Global Partnerships

The UIF Regional Meetup at Vasireddy Venkatadri Institute of Technology (VVIT), held January 30-February 2, 2020, brought together Fellows from around the country for three days of design challenges, activities and speakers.

By the VVIT UIF team

What do you get when you bring together 60 Fellows from across India for three days of design challenges and activities? The UIF Regional Meetup at VVIT! 

After a short evening of registration and introductory activities, the first full day started with an inauguration session presided by M. Sree Krishna (Joint Secretary Academics), Y. Mallikarjuna Reddy (Principal), K. Giri Babu (Principal in charge) and Ghanashyam Shankar (UIF India program manager). A lamp lighting ceremony also followed. 

The sessions started off with an activity called Imagination Station to bring out the creativity of the Fellows. They drew figures according to the instructions given by the facilitator, discovering a unique pattern of drawings from everyone even when the instructions and the facilitator were the same. This activity was followed by ignites from Fellows Anukruthi Atluri from VR Siddhartha Engineering College and Sai Kumar Natukla from VCIT. The next session, Strength of Strings, helped the participants become aware of various leadership qualities, where the facilitator used Marvel superheroes to explain personalities of leadership. 

The afternoon session started with speakers: Sri Venkat S. Medapati from APNRT (Andhra Pradesh Non-Resident Telugu Society) discussed career, job and cultural perspectives around living abroad compared to India; and Abhay Rangan from Goodmylk spoke about his startup and cleared doubts for attendees regarding the market, customer segmentation, financial support, and more. 

After the speakers, the participants went outside! They took part in a prototyping exercise called Learning in the Lawn. Here’s how it went:

  1. The participants were divided into groups, and each was asked to use prototyping materials to make the tallest tower in the given time. This first step was designed to help the participants understand how communication and effective teamwork are important for development.
  2. They were asked to make the tallest towers again, but this time, each participant could use only one hand. This helped them understand how to face problems in an organization when one of the major resources are cut down.
  3. In the third iteration, teams had to make the longest paper chains with one hand in a fixed time, and they received materials based on their performance in the second iteration. This helped them learn how to face a different problem/situation with the availability of limited resources.
  4. In the final iteration, teams were asked to make paper chains, but they could talk and could use only one hand. This is a situation where they were asked to deal with problems in an organization with very limited resources. 

After a share-out and feedback session, and dinner, the participants got some rest to prepare for the second full day. 

On day two, the morning session was dedicated to a design challenge where everyone worked in teams and came up with solutions for the problem statements they chose, from redesigning education to enhancing Design Thinking practices on campus. After lunch, the Fellows visited Efftronics, a Smart City Solutions provider, where the attendees were given demos on practical applications along with a session on the Internet of Things as related to Design Thinking. After returning to the campus, they continued their tradition of share-outs, feedback and food. 

The final day started with the Inspirational Walk, an activity that takes individuals outside to observe nature guided by a personal audio experience. This was followed with a talk by Shailesh Krishna from ITC on developing partnerships in the workplace, and a talk on leadership by Karayil Suresh Babu from the Training and Placement Department at VVIT. Panel discussions took place after this session: one related to academics and jobs, and the other related to startups. The afternoon session started with ignites from two participating Fellows, followed by the change story of VVIT Fellows. M. Sree Krishna (Joint Secretary Academics) and K. Giri Babu (Principal in charge) concluded the event, and the group celebrated with a photo.

It was a weekend of learning and celebration of the UIF community!

Together We Can Make a Movement

By Titus Venverloo, Fellow, University of Twente

From August 11 to 20, 2019, the University of Twente Innovation Fellows hosted their regional meetup in the Netherlands. With 31 students from over 15 countries joining the program, the stage was set for an amazing nine days full of design thinking, leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as some truly EPIC team dynamics. The program involved many guest speakers, from researchers to mayors to entrepreneurial students to CEOs, all surrounding the theme of how to Science2Design4Society.

The central spot of the meetup was the DesignLab, the futuristic student-driven makerspace of the University of Twente. During the 9 days, the group worked on multiple cases provided by local and international stakeholders related to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. They went through the 6 phases of the DesignLab’s Design Thinking methodology to find solutions to global challenges: Explore, Ideate, Conceptualize, Prototype, Reflect and Reframe. Besides going through the Design Thinking cycle, the group elevator pitched in an elevator, talked to CEOs and mayors over dinner, casually rappelled off buildings, played volleyball, enjoyed late nights, and, above all, had some festival style vibes!

Marthe, the project lead of this meetup, summarizes the experience as: “If you are able to inspire others they will also inspire you. And that is exactly how we can describe this meetup.” One of the participants reflected: “After these nine days, I’m another person than the one that arrived on the first day.” 

Developing leadership skills and an entrepreneurial mindset cannot be done overnight, but apparently, with the right circumstances, nine days might be enough! Next to the program for the students, several faculty champions joined the first-ever Champions Meetup, which was hosted at the same time as the meetup. They talked about “what it means to be a UIF faculty champion,” and they provided workshops, talks and engaged with the participants. Having these international speakers at the meetup was of great value to the program and the UIF network in Europe!

An inspiring quote that reflects the meetup: “Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible.” – Colin Powell

Inside Joke: Intercultural Communication is a thing!

Impactful thought: Alone we can make change, together we can make a movement!

View more event photos here.

You Don’t Need to Wait to Make a Difference 

University Innovation Fellows organized LOOP, the first-ever Latin American Innovation Week and the UIF Latin American Meetup in 2018.

by Leticia Britos Cavagnaro

There is learning about the world, and then there is immersing yourself in the world, and learning as you figure out how you can make an impact.

Often times we think that students need to wait to graduate before they attempt to go out in the real world, yet more and more universities are realizing this does not have to be the case. When University Innovation Fellows from three Uruguayan universities collaborated in organizing LOOP, the first-ever Latin American Innovation Week and UIF Latin American Meetup, tackling real issues facing the country was a key ingredient.

The 4-day event, which took place in Montevideo (Uruguay’s capital) from August 2 to 5, 2018, convened Fellows and students from Chile, Colombia, Perú, and Puerto Rico, as well as local participants who were students, faculty and professionals across fields. The teams organized around themes of interest taking a cue from the UNESCO Developmental Goals. They partnered with local non-profits to connect with people living in precarious conditions in shanty towns, teachers struggling to impact kids in public schools, and women putting their skills to work and creating small businesses. The teams went out on the field to understand these stakeholders and their needs and, after an intense day of work, invited them to the event venue to test some of the solutions they had come up with.

Learnings were plentiful – for the teams, for the partners, and for the stakeholders. When the teams presented their ideas and business models to a panel of university and government leaders, it was evident that applying design skills and mindsets opens up possibilities. None of these complex problems – poverty, access to quality education, and economic development for underserved populations – will be solved in 2 days. They have multiple intertwined root causes compounded by inadequate policies and pervasive societal inequalities. But what it’s clear is that we will never solve them if we don’t look for new ways to understand and chip away at them and, very importantly, if we don’t equip our youth with the confidence and the tools to lead the way.

The Social Innovation Challenge was only one of the many highlights of LOOP. Fellows formed friendships across borders as they kicked off their time together cooking “alfajores” – a traditional Uruguayan treat, and sharing snacks they brought from their home countries.

The fact that the Fellows who organized the event came from Universidad de Montevideo, Universidad Católica and Universidad CLAEH was in itself a testament to the power of student change agents to galvanize collaborations among institutions. This collaborative spirit didn’t go unnoticed by the university and government authorities who attended. Also part of the organizing team were other students. While a few of them learned during the event that they had been accepted as UIF candidates, many were just as excited to work hard bring to life the event, embodying the inclusive ethos of UIF, in which Fellows are not an elite, but simply the sparks and catalysts of a bigger movement.

In the same vein, LOOP also featured Design Thinking and Life Design workshops, as well as talks by engaging speakers. These were open to the public and attended by professionals  and faculty interested in innovation, entrepreneurship, and experiential learning. Participants were also exposed to the inspiring stories of Fellows themselves, told in short format for maximum impact.

Last but not least, LOOP organizers did not forget about a very important dimension that, now more than ever, needs to be in all of our minds when we organize events or simply go about our lives: the environment. While a culture of recycling may already exist in the United States and other countries (with various degrees of implementation success) Uruguay has relatively recently begun to deploy mechanisms at scale to encourage citizens to rethink their waste generation and to adopt recycling practices. Throughout the event, Fellows brought attention to resources they put in place, prototyped strategies to make LOOP a sustainable event and fostered discussions on the topic among participants.

My home country of Uruguay is small – half the size of California and with a population of only 3 and a half million. When we started the UIF program in 2012, I could have never imagined that 6 years later there would be University Innovation Fellows in four of the five universities in the country. They are leading the way in collaborating with faculty and administrators at their schools, across institutions, and with the government and the private and social sectors. Attending this Meetup filled me with pride and makes me hopeful for the evolution of higher education in my country, and beyond. Kudos to them!

Want to experience LOOP this summer? Fellows are holding this event again in 2019. Visit to learn more!

Colorful Creations at Michigan Tech

Fellows from around the U.S. took part in Michigan Tech’s Regional Meetup in October 2018.

The Michigan Tech “Colorful Creations” Regional Meetup set out to combine the dramatic landscape of fall foliage with two days immersed in the community innovation culture. The Tech Fellows and faculty hosted 20 participants from seven schools for the Meetup, held October 19-20, 2018.

The group certainly got the culture immersion. The Fall colors, not as much. Michigan Tech is commonly known as the snowiest college in the United States, and the school lived up to that title over the event weekend. Fortunately, the Michigan Tech UIF team has learned the value of adaptability through hosting many events, and the group did get to see some Fall leaves before it snowed.

“From something as minimal as an activity taking longer than expected to something as large as getting a blizzard on Saturday morning, we learned that, while we had a plan in place, it was and never will be ‘finalized’,” said Magann Dykema, a Fellow and one of the event organizers.

During the event, participants took part in Tech’s Innovation Week, visited The Alley Makerspace (created by Fellows and faculty), learned about the activities of the six generations of Tech Fellows, and applied design thinking to a real world challenge — figuring out ways to help Michigan Tech’s community on the Keweenaw Peninsula recover from severe flooding.

“We wanted to not only showcase the work that we have done here, but also the community we live in,” said Magann. “We felt that it was important to share with everyone how the flooding impacted the community. Additionally, we brought in some of our key supporters at Michigan Tech to help with the event so that we could show them how grateful we are for their support.”

Attendees had many opportunities to connect with one another in addition to learning new skills and mindsets.

“It was such a great experience to interact with more of the UIF community,” said Rachel Kolb, a Fellow at Michigan Tech and one of the event organizers. “Everyone was so willing to jump in and participate, all the while bringing tons of enthusiasm to the table no matter what we were doing! My favorite moment of the Meetup was coming together to create crafts using rocks we found on the shores of Lake Superior. While creating some abstract art, we reflected as a group on we have done as Fellows, shared our passions, and even some of our struggles.”

Check out the event video:

Twente’s European Regional Meetup

By Ghanashyam S

University of Twente, one of the first institution from Europe to become part of the uifamily, hosted the first ever European Regional Meetup from August 16-20, 2018. 28 people attended, including Fellows and faculty champions from the U.S. and India as well as UIF team members. Twente is hosting their second European Regional Meetup on August 11-20, 2019. Visit for more details.

At the 2018 event, Twente Fellows and faculty champions did an excellent job of planning in terms of the exposure to the entrepreneurship culture on campus and in the region. On one day, they arranged a campus visit and a trip to the Enschede city center on the bikes, with several stops where the student representatives from various group on campus spoke about the work they are doing. The mayor of the Enschede, Mr. Onno van Veldhuizen, told the gathering how they want to make the region a hub for innovators.

Participants visited Nedap Headquarters, ASML headquarters, Gazelle headquarters and Grolsch Brewery, where they learned about  the innovations in the technology, bicycle brewery industries. The speakers in all these companies highlighted how the culture of innovation in the region has helped them to achieve the success and remain leaders in their respective domains. During the course of the event, attendees got an opportunity to hear from Kees Koolen, former CEO of; Ruben M. Wegman, the CEO of Nedap; and others.

We spent an entire day during the meetup on campus. The attendees split into 6 groups, and each group was given a challenge from the UN SDG. Each team designed a prototype to tackle the issue. Then the teams were made to rappel down a 4-story building and do a 90-second elevator pitch. Each group was diverse with representation from across the world which helped us empathise with the problem better and come up with apt prototypes.

During the Meetup, we learned so much about the culture of the institution and the region. It was inspiring to observe the various types of collaboration during the Meetup — between the Twente UIF team and other organizations on campus, between the school and the community, and between the Fellows in attendance.

Twente is hosting their second European Regional Meetup August 11-20, 2019. Visit for more details.

#UVUIFamily (Utah Valley University Innovation Family)

by Magann Dykema


  1. Pens are designed for right handed people.
  2. Chairlifts are magical in team building.
  3. I love my #UIFamily.

It never ceases to amaze me how much the community of University Innovation Fellows is like a family. Whenever I am in a room full of UIFs, I instantly feel at home. With over 1500 Fellows and counting, it is difficult to know everyone, and there is something special that happens when I meet another UIF in person for the first time. Most of the people at the Rocky Mountain Regional Meetup, from June 23-24, 2018, I had never met before, and that did not stop us from greeting each other with hugs and phrases such as, “You’re the one I’ve been emailing!” or “I finally can put a face to the name!”

The event was hosted and designed by the Utah Valley University Fellows (UVUIF as they call themselves) Khaliun “Holly” Amarjargal, Brayden Cutler, Wendy Fernandez, Luke Kennard, Tim Smith, Nicholas Tyler, Nick Varney and their Faculty Champion Cynthia Wong. The team designed a weekend so unique that I cannot compare it to any other UIF experience I have had…They carefully crafted a mixture of indoor/outdoor experiences that showcased the work they are doing on campus, as well as the beauty of the community around them. There were a mixture of hands on experiences, engaging presentations, and team building opportunities.

Our first day, we arrived at the UVU Business Resource Center and were greeted with smiles and hugs from everyone as well as handed a waiver. A few of us looked at each other and wondered, “What did we get ourselves into that we needed to sign a waiver with an emergency contact?” I can now say that we got ourselves into the experience that we would all be grateful for. Before we got started, our attention was directed to the corner of the room where the team had brought in the famous mobile prototyping cart for us to use! I have heard about this cart so many times from UVU Fellow Tanner Wheadon, and there it was. It may not seem exciting to some people, but there was an excitement in the room as some of us were given the opportunity to see the cart in real life rather than in photos!

We didn’t waste anytime jumping into the day’s festivities. Our first activity: an Environmental Design Challenge. Nick shared with us a systems map that he had created with some teammates that they had used for a competition at Oxford. With about half of the room being from out of town, we were surprised to learn that Salt Lake City has an issue with smog which is trapped between the mountains due to inversions in the winter. After sharing with us the process of interviewing stakeholders and his team’s findings, Nick challenged us with creating a dual-purpose solution that would improve air quality and appeal to Utahns (residents of Utah). He shared that the top issues that Utahns are willing to contribute to a solution are crime, air quality, homelessness, economic opportunity, and public transportation.

Team Photo

We formed teams (making sure there was at least one Utahn in each team) and started brainstorming and prototyping. In the end, my team created a solution that would tackle a few of the listed issues. Our idea: Pedicabs in Salt Lake City. Homeless community members would receive work through either building or powering the pedicabs, and community members and tourists would ride the pedicabs as another form of transportation. Other teams came up with solutions such as a carnival, coworking spaces, and community centers with Teslas.

Next, we headed on a walk to learn more about campus and how UVU is designed for student success – from the exposed, colored pipes running through the buildings designed for teaching to the hands on classroom models to the stackable credentials to the dual-mission model. It was evident how valued the students’ voices are at UVU.

Our last stop before lunch was an amazing stained glass window series called the Roots Of Knowledge. Throughout the artwork, it tells the story of the human quest for knowledge. The artist even added little “easter eggs” throughout. (Hint: Batman is standing on top of a building in panel Y2 and looks like a shadow.) I could have spent hours in the room looking at the 80 panes of glass, and I still would not have seen it all. It was truly breathtaking.


We enjoyed lunch in a room of the library that overlooked the gorgeous landscape of mountains and then we made our way back to the Business Resource Center for an Innovation Incubator led by Luke, Nicholas, Nick, and Cynthia. For those of you that have participated in an un-conference, the idea is similar. Using Poll Everywhere, we answered the question: How might we expand UIF influence on our campuses? From there, the top four solutions were placed on whiteboards around the room:

  1. Popup events for students, faculty, and administration
  2. Monthly design thinking challenges
  3. Sneaky little experiments
  4. UIF showcase (showing different student projects).

We shared our thoughts on the topics of interest by walking around and sharing our thoughts; what came out of it were really cool ideas. Ideas like a secret book in the library with event invitation in it and a golf cart that brings students from the parking lot to class and asks trivia questions about innovation on campus. I may have to bring some of these things back to my campus with me.

After a short break, Tim led us in a design sprint around the idea of bringing mobile makerspaces to the community and K-12 schools. The design sprint was based off of the five day Design Sprint that Google Ventures has developed. Because of limited amount of time, we focused on pieces of the first three days of the sprint and fit it into an hour and a half. Teams came up with radically different solutions and different interpretations of the sprint guidelines. My team focused on bringing the mobile makerspace to elementary schools. We wanted to prove to the schools the importance of this tool in a creative way while solving other concerns the school may have. We created a food truck makerspace that taught students lessons of making through cooking breakfast while also helping to feed students that might not otherwise have the opportunity to eat breakfast. Other teams’ solutions included a drone delivery system with prototyping tools, a creative way to occupy underutilized school space after hours that engaged the whole school district, and a consultation business that would teach employers how to bring out talent from their staff through the use of hackathons and mobile maker carts.


The programming for the first day ended with a keynote from Dr. Kyle Reyes. I can honestly say that this is one of the best keynotes I have ever heard. Dr. Reyes had us looking at the different lenses we are born with in life, build throughout childhood, and how those are adjusted as we continue to experience life. One of the most impactful things that he shared with us was how the world is often designed for people that are right handed. He proceeded to list off things that are difficult for people that are left handed such as opening doors, writing, and scissors. Then, he blew everyone’s minds with…well, I won’t spoil you experiencing this. Find a pen. Place it in your right hand and read it. Now, move it to your left hand and read it. Did you notice something change? Pens are designed to be read by right handed people! As a right handed person myself, I never realized how much I take for granted; it was missing from the catalog in my brain. Dr. Reyes explained how all of our experiences are cataloged in our brains which can create preconceived ideas and biases. As we continue to learn and experience new things, our catalog gets updated.

Our first day had come to an end, but that did not stop us from spending time with each other. The Pleasant Grove Strawberry Days were happening only a short drive away. We piled into the cars and made our way to the festivities. There, we enjoyed walking around the carnival, eating Strawberries N’ Cream, and watching the rodeo. It was a nice way to end the day and get to spend more time getting to know all of the people I was in Utah for the weekend with.


Headed into the second day, we had a change of scenery. The day was spent at Brayden’s aunt and uncle’s cabin in Sundance. We arrived at this amazing cabin on the side of the mountain where we started our day off with Nicholas sharing an ignite about what he is currently working on at UVU. He shared how he is starting a video project in work with Lifey, an autobiography company near the school. These videos give students the opportunity to share their innovation stories because as Nicholas asked, “If no one remembers what we did, then what was the point of what we have done?” These video preserved the stories of the innovative students at UVU. We pondered the question “How will you leave your mark?” as we walked outside.

There, waiting for us, were three piles of supplies including a tarp, a pool noodle, a shovel, rope, a pair of scissors, duct tape, and some gardening gloves. Our challenge was to create a shelter that would keep us warm and dry and be sturdy. It was extreme prototyping at its finest. We broke off into teams and went off in different directions into the forest to create our shelters. The shelters were tested and we were allowed to make some modifications before the final test. As a group, we gathered together to walk around to all of the shelters and see how they structured based on weather-proofing, sturdiness, and warmth. In the end, we had all created structures that would have kept us safe if we would have had to sleep in them that night.


At this point in the day, it was getting close to lunchtime so we all piled in the cars to head down to the Sundance Resort. There, we rode an hour-long chairlift to the top of the mountain; These chairlift rides and conversations are some that I will remember for a long time. With no structure for the ride and the opportunity for free flowing conversations, we rode up to the top of the mountain in groups of four getting to know each other, continuing earlier conversations, and creating connections that we otherwise may have never made. The chairlifts were truly magical.

As we reached the top of the mountain for a late lunch, we could not help but notice the gorgeous mountains that were surrounding us. While everyone was taking in the view, I stepped aside to watch them. Something had changed, this group that was already like a family had become even more of a family (if that is even possible). I watched as people were taking pictures together, laughing, running after hats flying in the wind…we were one big, happy family! I didn’t want this moment to end, but we had to make our way back down the mountain before the chairlift closed. Conversations continued as we made the hour ride down the mountain, and the group continued to grow as a family.

Everyone was pretty quiet as we made our way back to the cabin. I could tell that the impending end of weekend was floating around in the back of everyone’s minds. That did not stop us though. We gathered outside near a slackline that was set up with hammocks all around us. Brayden looked to Humera and asked if she would be so kind to help him with a demonstration. With the assistance of Nick on one side of the slackline and Humera walking across, Brayden proceeded to give an ignite on his UIF journey. He shared that you will fall off, but it is the people that are there to support and guide you that keep you going. You have to keep looking forward to the goal. As Humera made it to the end, the group erupted into applause. Brayden continued to step up onto the slackline, make his way across, and share his final thoughts: the UIF journey is just like slacklining.


From that point, everyone was encouraged to try out the slackline and the hammocks that were placed around. We watched as everyone supported each other across the slackline. Whether it was the two people helping someone make it across or the group that cheered them on, the support was unreal. As someone who had never tried slacklining, I was nervous to step up on to the one inch piece of nylon holding me up, but I was able to do so and make it all of the way across because of everyone supporting me.

As the evening was wrapping up, there was a feeling in the atmosphere of gratitude, happiness, and love. We sat in the living room in a circle and went around sharing what we were grateful for during the weekend. The theme that many shared: the family that we had been able to be with for the weekend. Crying, laughing, and hugs proceeded as we said our goodbyes. But, they were not “goodbyes”; rather, they were “see you laters”. Because with the family UIF creates, you never know the next time you will talk to someone in person, on a BlueJeans call, in an email, or in our Facebook group. This family that UIF creates is like no other. With 1500+ people all over the world, there is always a family member not too far away. This family meetup in Utah is just one prime example of the power of the #UIFamily that I love.


Insights from the UVUIFs:


“I was shocked and proud to see the meetup happen. Seeing the faculty and students come together as one to make this happen was like no other. I talked to Tanner Wheadon about it afterwards, and we would have never believed that our campus fellows would ever get to the point of holding a meetup. One thought I continually have is concerning our current status, we have done some great things, and our program has come far. However I don’t think we can settle for the things we have done so far. We want to see lasting impact, and that is going to take more time and work.” – Brayden Cutler, University Innovation Fellow

Luke's Baby

“We needed to design for the user in mind. What that meant to us was that we weren’t going to give you something that you had been taught at every UIF meet up, nor was it something that you would see at any other regional meet up. We wanted to give you the experience and lifestyle of Utah. We wanted you to learn of our real air quality issues, see the gorgeous mountains, and live the slow paced reflective Sundays. We value the family time so much. As evidenced by the two future fellows present (e.g. Tanner Wheadon’s son and ours).” – Luke Kennard, University Innovation Fellow


“The planning, coordinating, getting the permissions from the right VPs and Deans, working with the Faculty Champions and the UVU Innovation Council to take this from a goal to a reality was a challenging growth opportunity and I am ever so grateful for the experience. The event itself was incredible and that is due to the herculean efforts of the UVU Fellows and faculty that picked up the baton and carried it to the finish line… A very memorable event filled with camaraderie and strengthening of bonds that forged lasting relationships and brought all of the participating UVU personnel together as one team instead of several cohorts.” – Tim Smith, University Innovation Fellow


“The biggest thing I pushed for in the beginning of our planning was that if everyone is going to come here, we wanted to give you the UVU and Utah experience. Saturday was  focused on the UVU experience: showing you the Business Resource Center (which is the most innovative and entrepreneurial resource on campus) and showing you how campus was designed for student engagement. Sunday was focused on the Utah experience: showing you the Rocky Mountains, outdoor culture, and one of the gems of Utah – Sundance.” – Nick Varney, University Innovation Fellow



“The Rocky Mountain Meetup was a huge success due to a combined team effort. It was a privilege to watch individual strengths and talents emerge as we worked through different challenges involved with navigating all of the rules and regulations of the university, lining up events and activities and coordinating the logistics. Because this was our first meetup, we knew that the event was going to be a prototype and we had our share of “ta-da moments” and frustration at times. As the fellows leveraged their individual strengths, each iteration became better and better. In fact, the meetup ended up looking completely different than our initial plans. With a “yes, and” attitude a great deal of hard work and sacrifice, the meetup was far better than what any of us could have achieved individually.” – Cynthia Wong, Faculty Champion


About the Author: Magann Dykema

Magann headshot

Magann is a Fellow from Michigan Technological University where she is studying Civil Engineering. This summer, she is interning for the University Innovation Fellows program. For more information on her and the work she is doing:



Discovery and Design at Georgia Tech

University Innovation Fellows collaborated with local students and entrepreneurs at the Georgia Tech Regional Meetup in November 2016.


If you wanted to discover a new opportunity, learn how to build and test it, and figure out how to bring it to market — all in the space of two days — the University Innovation Fellows Georgia Tech Regional Meetup was the place to be. This event, held November 4-5, 2016, brought together Fellows and students at Georgia Tech to learn from entrepreneurs and thought-leaders from the school and surrounding community.

The event was hosted and designed by Georgia Tech Fellows and produced in collaboration with Georgia Tech’s DesignBloc, a hub for innovation, collaboration and creativity at Georgia Tech. Fellows involved in the event’s creation include Alexandra Flohr, Thomas Clifton, Arshiya Lal, Kshitij Kulkarni and their faculty sponsor Wayne Li, professor in the school of School of Industrial Design.

Regional meetups are designed to showcase the work that Fellows have been implementing at their schools; to spark student interest in innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity and design thinking; and to encourage collaboration with other Fellows and students in their region. Georgia Tech is one of seven schools that has hosted a University Innovation Fellows regional meetup in the last two years. Read more about other regional meetups here.

Twelve Fellows and faculty sponsors from seven schools attended the Georgia Tech event, along with more than 15 Georgia Tech students and alumni. Participants learned from a diverse group of speakers and participated in hands-on activities focused on entrepreneurship and a community’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Fellows explore Georgia Tech's beautiful campus

Fellows explore Georgia Tech’s beautiful campus

“As Director of the Innovation and Design Collaborative here at Georgia Tech, we’re always excited to partner with the University Innovation Fellows program to promote innovation, design thinking, and entrepreneurship on campus,” said Wayne Li.

On Friday, November 4, participants enjoyed treats and a chat with Tyler Rogers of local popsicle business King of Pops and heard from Albert Vita, Director of Strategy and Insights for In-Store Entertainment at Home Depot, on the possibilities for innovation within a large company. Vita shared his thoughts on the ways traditional retail is ripe for disruption and advised attendees to avoid traps that can happen as companies struggle to innovate, such as “not having true empathy for your customer.”


Participants then got an inside look at Georgia Tech’s unique Invention Studio. This fully-stocked makerspace is free, completely managed and operated by students, and open to students, faculty and staff from all backgrounds. Later in the afternoon, the group heard from Keith McGreggor of VentureLabs on the art of storytelling and visited the High Museum for its Friday night interactive event, where they viewed exhibitions, sketched live models and screen-printed bags.

The second meetup day on Saturday, November 5, started sweet, with breakfast from Sublime Donuts. The founder, Kamal Grant, gave attendees good advice about avoiding the “golden handcuffs” of a job that’s solid but not fulfilling. “Be expert, creative and audacious,” Grant said, adding that when you believe in something, you have to fully commit to it.


Rachel Ford, a University Innovation Fellow and Georgia Tech alumna who is now a program manager for TechStars, led the group through an exercise to explore assumptions. She asked teams of attendees to quickly create a sample business idea, explore the assumptions that would have to be validated, and decide what questions could be used in interviews to test those assumptions.

For his activity, Wayne Li opened a duffle bag on a table to reveal a treasure trove of PlayDough containers in a rainbow of colors. Participants paired up to interview one another about their favorite foods, and then created product prototypes out of PlayDough that were connected to their interviewee’s favorite food in some way. Then, they were asked to conduct the interview again, asking memory and emotion-related questions such as “What does that food remind you of?” and “Tell me about a memorable time when you ate that food?” Li asked the group to share the second set of PlayDough prototypes and what made the two sets different, and then led the group in a discussion on empathy in design.


“The person I interviewed, he’s from India. A Kit Kat was his favorite food because when his father came back from business trips, it was something he gave him,” said Andrea Del Risco, a 2014 Georgia Tech alumna. “The activity was less about the functional side than the emotional reasons. I hadn’t thought about that part before.”

The day also featured talks by Carrie Moore of MJV Innovation about design projects at the intersections of fields; Lane Duncan from the School of Architecture on multi-disciplinary art and architecture; Bill Scott, an IDEO designer of the original Apple mouse, on the art of prototyping and designing with constraints; and Scott Sanchez from First Data on MAP (Minimum Awesomeness Product). After dinner, Bill Scott returned to lead a customer discover exercise focused around creating a new type of car to satisfy an unmet or unrealized customer need.

“I learned what it means to start business, to go from a ‘shower thought’ to multi-million-dollar business. The speakers lived that story,” said Collin Browning, a University Innovation Fellow from Clemson University. “I’m excited about promoting the innovation and entrepreneurship mindset on my campus and sharing this with other students.”

For more information on Georgia Tech’s Design Bloc, visit

Brewing Innovation Spaces

Fellows from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and their faculty sponsor share lessons they learned from hosting a regional meetup on November 3-5, 2016.

University Innovation Fellows in front of the Kulwicki Pitstop. From left: Nicole Green, Kathryn Christopher, Jim Lee, Brd Turner, David Gallegos, Elizabeth Creamer, Andrew Schilling, Megann Dykema, Eduardo De Leon, Alycia Doxon, Jonathan Cook, Alex Francis, Hannah Barton, Lydia Gregersen, Samantha Schultz, Amin Mojtahedi and Katie Dzugan (sitting)

University Innovation Fellows in front of the Kulwicki Pitstop. From left: Nicole Green, Kathryn Christopher, Jim Lee, Brad Turner, David Gallegos, Elizabeth Creamer, Andrew Schilling, Magann Dykema, Eduardo De Leon, Alycia Doxon, Jonathan Cook, Alex Francis, Hannah Barton, Lydia Gregersen, Samantha Schultz, Amin Mojtahedi and Katie Dzugan (sitting)

by UWM University Innovation Fellows and Dr. Ilya Avdeev

Are you thinking about hosting a regional University Innovation Fellows meetup at your fine academic institution? Do you want to learn more about “brewing” innovation spaces? Read on…

Planning and hosting a meetup can be easily compared to reaching the top of Mount Everest for climbers or rounding Cape Horn for sailors; it’s baptism by fire that will test your team but will leave you with a feeling of joy and accomplishment. If you have any doubts, don’t hesitate. Do it.

What is a UIF regional meetup?

A regional meetup is an opportunity for Fellows to connect or reconnect with each other and with the UIF team face-to-face for several days within a driving distance (typically) of their home school. Regional meetups are much more intimate and personal than the Silicon Valley gatherings (150-300 Fellows) and they offer an opportunity to do a deep dive into a particular theme or a problem.

On September 7, 2016, nine University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Fellows (five Fellows representing three cohorts and four candidates in training) received exciting news from Katie Dzugan on being approved for hosting a regional meetup. The meeting with Katie and Laurie to brainstorm the meetup dates, timeline and agenda was scheduled for September 19, giving fellows 12 days to celebrate (11 days) and mobilize (1 day).

So what have we learned throughout the preparation cycle and the meetup itself?

Lesson 1: The University Innovation Fellows leadership team is a great asset!

With the congratulatory email from Katie, we have received detailed guidelines on how to approach the ambiguity of planning a new event for unknown number of people with no set dates or ironed out agenda.

The UIF team takes a collaborative approach to program design. The team encouraged us to seek their input early and often. They encouraged us to tap their expertise (if you have ever been to a Silicon Valley meetup, you know what I am talking about) while also experimenting with program design to create a unique and compelling offering. They offered at least one team member to be at the meetup to provide assistance; we ended up having two team members, Katie and Humera.

The BlueJeans meeting on September 19 addressed the following topics and questions:

  • Meeting focus (bridges with community, learning by doing, theme)
  • Dates (align with university or community schedule to maximize exposure)
  • Who should we invite (Fellows, candidates, student organizations, local universities)
  • How to deal with housing (hotel block)?
  • How much should we charge participants ($20)?
  • What are examples or benchmarks of meet-up programming?
  • How to chunk up the time?

The team gave us three days to decide on the two most important things: the dates and the theme and tagline so they could promote the event through the UIF network. This brings us to the next lesson.


Lesson 2: Early phases of planning take 10x longer than you expect

The commonly accepted rule of thumb is that when you build or create something for the first time, it takes 3x times longer than planned. When you also have to decide what is that you are building or creating while building it, the time factor is more like 10x.

As the level of ambiguity reduces with time (entropy decreases and order sets in) the time factor goes down to 3x. It will never reach 1x due to the optimism bias of humans: we are very optimistic about the future and fuzzy about the past.

Our team at UWM spent several day aligning our dates with the Milwaukee Startup Week, November 1-6, and settled on the theme “Brewing Innovation Spaces.”

On September 29, a “save-the-date” email was blasted across the UIF network. What we thought would take a couple of days, took us exactly 20 days (10x at play).

We still had 35 days to plan our meetup.

Lesson 3: Setting agenda is an iterative process that consumes all remaining time

Cash is king. But to get cash (sponsorship or registration fees) you need to have a compelling story (a.k.a. an agenda). The meetup agenda depends on the list of sponsors, and the list of sponsors depends on the agenda. Naturally, the following 35 days turned into an iterative process of cycling between the two: (1) finding sponsors and (2) refining the agenda. After numerous iterations, we converged to the following sponsored events (not counting social events, such as dinners and hang-outs):

  • gener8tor Milwaukee 2016 Premiere Night
  • Finding, Funding, Remodeling Space (UWM)
  • Rockwell Automation: tour of innovation spaces and resource mapping
  • Red Arrow Labs: Tour & Workshop
  • Visit Milwaukee Art Museum
  • MKE Startup Week: MobCraft Brewery Tour
  • MKE Startup Week: Business Model Canvas Workshop
  • Make your own space worksop (UWM)
  • EE computer lab re-design brainstorming (UWM)


Lesson 4: Home-brew your content

For your regional meetup, do research to use your unique resources (city, campus, people, etc.) to craft and try new exciting things with new home-brewed content instead of repeating the same Silicon Valley meetup and training activities.

For example, Milwaukee used to be a Silicon Valley of beer brewing (Miller Corr, Pabst, Lakefront, etc.). The city keeps creating new craft- and micro-breweries. One of the stops during the meetup was at the MobCraft Brewery, where beer recipes are crowdfunded allowing for folks to submit wackiest combinations of ingredients.

Lesson 5: Get your entire team on-board early and assign clear roles

Get the whole team on board and have set weekly meetings. It may help to create one key point person for the whole meetup and everyone owns pieces of the meetup. That way there are always one person that knows what is going on.

The process of organizing and running a UIF meetup can be broken down into dozens of micro-projects or tasks that interdependent and need constant coordination. Designate one “orchestra conductor” (could be a UIF faculty mentor or a seasoned UIF) whose job is to make sure that all task owners play along.

Finally, collectively map all team members’ diverse talents and assign responsibilities accordingly.

Lesson 6 (for faculty mentors): be open to switching leading/following roles

How much should a faculty mentor be involved in organizing the meetup? In our case, the Fellows took the lead in proposing the meetup and developing the theme. The Fellows took the lead on self-organizing and assigning tasks and responsibilities. The Fellows took the lead in outreach, design, set-up, logistics, facilitation etc. The mentor’s role was to keep the Fellows from falling off of potential cliffs: the financial cliff , the timeline cliff (missing the deadlines), the quality/standards cliff, etc. Things that could have been done better (from the mentor side) include setting the same expectations for all Fellows (from candidates to seasoned ones), allocating more time for visiting Fellows to share their stories, and coordinating lodging and transportation better to avoid overbooking or parking issues.

Lesson 7: Have fun!


Design Challenge: Re-imagining a Computer Lab


We spent two days exploring corporate innovation spaces in Milwaukee ranging from Rockwell Automation co-working space to a boutique software company in the Third Ward (Red Arrow) getting inspired from visiting Milwaukee Art Museum, and sharpening design thinking tools within architectural context at the Kulwicki Pitstop. After these space visits, seasoned Fellows as well as candidates were given a real-world challenge: re-imagining a typical UWM computer lab (EMS 270).

The problem statement was posed by Dr. Christine Cheng, Associate Professor of Computer Science: what can we do to make participants of the popular Girls Who Code weekly program learn coding in a more collaborative environment that promotes teamwork and peer-learning? Design constraints were very basic: the session has to take place in EMS 270 and participants have to have access to 30 desktop computers that are currently situated on several rows of desks.

Fellows had one hour to tackle this problem and to come up with several ideas that UWM UIF team could start building upon and eventually pitch it to the Computer Science Department for implementation.

The only instructions given to the Fellows were to use whatever design thinking tools they choose in any order they want. The Fellows could self-organize into teams (with no specific instructions) and report out in 50 minutes.


Team Ideas

The participants organically split into five teams: two teams of two Fellows and three teams of three. Fellow Amin Mojtahedi played a role of a floating facilitator. The following pictures capture report outs and the focus of team designs.

Team “Wall”
(three members) – focused on the wall between two classroom entrances.


Key takeaways:

  • First design direction: an analog wall promoting empathy and understanding of user needs, include physical objects to interact with
  • Second design direction: digital wall that can display code snippets, can be controlled by code, be visible to outside hallway in order to promote interest in students outside the classrooms
  • Crazy ideas: wall of smells, plant wall, fuzzy wall, an incredible machine that girls can control, magnet wall with words or coding functions to build algorithms, wall playing TED talks or movies

Team “V-pods”
(three members) – Focused on participants and on balancing peer-work with play


Key takeaways:

  • Empathy: team interviewed a facilitator of Girls Who Code from Marquette (on the left)
  • V-pod shaped configuration promotes peer-learning
  • The classroom is separated into two areas: coding area and play area (with physical stuff)
  • Striking a balance between coding and playing is one of the key design elements

Team “Moveable pods”
(three members) – Allowed students to create their own pod


Key takeaways:

  • Students can create their own pods depending on the nature of projects
  • Every workstation is on wheels
  • Screens to show code on all walls
  • Whiteboards everywhere

Team “U-shaped Instructor Zone”
(two members) – Focused on the instructor and ability to easily move


Key Takeaways:

  • Open-up room for instructors with desks around the walls
  • Easy access to students
  • Replace the clock on the wall
  • Refresh the paint – appearance is important and it promotes certain feel

Team “Functionality”
Focused on sound, electricity and other functional aspects of the classroom


Key Takeaways:

  • Soft light, damped sound
  • Glass walls, vertical garden


Students used design thinking mindsets and tools to re-imagine an existing computer lab space. Nine Fellows at UWM now have a creative platform to build upon. This workshop introduced participants to the design challenge and helped them gain more understanding of the constraints and environment. The next step was a deeper dive into this challenge: a workshop focused on the end-users (students, girls who code and instructors) that would include all five elements of the design thinking process (from empathy to prototyping and testing).


Here are some artifacts/tools:


The event was sponsored by:


Creating a Connected City

At the William Jewell College Regional Meetup, University Innovation Fellows took part in a city-wide event to help Kansas City become a smart and sustainable city.

When six student teams pitched their business ideas on a Friday evening in early April, it was hard to believe that they’d met only 12 hours earlier. This process of forming teams around ideas and pitching products in such a short time period is the purpose behind #OneDayKC, a student-run event hosted by higher education institutions in Kansas City, MO.

This year, the event was combined with a University Innovation Fellows regional meetup hosted by William Jewell College. Fellows traveled from seven states to join Kansas City students and community members for #OneDayKC. They spent the second day visiting Kansas City coworking and accelerator spaces, connecting with higher education and business leaders, and engaging with prospective first-year students at William Jewell.

On Friday, April 1, 60 total participants including Fellows and students from 18 different high schools, colleges and universities arrived at the Kauffman Foundation for #OneDayKC. The event was run by students from three schools: William Jewell Fellows Bradley Dice, Trevor Nicks, Macy Tush, Alex Holden and Ben Shinogle; Rockhurst Fellows Michael Brummett and Mike Frazzetta; and University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC) student Tin Ho.

Trevor Nicks of William Jewell College kicks off #OneDayKC

Trevor Nicks of William Jewell College kicks off #OneDayKC. Photo by Laurie Moore.

#OneDayKC provided an opportunity for participants to connect with leaders and peers in the community to work on projects to help Kansas City become a smart and sustainable city. Participants were challenged to spend twelve hours forming a team, developing a product or service needed in the Kansas City area, and pitching that product or service to the whole group and a panel of judges at the end of the day.

“#OneDayKC builds community between students, local entrepreneurs, and our city,” said William Jewell Fellow Bradley Dice. “Through this event, we want our next generation of startup founders, product designers, urban planners, and community advocates to meet one another, develop an entrepreneurial mindset, and share a framework for innovation in Kansas City.”

The day kicked off with inspirational talks from thought leaders who are working toward recreating Kansas City into a “smart” and more sustainable place. Bob Bennett, the Chief Innovation Officer of Kansas City, spoke about his role in finding new ways to solve complex city problems, and Butch Rigby, owner of Screenland Theaters, discussed sustainable urban development. Leticia Britos Cavagnaro, the co-leader of the University Innovation Fellows program, led participants through a design thinking exercise, and Landon Young, Director of Creativity and Innovation at William Jewell College and co-founder of, shared details on the Lean Startup methodology. Attendees also heard personal stories of change in higher education from Humera Fasihuddin, co-leader of the University Innovation Fellows program, as well as several Fellows and student hosts of the event.

Fellows and Kansas City students work in teams during #OneDayKC

Fellows and Kansas City students work in teams during #OneDayKC. Photo by Laurie Moore.

The participants then formed teams around topics including energy and sustainability, transit and traffic, municipal services, health and well-being, education and workforce development, and culture and recreation. They spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon brainstorming on pain points that they could address and on experiments that would test their hypotheses.

In the afternoon, teams visited the Country Club Plaza shopping district of Kansas City, where they conducted interviews with shoppers and pedestrians to gather feedback about their ideas.

#OneDayKC participants speak with members of the public to gather feedback on their ideas. Photo by Chandler Eaton.

#OneDayKC participants speak with members of the public to gather feedback on their ideas. Photo by Chandler Eaton.

“From this, I learned the importance of empathizing with the customer and getting their perspectives,” said Asya Sergoyan, a University Innovation Fellow from the Colorado School of Mines. “We often think we know best. But then we go out into the community and talk to people and learn new things about their needs.”

Armed with the user insights, the participants worked to refine their ideas and pitches. That evening, the teams pitched their ideas at Rockhurst University to participants, invited guests and judges Frank Jurden of VML and TEDxKC, Tom Gerend of KC Streetcar, Humera Fasihuddin, and Dr. David Sallee, president of William Jewell College.

There was a tie for first place: winners were Empower U and Village Education, two projects that focused, respectively, on community education and matching students with mentors.

The #OneDayKC participants celebrate before their presentations. Photo by Chandler Eaton.

The #OneDayKC participants celebrate before their presentations. Photo by Chandler Eaton.

On Saturday, the University Innovation Fellows who attended #OneDayKC met for their own day of activities. In the morning, Fellows visited the ThinkBig coworking space to hear from a panel of local entrepreneurs and educators. Panelists were Risa Stein, professor of psychology at Rockhurst University; Zach Pettet, UMKC ’15, co-founder of #OneDayKC, and employee at blooom; Landon Young; Ben Williams, Assistant Director of the Regnier Institute at UMKC; Andrea Essner of the Center of Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development (C.E.E.D.); and Conner Hazelrigg, William Jewell College ’15, University Innovation Fellow, and founder of 17°73°.

Panel moderator Trevor Nicks asked the group how we can better prepare students in Kansas City, and around the country, to enter the entrepreneurial economy and compete at a global level. They discussed the importance of building community, promoting your achievements (even though it’s hard), asking for help (which is harder), making in-person rather than digital connections, helping others look good, using data to back up your activities, and forging alliances with faculty, administrators and community members that benefit both you and them.

The day after #OneDayKC, Fellows heard from a panel of local entrepreneurs and educators. Photo by Laurie Moore.

The day after #OneDayKC, Fellows heard from a panel of local entrepreneurs and educators. Photo by Laurie Moore.

“This has to be a grassroots movement,” said Risa Stein. “Students don’t realize how much power they have. Start communicating with your peers and help them speak the same language.”

After the panel, the group of Fellows toured the Sprint Accelerator with John Fein, Managing Director of the Sprint Accelerator. In this co-working space, Fellows learned about the dedication of a large global company to the innovation of a city. Sprint Accelerator is also the home of TechStars, a three-month, mentorship-driven startup accelerator that helps startups build the future of mobile technology.

Later that same day, Trevor Nicks and Macy Tush hosted a series of activities with prospective first-year William Jewell students, their parents, and Fellows. Nicks and Tush challenged the participants to create a business idea from combining a noun and an adjective supplied by the participants. For two of the three groups, the word “velociraptors” was chosen, which resulted in some animated pitches after the brainstorming finished. This activity gave the prospective students an opportunity to flex their brainstorming muscles, and gave visiting Fellows a look into how William Jewell Fellows are applying their design thinking and creativity skills.

Fellows helped run a workshop with prospective first-year William Jewell students and their parents. Photo by Laurie Moore.

Fellows helped run a workshop with prospective first-year William Jewell students and their parents. Photo by Laurie Moore.

The meetup concluded with a debrief of the day, a discussion of William Jewell’s #uifresh activities, and a group photo at the college’s iconic sign.

“I grew up in Kansas City, but the #OneDayKC event was the first chance I had to see the city as an adult, and I was blown away,” said Alex Bina, a Fellow at Clemson University. “As a newly minted UIF, I continue to be amazed at how innovation drives economic development. It was a frantic weekend full of fun and progress.”
Related articles and media:




Photo gallery:

UIF William Jewell College Regional Meetup

The Power of a Peer Community

University Innovation Fellows shared strategies for student-led change in higher education at the James Madison University Regional Meetup in November 2015.


At the James Madison University Regional Meetup, University Innovation Fellows share their insights and lessons learned from creating activities, events and spaces at their schools. Photo by Laurie Moore.

by Laurie Moore
Originally posted on

Students circulated the room, their voices echoing off concrete floors and high ceilings. They wandered from one rolling whiteboard to the next, where their peers presented what they’d learned from creating activities, events and spaces at their schools. The presenters wrote insights on the whiteboards as they talked — a live poster session without paper or graphs. Instead of rotating to the next whiteboard when instructed, some students remained at the same board, taking detailed notes on the topic and asking follow-up questions. Many of the discussions extended over lunch and throughout the day.

This showcase of activities was one of many highlights of the University Innovation Fellows Regional Meetup hosted by James Madison University (JMU) on November 14-15, 2015. Titled “Own It. Do It.” and held at JMU X-Labs, the meetup provided an opportunity for Fellows to connect in person and learn from one another about how to engage their peers around innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity and design thinking.


The event, designed by JMU Fellows and faculty sponsors, was attended by 40 students from 13 schools in addition to JMU: Clemson University, Dalhousie University, Furman University, George Mason University, Grand Valley State University, La Salle University, Morgan State University, North Dakota State University, University of Portland, University of Virginia, Villanova University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and William Jewell College.

Speakers and activities included a welcome from JMU President Jonathan Alger; an icebreaker with Outriggers, a student-led event facilitation group; a two-part design thinking challenge led by professor Justin Henriques and UIF program co-leader and Stanford lecturer Leticia Britos Cavagnaro; a talk by Marty O’Neill of Corsum Consulting; and a tour of the Harrisonburg Printers Museum from museum owner and excavator Timothy Moore, a JMU University Innovation Fellow who helped design the meetup.

James Madison University President Jonathan Alger welcomes the Fellows. Photo by Daniel Stein/

James Madison University President Jonathan Alger welcomes the Fellows. Photo by Daniel Stein/

To kick off the meetup, President Alger welcome the attendees on Saturday morning, accompanied by the Provost, Associate Provost, Dean of Engineering and other faculty leading the innovation movement on campus. Alger spoke of the importance of the Fellows’ work both at JMU and at other schools. “I was excited for JMU to host this event with student leaders from across North America because I believe that this sort of convening leads to the exchange of a wide variety of ideas and approaches,” Alger said later. “Our vision is that all students can learn how to be change agents in the university and in the world.”

Exchanging ideas was the thread that connected all of the activities during the event, as was discovering a community of like-minded individuals.

After President Alger’s introduction, participants talked with Presidential Innovation Fellows Emily Ianacone and Steven Babitch, who discussed projects that required them to work on “problems not yet defined.” One such project resulted in a platform to facilitate more dialogue between diabetes patients and their health care providers.

Presidential Innovation Fellows Emily Ianacone and Steven Babitch discuss their projects with the Fellows. Photo by Daniel Stein/

Presidential Innovation Fellows Emily Ianacone and Steven Babitch discuss their projects with the Fellows. Photo by Daniel Stein/

The connections between the University Innovation Fellows and the President Innovation Fellows seemed to go far beyond the names, with both groups working to create lasting change: one in higher education, and one in industry and the nonprofit sectors.

“The world around us is constantly evolving, and it’s important to have people who are creating change and evolution at large institutions like universities,” Emily Ianacone said.

“I think it’s hugely important for Fellows to engage in actual projects that they care about,” said Steven Babitch. “They’re working across different teams and bringing their collective experiences together. That’s how the real world works.”

As the first of many sessions designed to strengthen their relationships with one another, Fellows participated in a team design thinking exercise. With the campus bustling with activity from parents weekend, meetup participants set out on foot to interview JMU students about challenges they faced on campus or in the community. Later that afternoon, teams designed solutions and pitched their best ideas to faculty and administrators. This helped teams understand the different perspectives of all the stakeholders involved in creating change at a school.

Fellows took part in a design thinking exercise to explore challenges faced by students on campus. Photo by Laurie Moore.

Fellows took part in a design thinking exercise to explore challenges faced by students on campus. Photo by Laurie Moore.

Another session was the whiteboard presentation circuit, where students presented on activities they’d created including hack-a-thons, pop-up classes and makerspaces. Fellows noted the value of these opportunities to learn from one another and build strong relationships with other students who are just as passionate and motivated as themselves.

“I just learned how to host my own TEDx event in literally 15 minutes from one of the other Fellows,” said Iyanna Patterson, a Fellow from Morgan State University. “Everyone here is so welcoming and so quick to share information. We’re hearing success stories and learning from every single person.”

“It’s important for us to share the knowledge of what we’re all doing,” said Collier Apgar, a student at JMU. “Then you know you’re not the only one trying to create change.”

These personal connections lasted throughout the day as the participants explored three businesses that are redefining downtown Harrisonburg: the BlueHub coworking space, jewelry entrepreneur Hugo Kohl, and Pale Fire Brewing Company. Students who hadn’t known one another 48 hours earlier were discussing projects and how to implement what they’d learned at JMU back at their own schools.

“Every time students get together in groups, dynamic things start happening,” said Nick Swayne, Executive Director of the 4-Virginia program and coordinator for the program at James Madison University. “Whether it was in the whiteboard clusters or other parts of the meetup, they were really talking—not just about flowery stuff, but how they’ll go back to their schools and make something big happen.”

The community that the Fellows created at the meetup is one that will last despite the distance between them. “Being in a peer community like this is continuing to be of more and more value to me,” said Bradley Dice, a Fellow at William Jewell College. “We really care about one another’s ecosystems and about transforming the whole of higher education and not just our own schools.”

Just Make It

Students forged new collaborations and learned how to connect their disciplines with fashion and tech at the University Innovation Fellows Kent State Regional Meetup.

Sami Glass, Paul Dilyard and Ryan Phillips show off their creations on the runway at the University Innovation Fellows Kent State Regional Meetup. Photo by Laurie Moore.

Sami Glass, Paul Dilyard and Ryan Phillips show off their creations on the runway at the University Innovation Fellows Kent State Regional Meetup. Photo by Laurie Moore.

By Laurie Moore

At the end of the fashion show, after the music was turned off and the lights were dimmed, the designers discussed the creation process.

“I had to think in 3D. Actually, 4D: how something changes over time.”

“It was terrifying to think of cutting the uncut fabric. I had to have faith that it was going to be ok.”

“I kept hoping that the backstitch was going to undo. It did the opposite!”

If this doesn’t sound like what professional fashion designers would say, it’s for good reason. The designers here were students from different backgrounds who came together for a daylong wearables makeathon at Kent State University.

On November 6-8, 2015, Kent State hosted a University Innovation Fellows Regional Meetup, which was designed and hosted by Fellows and their faculty sponsors and mentors. Attendees included Kent State students as well as Fellows from the University of Minnesota, the University of Delaware, the University of Oklahoma, Kent State’s main campus and the Kent State University at Stark campus.

This event was an opportunity for students to explore the connections between their disciplines and the world of fashion, design and technology to create new human-centered innovations.

Fellows take part in a warm-up exercise during the Kent State Meetup. Photo by Laurie Moore.

Fellows take part in a warm-up exercise during the Kent State Meetup. Photo by Laurie Moore.

The event began on November 6 with a ribbon cutting to officially open The Fridge, a co-working space at the library created by University Innovation Fellows Robin Bonatesta and Paul Dilyard. The space is unique for a library; the door is always open, noise limits do not exist, and students from all majors are welcome.

“The Fridge is a symbol of the movements that are starting in this community of makers and entrepreneurs,” Bonatesta said. The space, she explained, is an experiment to provide a place where students can meet and collaborate on projects that span different disciplines. There are no set schedules, no permanent faculty or staff, and no rules about what students can do there. “I would love to see it be more widely used by different majors who are building collaborative projects,” she said.

James Bracken, Dean of the Kent State Libraries, spoke to the attendees during the ribbon cutting ceremony. During the last decades, he has seen the libraries evolve from only providing a books and resources to providing a combination of space, collections and services.

“The newest model in libraries is to have group study rooms like the one over there,” he said, gesturing to a door across the room. “What’s wrong with that picture? The door is shut. How many students are in there? One. The Fridge offers a model that turns this on its head.”

Kent State Fellows launched The Fridge, a co-working space in the library. Photo by Ryan Phillips.

Kent State Fellows launched The Fridge, a co-working space in the library. Photo by Ryan Phillips.

Julie Messing, Executive Director for Entrepreneurship Initiatives at Kent State, and University Innovation Fellows leaders Humera Fasihuddin and Leticia Britos Cavagnaro also spoke at the ceremony about the leadership of students in developing this space.

To experience the open and collaborative nature of The Fridge, the participants took part in a design thinking challenge around the theme of the college advising and mentoring process.

On Saturday, November 7, the event moved to the other side of the Kent State campus to the Fashion School’s Tech Style LAB. Participants explored the lab, which combines traditional fashion design methods with high-tech design equipment such as laser cutters and weaving machines. A machine that looked like a paper printer was revealed to be a fabric printer when the school’s professor and director J.R. Campbell peeled a printed layer of delicate silk from paper backing, eliciting gasps from the group.

During the first half of the day, students learned how to drape fabric, sew, use the laser cutting machine, and program arduinos. The second half of the day, they were presented with the challenge of designing a wearable — whether it was a piece of clothing or an accessory, high- or low-tech — that was connected to their majors or areas of interest.

For the students, the majority of whom had no experience with fashion, this opportunity to design and implement a project in under five hours was a unique one, especially considering that many had just learned to sew that morning.

Kevin Wolfgang, manager of the Tech Style LAB, explains how the knitting machine works. Photo by Laurie Moore.

Kevin Wolfgang, manager of the Tech Style LAB, explains how the knitting machine works. Photo by Laurie Moore.

Kevin Wolfgang, the Tech Style LAB manager, who guided the participants through the day’s activities, said that this constraint was intentional. “You have to shut your brain off to get something made. If you second guess all of your decisions, you get nothing done,” he said.

The main constraint was not the time limit alone, but the knowledge that at 9 pm that night, every single person had to walk down the runway to showcase what they’d made. Their creations had to look like something, they had to tell a story, and they couldn’t fall apart.

When Wolfgang turned on the lights and cued up the music at the end of the make-a-thon, it was show time.

Josh Halverson, a mechanical engineering major from the University of Minnesota, walked the runway to showcase a piece of wearable technology that he created. He said he was inspired by his mother, who recently recovered from cancer. When creating his wearable, Halverson imagined a patient in a doctor’s office who had just received very good or bad news and who, as a result, might not be in a state of mind to remember the doctor’s advice. To solve this challenge, his device records sound when a user’s heart rate increases or decreases significantly in parallel with the patient’s emotional state. The user would be able to listen to the recording at a later time.

Fellow Josh Halverson from the University of Minnesota displays his wearable on the runway. Photo by Laurie Moore.

Fellow Josh Halverson from the University of Minnesota displays his wearable on the runway. Photo by Laurie Moore.

Zachary Jones, and entrepreneurship major from the University of Delaware, started the day by creating magnetized shoelaces, but he pivoted mid-day and designed a maroon scarf instead. He compared the creation of the scarf to painting, which he does as a hobby. “Usually, when I paint, I put something down and see where it goes from there. With this, you really have to start with the end in mind, which was a great takeaway for me,” he said.

Sami Glass, a computer science major from the Kent State Stark campus, designed a lined green fabric purse. She reported some challenges with the sewing process: “You have to sew. You can’t just poke holes.” She laughed as she recalled finishing the stitches on a large piece of the purse only to realize there wasn’t thread in the sewing machine bobbin.

For the attendees, many of whom were not familiar with fashion design, the creation process was unfamiliar but rewarding in the end.

“When you’re writing a program, it’s very linear,” said Ryan Phillips, a Fellow and alumnus of Oklahoma State University who now works at Microsoft. Phillips, who also ran the design thinking challenge the previous night, created a sock for an infant that monitors vital signs that can be accessed via a parent or doctor’s smart phone. “When I was creating the sock, it looked nothing like it should have. And I just did this one seam and boom, it came together. Having that ability to conceptualize it when it doesn’t look anything like itself was different for me.”

University Innovation Fellows Kent State University Regional Meetup

The runway show wasn’t the end of the event. On Sunday morning, participants gathered at the MuseLab at Kent State’s library to create a museum exhibition for their creations. This third step required them to help others understand the story of their creations without being there to explain the meaning. The students were assisted by Kiersten Latham, professor and director of the MuseLab, and three of her graduate students in museum studies. Students were challenged to tell the story of their piece using only their display and a small card. They were given an hour, a wall-length glass case and a room of museum display supplies including mannequins, pedestals, frames, signs and lights.

“There’s so much power in the display,” Zachary Jones said, after he had hung his scarf behind museum glass. “That is something I’ll take back to campus. We have an innovation and entrepreneurship showcase in April, but nobody sees what comes out of that. We could do something similar to what we did here.”

Participants create an exhibition of their work in the MuseLab. Photo by Laurie Moore.

Participants create an exhibition of their work in the MuseLab. Photo by Laurie Moore.

Several participants created items related to the medical field, and they worked on an exhibition that would combine all of their projects. Josh Halverson’s audio recording device joined other objects including Ryan Phillip’s smart sock.

“I really liked this format where we had the makeathon, the runway and then this exhibit culmination,” Halverson said. “I also learned about how to get different people working towards one common goal.”

Ella Zurawski, a Kent State fashion merchandising major, modeled a dress created by Kevin Wolfgang as well as a pair of elaborate laser cut glasses that she made. “This display step provided a way to think differently about what you had made,” she said “When you’re making it, you ask, ‘How can I make it better?’ It’s introspective. Then, when you’re trying to present it, you ask, ‘How can I make other people experience it too?’ It’s very different.”

Throughout the event, the students discussed the lessons and themes that were woven into the experience: the value of telling a story, connecting with others, trusting the process, and pushing ahead from concept to creation. They agreed that ideation process is important, but it’s just as vital to create, even if the result is not perfect.

As Wolfgang said as the group debriefed after the runway show, “At some point you just have to jump. If it’s right or wrong, works or doesn’t, it’s ok. Just keep dancing.”




A Weekend of Fashion and Creation

Sometimes you’ll make stuff that’s crap and people will applaud it, and sometimes you make something that you think is brilliant and no one cares. You just have to keep creating. — Kevin Wolfgang, Director of TechStyle Lab at Kent State

Originally posted by Zack Jones on

I had the pleasure of spending a weekend in the Kent State University Fashion TechStyle Lab with the University Innovation Fellows Program. As an entrepreneurship major, creation is something I’m strongly interested in, but physical making and hands-on work have never been in my skill set.

We were first given a tour of all the cool tech in the lab. There was a laser cutter, a weaving machine, a body scanner, and a 3d printer, to name a few. Then, there was a demo time for us to learn basic skills that we might need during the makeathon. I chose to learn how use Adobe illustrator for the laser cutter and the basics of arduino. Next, we were sent off to create anything wearable.

My Arduino set up and ready to blink an LED

After fumbling around trying to make magnetic shoelaces for about 2 hours, I pivoted to making a scarf. This is when the magic happened. I looked at this clean piece of fabric and tried to picture the end product. This was the toughest part. I had to think not in three dimensions, but FOUR! How can anything be conceived like this? Not only did the piece have three physical dimensions, but I had to envision what it would look like after I flipped it inside out and factored in this motion associated with the time dimension!

Luckily, the lab was full of experts who were willing to help to no end. This, to me, was the beauty of the experience. The willingness for people to share their knowledge and pass on their expertise was evident. With this help, it truly felt like anything was possible. I had no idea what I was doing at any given moment, but the people that surrounded me completed me and helped me achieve a final product.

The scarf I made on display at Kent State University

Here are a few takeaways from my first Makeathon/Hackathon experience:

Creation is amazing: conceiving something, putting in the work and seeing it come to be is extremely rewarding. It’s always a learning experience because unforeseen obstacles always arise.

Focus is powerful: You’d be amazed at how much you can accomplish in a few focused hours that you devote to a single project.

You have more time than you think you do: We’re all busy. No one feels like they have free time and newsflash: you’re never going to feel ready to start something new! (For more on that, check out this Ted Talk.) You need to set time aside in the future to get out of your comfort zone and you will not regret it.

More people need to try this! I’ve come back to campus with a renewed enthusiasm for encouraging innovation on here at University of Delaware.

Overall, the Hackathon/Makeathon environment was incredibly inspiring. Not only was I able to create something, but I was able to witness everyone around me turn their ideas into reality. I feel gifted to have had this opportunity to travel and learn from so many talented people.

Thank you to all that made this possible and I’m looking forward to Delhack this weekend!

Zachary_Jones_Headshot_Square_small.jpegWritten by Zack Jones, University of Delaware
Zack Jones is studying entrepreneurship and technology innovation at the University of Delaware. To learn more about him and his priorities for campus, click here:

Tags: UIF Events

Fellows Mid-Atlantic Regional Meetup: University of Maryland and Washington D.C.

Originally published by Epicenter


The University Innovation Fellows Mid-Atlantic Regional Meetup will take place November 1 – 2, 2014, at the University of Maryland and in downtown Washington, DC.

October 28, 2014

The University Innovation Fellows, a national student organization, will host a regional event at the University of Maryland and in downtown Washington, DC, focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education.

The University Innovation Fellows Mid-Atlantic Regional Meetup will take place November 1-2, 2014. Fellows from across the country will join students from the University of Maryland to participate in experiential activities focusing on entrepreneurial thinking, creativity, design thinking and community engagement.

This event is hosted by the University Innovation Fellows program in collaboration with Fellows from the University of Maryland who designed the two-day program: Atin Mittra (Aerospace Engineering B.S. ‘14), Valerie Sherry (Architecture M.A. ‘15) and Meenu Singh (Civil Engineering B.S. ‘14).

“Our goal is to get participants thinking about innovation and entrepreneurship in new, inclusive ways that challenge the traditional assumptions of what it means to integrate these fields within higher education,” said Meenu Singh, one of the three Fellows organizing the event.

The Fellows are a national community of student leaders who help students at their schools learn about innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity, design thinking and venture creation. The program is run by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter), which is funded by the National Science Foundation.

“Student engagement is the key to a vibrant and growing innovation ecosystem, yet many institutions struggle to inspire and activate their student body with top-down efforts,” said Humera Fasihuddin, leader of the University Innovation Fellows program for Epicenter. “Students, on the other hand, have been especially successful at igniting their campus culture across all majors. This event will be an opportunity for students to share best practices and develop new ideas.”

The theme of the event is “Creative Collisions” to help students incorporate innovation and entrepreneurship into all facets of student life and across all areas of study. The event is a collaborative experience that will allow participants to learn from practices at the University of Maryland and share insights from their home institutions.

Activities on November 1 will take place at the University of Maryland and include a creativity workshop, a discussion with administrators on partnerships with students, a campus scavenger hunt and a business model activity. Activities on November 2 will take place in downtown Washington, DC, and include a design challenge, visits to co-working spaces and points of interest, and a movement workshop on the National Mall.

A full schedule of activities is available upon request.

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

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 (formerly NCIIA). 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 a research program that informs activities and contributes to national knowledge on entrepreneurship and engineering education. Learn more and get involved at

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.

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 (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