Meetup Reflections: Creating Change Together


350 University Innovation Fellows and faculty traveled to the Bay Area for the 2019 Silicon Valley Meetup.

Nearly 350 University Innovation Fellows and faculty traveled to the Bay Area for the 2019 Silicon Valley Meetup, March 21-25, to learn new ways to create change in higher education. Our UIF team was thrilled to host so many amazing changemakers at Stanford University and Google for four learning-packed days.

This is the seventh (!) Silicon Valley Meetup we’ve held, and we wanted to try something different for this year’s event blog post. The Meetup wouldn’t be possible without 24 Fellows who served as Fabs (short for “fabulous”). These Fabs were bus team leaders, facilitators, mentors, speakers, event organizers and friends. We asked the Fabs for their reflections on different parts of the Meetup to provide an insider’s look at the action, adventure and learning.

Day 1: The first moments of the Meetup

By Carolina Vassallucci, University of Montevideo

The magic began when the Fellows registered in one of the rooms of the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Thursday afternoon. There were six tables decorated according to different teams that represented superheroes: Avengers, X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther, The Justice League and Fantastic Four. Each team was represented by four Fabs and had its table decorated according to their superhero team.

When the Fellows entered the room, all the Fabs shouted the name of their group and danced uncontrollably. What was the goal? To spread the energy from the very beginning, while doing simultaneous activities: checking who arrived, and giving them custom name badges, notebooks and UIF stickers. Fabs answered questions regarding dress code and agenda, and fielded comments about the excitement and anxiety for the days that were approaching.

Day 2: Google and a culture of innovation

By Jessica Aldrich, Wichita State University

Standing on the roof of Google helping set up one of the iconic Silicon Valley Meetup photos, I observed the formation of a community of individuals who had only met a few hours prior.

Fellows attending the Meetup spent their first full day at Google where they heard from Frederik Pferdt, the Chief Innovation Evangelist at Google, and were empowered to believe that they were ready to change the world. They were inspired by Daniel Holle from Loon, Ciela Hartanov from The Google School for Leaders, and Reena Jana, Head of Product & Business Inclusion Strategy at Google. They learned to build psychological safety within their teams and this community. After reflecting on the day with the Wichita State University Fellows, they shared with me some profound insights and takeaways:

“Become a leader when necessary, but not always. Be your own person, but work with your team too.”

“As soon as you shift your perspective, you change what you see.”

“Have courage to step into the unknown.”

This cohort of Fellows transformed from unsure about the day ahead (they were greeted with high fives at 8 am) to feeling like a deep community that embraced everyone when the buses rolled off Google campus at the end of the day. They had learned insights from industry leaders, experienced their first round of Fab ignites (short talks about their passions, challenges and activities as Fellows), and developed deep friendships that continued to grow over the rest of the week.

Day 3: Reimagining learning at Stanford

By Sienna George, Boise State University

On Saturday, Fellows experienced what it mean to “reimagine learning” through a day of experiential activities and a culminating unconference. They learned to test their own boundaries of what it means to learn and the potential they have to contribute to the learning landscapes at their own colleges and universities.

Throughout the day, Fellows embraced dance with Aleta Hayes from Stanford as a means by which to cultivate empathy for self-and-other and got inspired to challenge their own comfort zones. They engaged with the concept of space as a catalyst for connection and creativity using the d.school book Make Space as a guide for creating collaborative spaces. They learned public speaking and how to present themselves with confidence from Dan Klein of Stanford. They got “stoked” as they practiced how to reinvigorate mindsets and learned to energize others, and ultimately, embraced their own “true colors,” as they understood their leadership attributes and values, and how to collaborate with others during the “Six Thinking Hats” activity. The day’s culminating unconference presented students with the opportunity to couple their knowledge with an experience to share their own wisdom, demonstrating what it means to truly reimagine learning by contributing their brightest ideas for the future landscape of higher education.

As a Fab, my greatest take-away from the day was watching students transform their mindset from one of “I can’t do that,” or “that’s not for me,” into a mindset of “anything is possible,” and “that’s mine to make the most of,” embodying the spirit of true student agency.

Day 4: Designing for the future

By Sam Warach, University of New Hampshire

Sunday featured several inspirational speakers: Lisa Kay Solomon, designer in residence at the d.school; Alberto Savoia, Co-Founder of Agitar Software and former Google Innovation Agitator, who covered topics such as his concept of “Pretotyping”; Holley Murchison, founder of Oratory Glory, who talked about the importance of your personal brand and story; and Eric Edward Schell of Pride Portraits.

In the morning there were a series of panels featuring Fellows who had graduated and were in the workforce. During this, I had the opportunity to share my journey of growing my own startup NextStep HealthTech, and the launch of our mobile health software product, Hey NextStep. After the panel sessions, Fellows regrouped with members from their home universities to design system changes they would plan to implement upon their return. Students in my workshop group from India decided they were going to create a design club at their home university to cultivate positive change in their community.

In the afternoon, I personally had the honor to deliver a talk called “Take the NextStep: Harness the Power of Tenacity” to the attendees to share my experience as a Fellow working to create impact both in my Alma Mater community at the University of New Hampshire, and in the Behavioral Healthcare Industry after graduation with NextStep HealthTech.

I feel confident to say we will see the emerging leaders who have gone through the University Innovation Fellows program implement solutions to pressing problems, and change the world for the better.

Marvelous Monday adventures

By Vanessa Ganaden, California State University, Fullerton

On Monday morning, participants were given the opportunity to select one of six destinations: Stanford innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E) programs; the Garage at Microsoft Silicon Valley; Sustainable U (Stanford Sustainable Food Program); K-12 education at the Nueva School Innovation Lab; startup culture at Handshake headquarters; and a reflection at the Golden Gate Bridge.

I was a facilitator for the Stanford I&E program adventure. It was a fascinating look into how Stanford promotes I&E in the programs that they offer within the campus. For the first part, we explored how the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP) promotes entrepreneurship within Stanford’s School of Engineering. Then we took a look into how extreme and innovative thinking is being used to create social impact in the world’s poorest countries with the d.school’s “Design for Extreme Affordability” class. After those two programs, we participated in a workshop entitled “Designing with Machine Learning” with a goal to democratize machine learning through the use of design systems to create human-centric solutions.

When we say “innovation and entrepreneurship,” it can be hard to connect with, not because we don’t understand the importance of the topics, but rather it can be challenging to connect them  with our real world. Today’s activity showed me and the other Fellows that innovation and entrepreneurship are applied very deeply to the things that we care about, from social issues to new technologies such as machine learning. It also demonstrated that Design Thinking is a universal methodology that can transcend disciplines, technology and cultures to solve problems that change the world.

Lifelong connections

By Trevor Clevenger, Colorado School of Mines

There were hundreds of college students from around the world here for the Meetup. It was so inspiring to see people from such different backgrounds collaborating on how to make their campuses a better place. A lot of the students were noticeably shy at first, but you could tell that everyone opened up substantially as the weekend went on. By the end of the Meetup, real connections were being made that these students can carry with them for the rest of their lives.

What it means to be a Fab

By Jonathan Puhl, University of North Dakota

During our time as Fabs for this year’s Silicon Valley Meetup, we came to understand the true meaning of community. We helped orchestrate, implement, and keep the Meetup running, while helping any faculty or students with their needs. Our role seems to be a combination of facilitator and organizer mixed together.

While doing all the tasks associated with these descriptions, we also give ignite talks to the 350 attendees. Some topics included our questioning whether we are “just” students, overcoming incredible odds, and difficult happenings in our lives. We hope that these talks inspired the attendees do even more incredible things.

One thought we came away with this year wasn’t just that we got to be Fabs at the Meetup, but that through our involvement, we got to help others achieve their goals, simply by being able to tell our story, have a chat, or give them ideas to implement on their campus. This “role” is an amazing experience to bring our UIF skills to a different level and implement our learning through the UIF program and our lives, into a community focused purpose to help others do even greater things.

Life lessons

By Omri Gal, Swarthmore College

I learned how important it is to share your story. You never know who it will affect, and how. By sharing, you are able to connect with others and form deep and meaningful relationships. Working with the other FABs was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I have never worked with such an incredible group of people, and it taught me how important it is to surround yourself with empathetic, and caring people.

UIFamily forever!

By Daniel Kleinman, University of Florida, Leidos

Between my parents’ divorce when I was 13 and my dad and grandmother passing away when I was 23, the feeling of being a part of a family unit has not been much of a constant in my life. Feeling like I actually belonged to something (more than just being involved) created this raw, deep sense of connection that was something that I rarely, if ever, had felt in my life.

Being a Fab and part of this UIFamily was not just about feeling the love and support that comes with being surrounded by such amazing people, but truly how humbling it is to know that everyone is there for you on a deeper level, without a shred of doubt. There is certainly a practice of what we preach with empathy, passion, and inspiration for one another. There’s an unspoken confidence in the quality and commitment to these connections that makes them much more than friendships – and that’s when I knew I had found my UIFamily… and now they can’t get rid of me if they tried!

6 Life Lessons I Learned During Spring Break At Google: How a day in Silicon Valley changed my perspective

Written by DJ Jeffries, University Innovation Fellow from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

This post first appeared in Odyssey on Mar 23, 2016.

When you say, “spring break,” most college students probably think martinis and tiny weeny bikinis, but my spring break was nothing like that. I had the great fortune of spending a day at Google in Mountain View, CA as a University Innovation Fellow (UIF). My break included spending time with some of the brightest and driven individuals in the country. There, we had a fantastic, inspiring and enlightening time led by University Innovation staff and fellows, in partnership with Google employees. There were so many great ideas presented and I wish I could share them all, but here are six things that applied directly to my experience as a college student.

1. Think, Act, Do Intentionally

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Walking into Google, I had no idea what to expect, except for that I’d be blown away. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. At Google, we were asked to step outside of our comfort zones and do a variety of tasks that required us to work with people that many of us had never met before. We were asked to brainstorm great, and sometimes life-changing, ideas in just a matter of minutes. We did not have time to do things without purpose. As a result, anything we thought or did needed to be intentional. In terms of life, think about things you do regularly and question them. Ask yourself do these things matter and/or what purpose do they serve?

4. Take Your Well-being Seriously

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From what I saw during my limited time at Google, as a company, they take wellbeing extremely seriously. As part of our day, we had a member of the mindfulness team come lead us in a mindfulness exercise. If Google is willing to invest money in the wellbeing (physical, mental and emotional) of their employees, you can assume that it’s pretty important. Quality work starts with you. To be a better you, you need to make a better you. Be conscious, be purposeful, and above all, take your wellbeing seriously.

5. Be Flexible

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One of the most provoking exercises for me was also one of the most simple. It was something we all know: Rock, Paper, Scissors. But there was a twist. Three-hundred students in a room played and they set out to find a single champion. They knew there’d be losers, and that was part of the twist. If you lost, you become the biggest fan of the person who won. It ended up becoming the most intense games of Rock, Paper, Scissors that I’ve ever experienced. But what was really cool was that even though the majority of us lost, we were eager to cheer for those who beat us. We wanted them to win. The life lesson there is to be flexible. Realize that your idea might not always be the winning idea but if you cheer for the person who does win, you win. And if you’re lucky, you win big!

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail Quickly (and Often)

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The last thing I got from Google is to not let a fear of failure control you. Be motivated by the idea that you might fail, and as a result, you’ll receive a unique opportunity to learn from it. Don’t be discouraged or fearfully cautious. Be driven by dreams and not fears. Go out and do the right thing!

 

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DJ Jeffries (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Bio)

Scholar, Innovator and Entrepreneur. Harmony above all.

Hypothesis Affirmed! Greenville, SC Ignited By Southeastern Regional Meetup

Last week, we tested our hypothesis that we could bring together a group of Fellows with other college students interested in creativity, innovation and design thinking and replicate the energy of our Annual Meetup at Google and Stanford at a place very far from Silicon Valley. We chose Greenville, South Carolina. Why? Because two of our star University Innovation Fellows happen to be in that region: Ben Riddle of Furman University, and Bre Przestrzelski of Clemson University, and their amazingly supportive faculty sponsors Ross McClain (Department Chair, Art, Furman) and John Desjardin (Associate Professor, Bioengineering, Clemson). What ensued gave strong support to our hypothesis.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/epicenterusa/sets/72157648089466547/player/

Ben and Bre’s work analyzing the Furman and Clemson Innovation & Entrepreneurship ecosystem informed their strategic plans to enhance that ecosystem (Furman Student Priorities, Clemson Student Priorities). They completed this work last year, over a 6-week WebEx-based program to become University Innovation Fellows and, as part of their training, flew to Google Headquarters and Stanford’s world-renowned d.school (the Hasso Plattner Design Institute). Over three days, 88 Fellows from all over the nation soaked up the innovation culture in Silicon Valley and discussed ways to lead a movement in student innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship on their campuses (March 2014 agenda, and photos). The Annual Meetup was transformative; both Ben and Bre saw the opportunity to replicate the magic and attract peers on campus.

Again, why Greenville? Program leaders, over the year that followed, discovered just how cool of a community Greenville, SC is, as both Fellows reported back the success and overwhelming support they received from institutional and community leaders. Greenville has a strong history of public-private partnership dating back to the entrepreneurial Mayor Max, under whose leadership the city attracted a major Hotel Chain and narrowed a four-lane thoroughfare into the charming downtown Main Street filled with great restaurants, culture, art and more. So, when the pair invited Epicenter and its founders, Stanford University and VentureWell, to co-facilitate design thinking and lean startup sessions with local experts, program leaders enthusiastically agreed. Thus was born the plan for the…

Southeastern Regional Meetup, Hosted by Clemson University and Furman University

SEregionalsmallEpicenter organizers, University Innovation Fellow program leaders and Fellows flew in from California, Massachusetts, Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, New York and the Virgin Islands. Fellows drove from North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and even as far away as Michigan and Massachusetts! They were joined by 20 Furman and 20 Clemson students. All had one thing in common: a desire to learn the techniques of design thinking and lean startup, two approaches used to develop strong human-centered ideas and develop scalable business models around them. Using real-world issues from the Greenville community, students applied new-found techniques in observation, empathy, brainstorming, prototyping, customer segmentation & value proposition development.

Students developed low-resolution prototypes and articulated real opportunities to improve Greenville – a more friendly main street and redesigning the eating experience. Students learned by doing and they discovered that their entrepreneurial mindset could be honed on real-world challenges in their local community. On the flip side, community members saw students as motivated and capable individuals who bring a fresh-perspective and an open mind to arrive at highly innovative and achievable solutions to their challenges. One student openly remarked during the debrief, “I learned more this weekend than in the entire semester,” a sentiment often heard by many who first encounter hands-on and experiential learning opportunities. The mood at the reception with community and academic leaders was one you’d see at a sporting event, as evident by the Bear Ninja Cowboy video posted below. This kind of enthusiasm for learning can transform our nation’s higher education institutions. We look forward to replicating this success in Washington D.C. and at UMD on November 1st and 2nd, ringing in National Entrepreneurship Month with an invitation only Meetup for 100 University Innovation Fellows. More on that soon!

~ Humera Fasihuddin, Co-director, University Innovation Fellows (on behalf of Leticia Britos Cavagnaro, Katie Dzugan & Laurie Moore)

A Big THANK YOU to our Collaborators and Supporters

We are extremely grateful to the many local community members, without whom, this past weekend would not have been possible:

Design Thinkers Group USA, especially Joel, Marc and Susan, for their tremendous efforts in co-designing and co-facilitating a two-day experiential learning experience with our colleague Leticia Britos Cavagnaro from Stanford.

John Desjardin, Clemson, for his awesome giant room-sized Business Model Canvas exercise, imparting Lean Startup skills to participants in an experiential way (and his moral support).

Ross McClain, Furman, for forging an unprecedented partnership between a liberal arts institution and a major research university (and his moral support).

OpenWorks, for being so accommodating and allowing us to use their open work space for our activities on Friday (see agenda below).

Greenville Health System, especially to Robin, for joining us to discuss what you should never do in an interview — and making it funny.

Clemson MBA at ONE, for giving us access to their swanky new space on Main Street.

Also a special shout out to Envision SC, the Spiro Institute, Ten at the Top, SCBio and all of our additional facilitators and guests of honor.

Fellows Southeastern Regional Meetup Collaborators and Sponsors

Fellows Southeastern Regional Meetup Collaborators and Sponsors

Fellows Southeastern Regional Meetup Agenda

Fellows Southeastern Regional Meetup Agenda

A Quiet Revolution In Greenville, SC

A quiet revolution is taking hold in Greenville, SC, led by students at Clemson and Furman. Described by some as “A post recession ‘power to the people movement,” students are recognizing the gap between skills acquired at college and those needed by Google, Apple, Microsoft and other growing employers in the nation. The gap can be narrowed by hands-on and experiential learning opportunities. University Innovation Fellows have made it their mission to reach all students, across all majors, to join the movement.

Join us at the Southeastern Regional Meetup on Friday, October 3 through Sunday, October 5. And remember Fellows: we have your hotel rooms covered! You just need to get yourself there.

This event is hosted by the University Innovation Fellows in collaboration with Bre Przestrzelski of Clemson University and Ben Riddle of Furman University.

Forty lucky Clemson and Furman students will join University Innovation Fellows from across the nation in a day and a half of play that will ignite Greenville and the surrounding community.Students will participate in design thinking and lean methods on real challenges in the surrounding ecosystem that inspire their passion.

One lucky Clemson and Furman student who participates in the entire regional meetup will be invited to attend the University Innovation Fellows Annual Meetup at Google Headquarters and Stanford’s D.School in the Silicon Valley on February 19-22, 2014.

Fellows and invited guests: Register for the Southeastern Regional Meetup today!