What Does Entrepreneurship Mean to You?

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy features the University Innovation Fellows Program during National Entrepreneurship Month.

In his Presidential Proclamation of National Entrepreneurship Month 2016, President Barack Obama writes: “Through their intrepid sense of possibility and resilience, and their unwillingness to give in or give up, entrepreneurs from every walk of life make invaluable contributions to the American experience — turning bold ideas into real progress.”

Replace the word “entrepreneurs” with “University Innovation Fellows” in that sentence, and add a dash of higher education, and you’d be describing the student leaders in our program. Since this program’s inception four years ago, our community of student and faculty change agents has been inspired by the Obama administration’s commitment to supporting America’s innovators, entrepreneurs and inventors.

This is why our community celebrates presidentially-declared National Entrepreneurship Month and National Entrepreneurs Day each November. The Fellows use their entrepreneurial mindset to drive lasting change in higher education. Their mission is to help all young people realize that it is critically important to hone their entrepreneurial mindset. Fellows help their peers develop these skills in school no matter what paths they pursue, from starting a new venture to making an impact in their hometown to helping their company develop a new product. Hear what entrepreneurship means to Fellows in a video commemorating National Entrepreneurship Month:

In previous years the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has featured the work of our Fellows during National Entrepreneurship Month (see this article from 2014 and this article from 2013), the White House Science Fair (see this article from 2015), and the White House Demo Day (see this article from 2015).

Today, OSTP has published a list of entrepreneurship-related accomplishments during President Obama’s administration, which features the University Innovation Fellows program. Read the fact sheet here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/11/30/fact-sheet-celebrating-president-obamas-top-10-actions-advance.

As our program expands to new schools around the country and the world, we will continue to invest in the future of higher education by supporting our community of changemakers. As President Obama writes in the closing of his declaration, “an investment in that future can start as something small and turn into something great.”

– The University Innovation Fellows team: Humera, Leticia, Katie and Laurie

White House Demo Day, Higher Education Commitment Letter

For Immediate Release
August 4, 2015

Media contact:
Laurie Moore
Communications Manager, Epicenter
(650) 561-6113

Higher education leaders send letters to President Obama

with commitment to expand innovation and entrepreneurship offerings

August 4, 2015 — In letters of commitment shared with President Barack Obama on the first-ever White House Demo Day, 30 institutions committed to actions that will expand innovation and entrepreneurship education offerings in order to enhance the economic potential of colleges and universities and better prepare students to create products that benefit humankind.

The White House Demo Day showcases talented innovators from across the country to demonstrate the value of giving all Americans the opportunity to pursue their bold, game-changing ideas. The event was hosted by President Obama and took place at the White House.

To support this effort, the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter) gathered institutional commitments to expand innovation and entrepreneurship education by means of a signed letter shared with President Obama on Demo Day. Epicenter is funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Stanford University and VentureWell.

The letter collected signatures from leaders, faculty and students at 30 institutions. These supporters committed to one or more of eight key actions aimed at providing students of all majors on campus access to innovation and entrepreneurship learning opportunities. These commitments include advancing team-based learning that tackles real world problems, integrating underserved populations into the innovation ecosystem, celebrating faculty and student entrepreneurial outcomes, and supporting innovative faculty teaching practices.

Schools included in the initiative to date are:

  1. Bucknell University
  2. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
  3. Case Western Reserve University
  4. Clark Atlanta University
  5. Clark University
  6. Clemson University
  7. Georgetown University
  8. Illinois Institute of Technology
  9. New Mexico State University
  10. New York Institute of Technology
  11. New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering
  12. North Dakota State University
  13. Olin College of Engineering
  14. Temple University
  15. Tennessee Technological University
  16. Universidad del Turabo
  17. University of Alabama
  18. University of Maryland
  19. University of Michigan
  20. University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  21. University of New Haven
  22. University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  23. University of Oregon
  24. University of Pittsburgh
  25. University of Portland
  26. University of Texas Arlington
  27. University of Wisconsin Milwaukee
  28. William Jewell College
  29. Wingate University
  30. Albemarle County Public Schools (K12)

Five individuals representing Epicenter’s University Innovation Fellows program are attending the White House Demo Day in support of the letter. There, they will share the initiatives they are collaborating on with their school’s leaders to address the goals put forth in the letter.

This letter was supported by organizations including the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE), Engineers Without Borders and Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS).

Read the letter on the White House website.

About Epicenter:

The National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter) is funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Stanford University and VentureWell. Epicenter’s mission is to empower U.S. undergraduate engineering students to bring their ideas to life for the benefit of our economy and society. To do this, Epicenter helps students combine their technical skills, their ability to develop innovative technologies that solve important problems, and an entrepreneurial mindset and skillset. Epicenter’s three core initiatives are the University Innovation Fellows program for undergraduate engineering students and their peers; the Pathways to Innovation Program for institutional teams of faculty and university leaders; and the Fostering Innovative Generations Studies research program that informs activities and contributes to national knowledge on entrepreneurship and engineering education. Learn more and get involved at epicenter.stanford.edu.

About Stanford University:

At Stanford University, the Epicenter collaboration is managed by the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP), the entrepreneurship center in Stanford’s School of Engineering. STVP delivers courses and extracurricular programs to Stanford students, creates scholarly research on high-impact technology ventures, and produces a large and growing collection of online content and experiences for people around the world. Visit us online at stvp.stanford.edu.

About VentureWell:

VentureWell was founded in 1995 as the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) and rebranded in 2014 to underscore its impact as an education network that cultivates revolutionary ideas and promising inventions. A not-for-profit organization reaching more than 200 universities, VentureWell is the leader in funding, training, coaching and early investment that brings student innovations to market. Inventions created by VentureWell grantees are reaching millions of people in more than 50 countries and helping to solve some of our greatest 21st century challenges. Visit www.venturewell.org to learn how we inspire students, faculty and investors to transform game-changing ideas into solutions for people and the planet.

What Role Can Students Play in Attracting & Retaining their STEM Peers?

#BigBeacon Twitter Chat – April 22, 2015

Join the conversation at 8 p.m. EST.
Tweeting as @epicenterusa, using the #BigBeacon.

Preparing college graduates for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is a national education priority in the United States. According to a report published by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, fewer than 40 percent of students who enter college intending to major in a STEM field actually complete a STEM degree. Many organizations have been working to address this issue on the national level, and higher education administrators and faculty are working on ways to attract and retain more STEM students on an institutional level.

This article was originally posted on bigbeacon.org. To read the full post, please follow this link.

Higher Education Maker Summit @ ASU, October 23-24

The University Innovation Fellows are excited to take part in the upcoming Higher Education Maker Summit. The event is the inaugural convening of 150 higher education institutions that recently committed to creating maker spaces, as part of the first-ever White House Maker Faire. Once realized, these maker spaces will provide thousands of people  access to the tools and skills that 21st century makers, creators, inventors and innovators need to be successful.

Fellows attending the event will speak to student-led strategies they’ve employed to create innovation spaces quickly and cheaply to begin innovation activities on campus. Often times this programming and community building has attracted the much-needed investment campuses need from alumni and state sources. Investment in student engagement strategies has had a profound affect in creating vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems. Attend this important Summit to learn more about strategies that University Innovation Fellows are employing to bring about these lasting ecosystem enhancements.

Read about our Berkeley University Innovation Fellows success in developing innovation spaces on this earlier blog post.

For more about the summit visit http://entrepreneurship.asu.edu/makersummit/.

– Humera Fasihuddin

Summer 2014 Updates

Dear Fellows,

We can hardly believe that school is back in session – and we’re almost half way through training! We hope all of you enjoyed your summer endeavors and are settling back into campus life and managing your course loads this fall. As we catch up with you individually, we’d like to recap what we have been up to this summer:

National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges for Engineering
April 30 – June 1, 2014

UIFs & Dan Mote, National Academy of Engineering

UIFs & Dan Mote, National Academy of Engineering

Our first event of the summer was hosted at the National Academy of Engineering in Washington D.C. During these two days, Fellows discussed the 14 Grand Challenges identified by the Grand Challenge Scholar’s Program (GCSP) alongside deans from institutions across the country. Karuna Relwani (UPitt) presented on the student panel with students from Engineers Without Borders (EWB), Engineering Projects In Community Service (EPICS) and the GCSP. Each student discussed their experience with these programs at their institution and also their key learnings from being exposed to experiential engineering. Megna Saha (Georgia Tech), Mary Wilcox (ASU Tempe), Yifan Ge (Bucknell), Valerie Sherry (UMD College Park), Ben Riddle (Furman), Lauren Distler (James Madison), Natalia von Windheim (NC State) and Corey Brugh (Colorado School of Mines) joined as well to light the fire for these deans to commit to creating change on their campus. The outcome of these two days was 66 deans signatures that solidified their commitment to bringing visibility to the Grand Challenges on their campus. For more information, visit dreamdesigndeliver.org to see a video of the commitment that Fellows made and additional articles written by both Megna and Mary after this event.

Deshpande Symposium for Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Higher Education
June 10 -12, 2014

UIFs & Desh Deshpande, Deshpande Symposium

UIFs & Desh Deshpande, Deshpande Symposium

Back in June, Humera and I hoped in a car and met Nate Smialek (UPitt), Mary Wilcox (ASU Tempe), Rob Soloman (UWMilwaukee), Ben Riddle (Furman), Bre Przestrzelski (Clemson) and Valerie Sherry (UMD College Park) in Lowell, Massachusetts for the Deshpande Symposium. We also conveniently saw Kevin Desjardins (UMass Lowell) and his faculty sponsor Tom O’Donnell. The Deshpande Symposium is designed around innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems, curriculum, commercialization and trending topics. Fellows facilitated a session titled: Students: Secret Agents of Change. Fellows discussed their path to serving as campus change agents and offered tips on how to foster student engagement. We had two faculty sponsors join us: Ross McClain of Furman University and Ilya Avdeev of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. To add to the discussion, the faculty spoke to their approaches in cultivating a faculty sponsor-Fellow relationship and how they were supporting their Fellows strategies for change on campus. In addition, we got to visit UMass Lowell’s M2D2, a Medical Device Development Center; the New England Robotics Validation and Experimentation (NERVE) Center; and Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center (ETIC).

EurekaFest 2014
June 20 – 21, 2014

Katie Dzugan, UIF Program Associate (left) & Fellow Hristina Milojevic, Union College at EurekaFest 2014.

Katie Dzugan, UIF Program Associate (left) & Fellow Hristina Milojevic, Union College at EurekaFest 2014.

EurekaFest is an MIT and Lemelson Foundation sponsored event hosted at MIT in June. InvenTeams are high school student teams invited to showcase their work from the year throughout the day in various formats — presentations and a demonstration. Student Inventions included a robotic snowblower to a pedal desk that created energy to light up a classroom to a reinvented irrigation and water system. In the evening, were the collegiate prizes which showcased the winners of two categories, “Cure it!” and “Use it!” The Lemelson-MIT student prize winners presented their technology-based inventions that were designed to improve healthcare and consumer devices and tools. The winners ranged from an easily accessible classroom 3D printer to a device that helped people monitor glucose levels. We were joined by Hristina Milojevic (Union), Natalia von Windheim (NC State) and Malik Oliver (Fayetteville) and also received a tour of the amazing MIT Media Lab. The MIT Media Lab is THE. ULTIMATE. MAKER SPACE.  Any undergraduate student that wants to support the work of the many research teams within the media lab can do so with ease. Imagine this at every campus.


Epicenter Research Summit
August 4 – 5, 2014

Cooking Up New Research Ideas: With Students, About Students; Epicenter Research Summit 2014

Cooking Up New Research Ideas: With Students, About Students; Epicenter Research Summit 2014

Fast forwarding to August, several students joined us at the Epicenter Research Summit held at Stanford’s d.school. Fellows in attendance were Hristina Milojevic (Union), Bre Przestrzelski (Clemson), Gurlovleen Rathore (Texas A&M), Ben Riddle (Furman), Elliot Roth (Virginia Commonwealth), Valerie Sherry (UMD College Park) and Gregory Wilson (University of Georgia). Along with program leaders, Fellows co-facilitated a session titled, Cooking Up New Research Ideas: With Students, About Students. We were extremely impressed with how each Fellow stepped up and truly helped plan and lead this session for an audience of roughly 70 researchers.


Researchers saw first hand that students were much more than research subjects and recipients of education. They could be active partners and co-designers of their educational experience. After a high-level program summary, researchers joined four

Valerie Sherry (UMD) during UIIF breakout groups; Epicenter Research Summit 2014

Valerie Sherry (UMD) during UIIF breakout groups; Epicenter Research Summit 2014

breakout groups, each led by a pair of University Innovation Fellows. They explored two research threads of interest to students:

  1. The what, who and why of successful I&E spaces for students: maker spaces, incubators, accelerators; and
  2. Personal and contextual factors that support the success of UIFs as change agents.

As a result of their participation, Fellows have reportedly joined together to undertake research projects with one another and with Researchers.  For more information on the Summit, click here.



Training, Fall 2014
August 25 – October 4, 2014

Fall 2014 Training Orientation; August 25

Fall 2014 Training Orientation; August 25

We have launched our Fall training! Much of our summer was consumed by application intake, interviews and planning training for the fall cohort. During the afternoon of Monday, August 25, over the course of 3 hours, we held a successful orientation session via Blue Jeans with over 80 participants, including new candidates, faculty sponsors and Epicenter staff!  In those 3 hours, we had an overview of the University Innovation Fellows mission, a faculty-only orientation discussing cultivating a strong candidate-faculty sponsor relationship and two breakout sessions for students before we convened to a close. So far, candidates have covered design thinking and have interviewed current Fellows to create 30 new how-to guides on the Wiki. This week they are surveying the ecosystem and delivering the first draft of their landscape canvases! Training will also cover spaces of innovation, the lean approach, students’ strategic priorities and finish with their strategies to give voice to student priorities for Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

Student IP Mission

Caleb Carr (UC Denver) has done an amazing job of getting Fellows involved to push the national agenda of student intellectual property issues. As a team, these Fellows are creating a full campaign, including a website, a petition, a Facebook and indiegogo page — even drafting bill language for the Higher Education Reauthorization Act that went up for revision this August. The following is a request for additional help from Caleb Carr (caleb.carr@ucdenver.edu):

I wanted to thank each and every one of you for your work and support these last couple weeks while pushing this very important initiative. We really are starting to lift a new leaf on the topic surrounding undergraduate/master’s research, innovation, and entrepreneurship. I am emailing you all to request some help. We need help in the following areas:

  • ​​Logo Development
  • Marketing
  • Social Media Management
  • Lobbying
  • Podcast development

If any of you have specific strengths that would help us in these specific areas and would be willing to put some time in it would be greatly appreciated. As always, if you have any questions or concerns please dont hesitate to contact me via email or phone. <End Message>

**Please note that this initiative is not directly supported by Epicenter or it’s affiliated partners: the National Science Foundation, Stanford University and the NCIIA.**

Meeting with NAB board members — Key Takeaways

Susan Brennan; Epicenter Research Summit 2014

Susan Brennan; Epicenter Research Summit 2014

Humera, Leticia and I met with three of the Fellows National Advisory Board Members — President Rick Miller of Olin College, Susan Brennan of Bloom Energy and Steve Blank of Lean Launchpad and Stanford. Our initial meeting included three Fellows: Bre Przestrzelski (Clemson), Ben Riddle (Furman) and Jaime Arribas (Morgan State). Way to represent! They discussed the projects they are implementing on their campus and what being a Fellow means to them. We met with Susan Brennan in California, just after the Epicenter Research Summit to discuss future strategies for the Fellows program.


(left to right) Katie Dzugan, Humera Fasihuddin & Leticia Britos Cavagnaro; Olin College 2014

(left to right) Katie Dzugan, Humera Fasihuddin & Leticia Britos Cavagnaro; Olin College 2014

Later in August, we had a wonderful visit from Leticia — she came to Massachusetts this time! During her stay we visited President Rick Miller at Olin College, had a wonderful tour from an undergraduate engineering student and also had lunch to meet a few key faculty members.

In other news: please keep up with the google group, where we frequently post travel opportunities for Fellows to travel around the nation with us and represent the national movement. We also hope you are available to join us for one of the two Regional Meetups this fall — Southeast: Greenville, SC (October 3&4) and Northeast: UMD College Park (early November).

Fellows Make Statements of Commitment at National Academy of Engineering, Washington D.C.

Ten University Innovation Fellows flew to DC this week and made a statement of commitment to organize students on their campus to address the Grand Challenges. These statements were delivered at a workshop entitled ‘Educating Engineers to Meet the Grand Challenges’ held at the National Academy of Engineering in Washington D.C. on May 1, 2014 (apologies for the grainy video).

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvZI6s4n7a8&w=560&h=315]


The meeting was designed to identify best practices for preparing students to address the Grand Challenges. The meeting included a keynote address by Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation White House Office of Science & Technology Policy as well as panel discussion and breakout sessions with Academic, Program, Industry and Student Leaders. The intended result was a consortium of engineering schools committed to sharing practices for providing their students/members with an engineering education that includes elements such as learning through service, global perspectives, practical applications, entrepreneurship, and aspects of policy and human behavior.

Convening organizations:

National Academy of Engineering

Engineers Without Borders USA

Epicenter’s University Innovation Fellows Program
http://epicenter.stanford.edu and


For more information about this event, visit http://www.nae.edu/102159.aspx