How does working ‘backward’ like this seem helpful?”


This is an experience to build empathy for the elderly. Give students foggy glasses to put on, super bulky gloves, and old jackets to wear. Then, give them basic tasks such as finding the right medication from an assortment, measuring out liquids, buttoning their jacket, opening battery packages, peeling a banana, throwing a frisbee to a mannequin, opening a pickle jar, etc. As a debrief, the students are asked to identify what was the most challenging tasks and ideate for products or modifications of current products that would help the elderly every day.

Debrief idea: “How did it feel to be elderly for a few minutes?”

Wall of Shame

We can learn from bad examples too. In my office, I keep an assortment of inexpensive products that have failed or I believe will fail, and I bring them to class regularly to illustrate a point from the course material. Examples include: bottles of Coke Blak, several Amazon Dash buttons, Honest T, 7-Up’s DNL soda, etc.

Debrief idea: “We regularly learn from good examples of new products. What can we learn from bad examples?”

Back to empathy again

Since that opening surprise dose of empathy while listening to my guest speaker, I’ve formed a habit. A few days before each semester begins, I go to my assigned classrooms, sit in the back, and visualize how my upcoming class sessions should go so that the students keep all their hair.

The original article can be found in the Reimagining Teaching and Learning section of the 2022-2023 Change Forward Journal— Visions and Voices of Higher Education’s Future.

Breaking the Taboo for a Better You

How Shaw University is prioritizing mental health care and wellness

By Marc Brown, Janell Odom, Tamara Wood and Louichard Benjamin— University Innovation Fellows, Shaw University; Dr. Vonda Reed—Faculty Innovation Fellows candidate, Shaw University

“Strengthening Our Bears’ Mental Health”      

Shaw University is the first Historically Black University in the South, founded in 1865 by Henry Martin Tupper. Shaw University is prominently known as the “mother of African American colleges.” The founder of North Carolina Central University (NCCU) and the first presidents of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical University (NCAT) and Elizabeth City State University were all Shaw University graduates. Upholding our history of “firsts,” through leadership, students were trained through the University Innovation Fellows (UIF) Early Training Program and hosted our university’s first Mental Health Wellness Week.

“We began analyzing our campus ecosystem to get our stakeholders’ points of view through one-on-one interviews, stakeholders’ meetings, and surveys.”

During a UIF training session on Design Thinking, we were asked to explore how our university might support students’ social and emotional wellbeing. We began analyzing our campus ecosystem to get our stakeholders’ points of view through one-on-one interviews, stakeholders’ meetings, and surveys. Two of the stakeholders we interviewed were President Paulette Dillard and Vice President for Academic Affairs Renata Dusenbury. Through these collaborations with our stakeholders, the majority of them expressed that our university did not have the proper awareness of mental health within our campus ecosystem. Mental health care is an important issue to explore when analyzing collegiate life, especially at Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs), where it is considered taboo among the Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) population. Moreover, the impact of COVID-19, national exposure to traumatic racial events, systemic oppression, and struggles with identity have further increased the demand for mental health care for BIPOC. Consequently, we asked, “How might we inform our campus stakeholders about the importance of self-care and how to improve it mentally and physically?”

We planned our Mental Health Wellness Week by partnering with our counseling center, Center for Teaching and Learning, and Student Government Association. In the past, our counseling center hosted one mental health day during the academic year. We believed that a week would be efficient so that students could participate in fun and enriching activities geared towards mental health care for an entire week rather than hours for a day. With the extension to a week, stakeholders would be able to attend various events that could positively impact their mental and physical well-being. We also decided to execute this Mental Health Wellness Week the week before midterm examinations. This would allow students, faculty, and staff to unwind mentally, physically, and emotionally before enduring a traditionally stressful week.

On Saturday, March 4, 2023, each UIF and a resident advisor engaged in an eight-hour training to become certified Mental Health First Aiders. During this training session, participants became familiar with various mental health disorders, the sources of trauma, available mental health resources, and ways to assist stakeholders within our campus ecosystem that may experience mental health challenges. After the training, participants completed an assessment and received their certificates. Counseling Center Director Jerelene Carver shared that her office will ensure that additional students, especially resident advisors, become certified in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA).  

The Mental Health Wellness Week was launched during March 6-10, 2023. Empathetically realizing that numerous factors influence one’s mental health, we agreed to host 13 activities to aid our stakeholders in understanding the importance of self-care and how to improve it mentally and physically. We began our Mental Health Wellness Week Monday by offering yoga and ended the day by organizing a walk to the local YMCA. Those who joined the walk to the YMCA signed up for the free 7-day pass to access the gym amenities, excluding the pool. 

Tuesday morning, stakeholders learned how to implement self-care and health and wellness practices into their daily lives to enhance their academic and professional lifestyles through the Re-Creation, De-stressing in a Stressed-out World event. Later that night, they learned techniques to improve their financial literacy from our Senior Financial Aid Counselor Daniel Warari, followed by the Lets TACO Bout It, a table talk event led by the SGA.

Wednesday consisted of free massages, which allowed participants to fully relax and decompress before continuing their busy day, followed by a session on navigating through life’s difficult times, breaking through barriers, and learning how to survive. The final event for Wednesday was a dance-based workout to help with de-stressing.

Thursday also consisted of 3 events. The first event was Barbers for Bears. During this event, local barbers provided free haircuts to stakeholders. Partners with Paws was the next event where stakeholders interacted with therapy dogs to experience comfort, affection, and warmth to ease their anxiety, reduce stress and increase their joy. Next, it was time for stakeholders to wind down the evening through the Sip and Paint, an event catered by Thompson Hospitality. They provided stakeholders with high-quality service and individually customized, healthy smoothies while they enjoyed soothing, relaxing music!

The last day of the week ended with stakeholders learning how to cope with stress through various body-tapping techniques and affirmations that can be done in class or at work, followed by another dance-based workout session.

Results from oral and written feedback support that Mental Health Wellness Week was a success! One hundred eighty-six stakeholders participated in the week’s activities; most were students, and some attended multiple events or events numerous times (e.g., massages). After each event, stakeholders rated events on a 5-star scale. Ratings ranged from 4.43 (lowest) to 5 (highest). A survey was also sent to stakeholders; most were female respondents. Most of them rated the Sip and Paint event followed by the massages and Re-Creation, De-stressing in a Stressed-out World events. They shared that their mental health and/or physical health improved because of the events, and the events provided them with skills and strategies to cope with stressors. Most of them agreed (strongly agreed: 69% and agreed: 31%) that their overall mood improved after participating in their events, and most agreed (strongly agreed: 63% and agreed 31%) that they plan to make changes to their health and wellbeing as a result of the events. Results also support that they will attend another Mental Health Wellness Week, and most of them shared that we should host it twice a semester.

Our next steps are to host more Mental Health Wellness Weeks and increase the number of certified Mental Health First Aiders on our campus. We also want to partner with other HBCUs to increase culturally competent and targeted interventions to improve mental health and overall well-being on our campuses. Shaw University is setting an example for other HBCUs by prioritizing mental health care and wellness for our stakeholders and creating an environment where mental health care is not taboo but necessary for our survival. We challenge HBCUs to become a part of the UIF Program. Join us and follow our tracks!

The original article can be found in the Focusing on Belonging and Well Being section of the 2022-2023 Change Forward Journal— Visions and Voices of Higher Education’s Future.

The Pioneering Spirit

Lessons from my UIF experience

By Temitope Ajibola—University Innovation Fellow, Morgan State University

As I sat down to reflect upon my University Innovation Fellows journey, a lot of things came to mind, but one theme that resonated with my entire UIF experience is “the pioneering spirit.”

While I learned a lot from the different aspects of the program and the tools such as design thinking as an element for driving change, it was the UIF Silicon Valley Meetup, particularly the Ignite sessions (TED-style talks), that had the most impact on me. Hearing several Fellows share their passion and how they drove change in their communities ignited something in me, and I took that back to Morgan State University to birth the first-ever student-led hackathon, MorganHacks, that garnered attention even up to the office of the Vice President of the United States of America.

Mind you, my UIF team had launched “Bear Talks,” a signature event to drive conversations around entrepreneurship. I also had a personal vision of an event that could make Morgan State University a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship among other Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). I studied how several Ivy League institutions and Predominately White Institutions utilized the hackathon model to drive innovation on their campuses. The impact was as far-reaching as transforming the entire entrepreneurship ecosystem of cities, states, as well as an entire nation. Amazingly small startups grew to become powerhouses contributing massively to global development — one of which is GroupMe, developed in a University of Michigan hackathon, and acquired by Microsoft. I really felt something needed to be done quickly to engage the innovative potential in HBCUs.

“We took risks by venturing into uncharted territory, organizing a large-scale hackathon that had never been done before at our university. And we persevered through the challenges and setbacks, never losing sight of our ultimate goal.”

While the idea seemed daunting at first, I knew that with the pioneering spirit and the support of the UIF community, I could make it happen. Even before the Silicon Valley Meetup, I started tapping into the resources in the UIF community, especially people who had successfully organized hackathons on their campuses, seeking their guidance and support. This was particularly valuable when it was time to form a team because I now had insights into the type of people needed on the team and the best way to lead the team in order to obtain maximum results. Shortly after, we started working tirelessly to bring this vision to life.

The challenges were many. Securing funding, finding sponsors, coordinating logistics, and marketing the event were just a few of the hurdles we had to overcome. But with each obstacle, we found innovative solutions and pushed forward. We held countless meetings, developed a comprehensive plan, and rallied support from faculty, administrators, and corporate entities. Slowly but surely, the pieces started falling into place.

About a week before the hackathon, I attended the UIF Meetup; I was completely tired and needed every form of encouragement to carry on. I remember quickly leaving the last Ignite session to have a meeting with my team. It was there I began transferring the energy from the Meetup to my team members. Finally, the day of the hackathon arrived, and out of 300 students that we expected, we were able to gather 65 students from 8 universities in the United States (Morgan State University, Stevens Institute of Technology, Howard University, Bowie State University, Goucher College, Johns Hopkins, Maryland University and Coppin State University) and 1 university in India (Jaypee University of Engineering and Technology); and they all gathered at Morgan State University, ready to showcase their skills and creativity. The atmosphere was electric, filled with excitement and anticipation. It was a true testament to the power of collaboration and the potential within diverse communities.

Photo by Morgan State University

Throughout the event, I couldn’t help but think about the words of Ibn al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, who once wrote, “Success comes to those who dare to dream, to take risks, and to persevere.” This quote resonated with me deeply as I witnessed the impact of our pioneering spirit. We dared to dream of creating a platform for innovation and entrepreneurship in an HBCU where similar experiences were not readily available. We took risks by venturing into uncharted territory, organizing a large-scale hackathon that had never been done before at our university. And we persevered through the challenges and setbacks, never losing sight of our ultimate goal.

Looking back on my University Innovation Fellows journey, I am filled with gratitude for the experiences and lessons it has brought me. I learned the importance of dreaming big, taking risks, and never underestimating the power of collaboration. The pioneering spirit is not limited to any particular field or industry—it is a mindset that can be applied to any endeavor, big or small.

As I continue on my path, I carry the lessons from my UIF experience with me. I am committed to embodying the pioneering spirit and using it to create positive change in my community and beyond. And I encourage others to do the same, for it is through our collective efforts that we can truly make a difference.

The original article can be found in the Helping Students Engage and Lead section of the 2022-2023 Change Forward Journal— Visions and Voices of Higher Education’s Future.

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.