A Family of Changemakers

Photos by Patrick Beaudouin.

The March 2018 Silicon Valley Meetup brought together 280 University Innovation Fellows and faculty for four days of learning and bonding over the shared mission of change in higher education.


Intense, shared experiences have a way of connecting people to one another in a special and long-lasting way. The University Innovation Fellows Silicon Valley Meetup is definitely one of those experiences.

Students and faculty traveled from all around the world to Stanford University, where they spent four long days opening themselves up to new skills, mindsets, experiences and people. They stood in a standing ovation after one Fellow’s teary presentation about her experience rebuilding Puerto Rico after the hurricanes last Fall; they spent hours learning how to facilitate a design thinking challenge so they can serve others at their schools; and their bodies flowed to music together in a huge mirrored dance studio.

Participants were so dedicated to the experience, and to one another, that they vocally refused to leave Stanford’s d.school at the end of the closing celebration on Sunday night. It was a weekend where sleep wasn’t a priority, but friendships and camaraderie were.

And there were a lot of new friends to meet! 250 Fellows and 30 faculty from 77 schools in 10 countries joined our team for the Meetup on March 15-19, 2018. The event was attended by Fellows who joined the program in Spring 2018. Attendees learned new ideas and techniques to help them drive institutional change at their home universities and colleges.

During the event, Fellows collaborated with other students and faculty in experiential workshops at Stanford’s d.school and Google. They took part in activities that helped them boost their leadership and creative confidence skills, form effective and diverse teams, and design new learning experiences for students at their schools.

Meetup Mentors

Attendees were guided through the event by 24 experienced Fellows (nicknamed Fabs, short for “fabulous”) from the U.S., India, Peru and Uruguay. The UIF team selects Fabs for the impact they’ve had at their schools, in their communities and their constant involvement in the global movement. The Fabs acted as the participants’ mentors on superhero-themed teams, facilitated workshops, designed and led the Monday outdoor experience, and helped the UIF team run the logistics of the event. Two experienced faculty champions mentored the 30 faculty in attendance and provided programming to help them build healthy relationships with Fellows at their schools.

Mental health, overcoming obstacles, inclusion, teamwork, gratitude — these were just some of the topics covered by the 24 Fabs and two faculty mentors who gave short talks throughout the Meetup. These weren’t your typical inspirational, “If I can do it, so can you” talks. The Fabs shared deeply personal stories, admitted failures and challenges, and discussed new mindsets. Although it’s difficult to summarize their diverse stories, one takeaway is that the road to success and personal fulfillment is tough, and we have to take care of ourselves in order to make progress. Or, as one Fellow noted in feedback about the event: “I learned to trust people and love myself.”

Faculty also shared stories about the Faculty Champion perspectives that might drive resistance to Fellows’ ideas (see Nick Swayne’s talk here) and how great leadership is invisible and leads from behind (see Mary Raber’s talk here). View all the ignite talks.

The Event Recap

Imagine stepping into a room and being met by 24 cheering Fabs, and receiving high-fives and hugs in addition to an agenda and name tag. That’s what Meetup registration looked like on the evening of Thursday, March 15. Participants entered as strangers and left with a whole superhero team of friends.

Early in the morning on Friday, March 16, the group boarded six busses and headed to Google for the day. There, they were hosted by Google’s Chief Innovation Evangelist, Dr. Frederik Pferdt, who led attendees through activities to help them build a culture of innovation using design thinking.

During a lunchtime break to fuel our bodies (with food), attendees got a chance to check out the Google Garage and take a massive group photo outside the Noogler Orientation Room where they spent the day. Viola Gauci of Alphabet’s X and Daniel Stratford of Google for Education shared their insights and stories with the Fellows in between design challenges.

At Stanford on Saturday, March 17, Fellows took part in activities such as movement and leadership with Aleta Hayes from Stanford’s Theater and Performance Studies; stokes (warm-up activities) with Tania Anaissie, a former d.school experience designer (one Fellow described stokes as “brutally useful.”) Other activities included space design with the UIF team; and storytelling through video with Tyler Winick of Only People Media, who also produces the UIF program’s videos.

They heard about personal motivation, confidence and the value of taking action from Yan Budman of Spark Social Solutions, the co-creator of social good phenomenon @HiddenCash. In the evening, they participated in an unconference, where the attendees (rather than the event organizers) set the agenda and work in groups around topics of interest.

Sunday, March 18, was dedicated to unleashing the power of the UIF movement. Attendees heard from a panel of early-career Fellows, and then launched into one of the day’s big events: the d.challenge. Participants split into groups to learn how to use the d.challenge toolkit for facilitating an introductory design thinking experience at their schools. We provided them the toolkit and guidance on how to facilitate, and we challenged them to hold an event within the next few weeks at their schools.

In the afternoon, they worked on designing learning experiences with a focus on equity, led by Mimi Fox Melton of CODE2040. Attendees also met in small groups with coaches for an activity called the Sneaky Lil’ Experiments Studio, which helped them design quick real-world tests of their ideas for learning experiences back at their schools.

Sunday night, Fellows discovered the answer to the question: what’s rainbow-colored, flies, and contains inspiring words? The Meetup’s paper airplanes debrief! This is one of our favorite activities, and it serves as the formal close of the event. Everyone writes something they learned on a piece of colored paper and launches it in the air to be caught and read by someone else. We celebrated the end of the event with local food trucks, ice cream, and a dance party in the d.school atrium, featuring a very diverse collection of music from around the world selected by the Fellows. It was so much fun that our team’s announcement that the buses had arrived to take them back to the hotel was met with vocal disapproval. Who needs sleep anyway?

On the morning of Monday, March 19, Fellows took part in an outdoor walking debrief and gratitude experience. They traveled to one of five locations to digest the Meetup experience and connect with one another: Stanford, the North Sawyer Reservoir, the Palo Alto Baylands, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Mission in San Francisco.

The #uifamily

The Force was strong with this group of Fellows; the sense of community, of family, was tangible throughout the weekend.

Fellow Curtis Harrison of the Colorado School of Mines summarized this feeling well when he said, “The biggest thing I learned is that none of us are in this fight alone. It was powerful to realize that there were groups of passionate and awesome individuals working to make the same changes at their school that the Fellows at my school are shooting for. I now know we all have the UIF community to pull energy and ideas from, even as we work on individual projects.”

Chris Dinnis, of the University of New Haven, echoed this sentiment: “No matter what I am going through, I am not alone. Someone in the UIF family will be there for me to listen and empathize.”

The Meetup is not a once-and-done experience. Fellows who met for the first time will continue to collaborate with one another long after the event. Close friendships have emerged despite being separated by oceans; Fellows check in on one another to offer advice and support; they share grant, job and internship opportunities. They even share their sofas and dinner tables for Fellows visiting their cities (a travel/lodging startup opportunity?).

This is the power of the UIF community. It’s not Silicon Valley, Stanford, or even the UIF training that makes this kind of connection possible — it’s the people. We come together in these shared experiences to get behind a common mission. We’re family, and we stick together. That’s how change happens.


View photos, videos and materials from the March 2018 UIF Silicon Valley Meetup.

We Believe Music Can Change the World

Grammy Award-winning artist Grace Weber and her band perform at the University Innovation Fellows program’s ui5 celebration on November 19, 2017. Photo by Patrick Beaudouin.

450 University Innovation Fellows and faculty took part in a star-studded event to design ways for music to solve problems and bring awareness to social causes.

by Laurie Moore

The scene was wonderfully chaotic. Throughout the many spaces of the d.school at Stanford University, music blared from cell phones, speakers, and out of headphones. One group of students built a guitar out of cardboard and sticky notes. Another group role-played an idea that would connect people to volunteer opportunities in exchange for concert rewards. Others crowded around whiteboards filled with sketches and notes that represented ideas for ways to use music to benefit society.

University Innovation Fellows prototype their solutions to the music-themed challenges during the ui5 celebration. Photos by Patrick Beaudouin.

The ui5 event brought together 450 University Innovation Fellows and faculty members from around the world to tackle music design challenges sponsored by artists and their foundations and initiatives. The event, held on Sunday, November 19, 2017 at Stanford, was a celebration of the University Innovation Fellows program’s five-year anniversary. It was one of several university music design challenges sponsored by Pandora and Real Industry, and partners for this event included Google, Microsoft and Nearpod.

Left: Binta Niambi Brown of Fermata Entertainment Ltd. and singer Grace Weber introduce their design challenge; Right: Fellow Sean Farrell leads his design challenge team to Stanford’s d.school. Photos by Patrick Beaudouin.

Attendees worked in small teams on four design challenges: how to encourage wellness and mental health in communities of color (Common and the Common Ground Foundation); how to integrate musical experiences into K-12 education (Grace Weber and The Music Lab); how to motivate concert going fans to engage in socially-conscious actions supported by artists (Incubus and The Make Yourself Foundation); and how to raise awareness about Ewing Sarcoma among college students (Manchester Orchestra and the 1 Million 4 Anna Foundation).

Teams received hands-on mentoring directly from industry leaders: Pandora Artist Marketing Manager Heather Ellis, Common’s Social Impact Advisor Michael Latt, The Make Yourself Foundation’s Director Brandon Deroche, and Real Industry’s Directors Jay LeBoeuf and Priyanka Shekar.

Left: A team of Fellows work on their project, mentored by August de los Reyes, Head of Design at Pinterest; Right: Fellows storyboard their idea for a video. Photos by Patrick Beaudouin.

“Music is a common bond that we can use to establish relationships,” said Jaclynn Siler-Dearring, a Fellow at North Carolina A&T State University and one of 18 Fellows who facilitated the design challenge. “No matter who you are or what you’re doing, there’s some kind of music that you can relate to and that can help you express what you’re going through. So we’re using music to tackle these issues.”

As part of the challenge, students were asked to prototype their solutions in the form of a video. Their ideas included playing music on school buses to engage young students, volunteering as a means to connect college students and give them access to concerts, and a health and wellness center that would creatively use the brand of an artist to reach underserved populations.

Left: Fellows working out the details of their design challenge solution; Right: Mentor Jay LeBoeuf, Executive Director of Real Industry, gives feedback to a Fellow. Photos by Patrick Beaudouin.

“We’re going to take the ideas and output from these students and share them with the artists and foundations,” said Jay LeBoeuf, Executive Director of Real Industry. “This is a diverse group of students who at this point are experts at design thinking. They’re using their fresh perspectives to tackle problems we’ve been trying to solve for years.”

Left: Stanford Taiko drummers perform for the crowd; Right: Stanford’s Ge Wang discusses the connections between music and design; Photos by Patrick Beaudouin.

In addition to the design challenge, the day also featured a talk by Ge Wang, a professor in Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, on how music and design can bring people together; a performance by Stanford’s Taiko drummers; and a panel talk with Pandora’s Chief Product Officer Chris Phillips and Grammy Award-winning artist and singer Grace Weber. Weber is deeply committed to leveraging the power of music to advance social causes; she recently launched The Music Lab, a non-profit organization in Milwaukee that builds community through music.

From left: Fellow Nadia Gathers introduces singer Grace Weber and Pandora’s Chief Product Officer Chris Phillips. Photo by Patrick Beaudouin.

After the panel talk, Grace Weber and her band performed to an audience of nearly 500, which included special guests — a group of Oakland high school students, participants in Grace Weber Music Lab Pop-up at Stanford. At the end of the concert, Fellows rushed the stage to sing along, dance, and pose for a full-auditorium selfie with the singer. The event concluded with a music and dance party in the d.school’s atrium.

Fellows rushed the stage during Grace Weber’s performance. Photos by Patrick Beaudouin.

The ui5 event was a first for the University Innovation Fellows program: a day-long design challenge focused on music, the largest gathering of Fellows in the program’s history, and a concert with a talented singer. For the Fellows, it was a unique opportunity to dive into the world of music, one they are all familiar with, and apply their design thinking skills to solve real-world problems.

Grace welcomes the Fellows up on stage at the end of the concert. Photo by Patrick Beaudouin.

“Seeing students from all around the world working on problems from different perspectives was so refreshing,” said Jon Cook, a Fellow from Grand Valley State University. “Music is something that’s close to my heart, so applying design thinking to a field I’m so passionate about is something I haven’t done in a long time.”

“I’ve never put music and design thinking together before,” said RJ Lualhati, a Fellow from La Salle University. “We worked with artists to solve big problems. We can do this with music!”

Now Accepting Applications for Fall 2017 UIF Program


Applications for the University Innovation Fellows program 2017 fall training are now live! Please request an application here: universityinnovationfellows.org/apply/application. Once requested, you will receive access to the full student application within 24 hours.

What You Need

In order for your application to be complete, you need the following materials:

  1. A student application (one per student);
  2. Three letters of support from peers and mentors in your community (submitted online after the student application is submitted);
  3. A faculty application, complete with the $4,000 program fee;
  4. One institutional letter of support from the university President, Provost, Chancellor, or other VP-level administrator.

Student Letters of Support

We have adjusted the letter of support process for students this year because we want to learn more about you! We’re now asking for three letters from your peers, faculty or mentors. We are suggesting a few  different types of letter writers, in which you need to ask three:

  • A student peer
  • A person with whom you have volunteered
  • A faculty, staff or administrator
  • A mentor in your community
  • A student peer with whom who have collaborated on a project

Next Steps

The application deadline is Monday, March 24, 2017, midnight Eastern Time. EXTENSION: Monday, May 1, 2017, midnight Eastern Time.

We take one week to reconcile all of the application materials for each school. We will then send a status update sheet so that you can view items that have been submitted and items that have not. Based on the status sheet, if all application materials are submitted, your school will be marked in green (for GO!), and you and any other students from your school will be invited to interview together during the month of April.

Interviews are conducted in leadership circles (up to 4 students applying with you from your school). These are interactive and meant to showcase you as a team, whereas the application is to get to know you individually. If you are the only student applying from your school, you will be interviewed, we encourage you to find like-minded students like yourself to apply alongside you. All interviews are conducted by current University Innovation Fellows and recorded for review.

Once all interviews are completed, we will be in touch about your status with the program. Interviews run for up to a month (maybe a week more), so you should hear from the program team no sooner than mid-May.

Training Dates

Fall training will begin on Tuesday, September 5, 2017, with orientation. There will be two orientation sessions running, as we are now accommodating global time zones. Orientation is one hour, and will introduce you to the 6 weeks of the online training program and set expectations.

  • The first orientation is September 5 at 8 p.m. eastern time.
  • The second orientation is September 5 at 10 p.m. eastern time for participants in India (8:30 a.m. India standard time)

Training will conclude with your official launch as a University Innovation Fellow on October 20, 2017.

Fall Meetup

Upon successful completion of the program, you will be invited to attend our Silicon Valley Meetup November 16-19, 2017. You will learn more about this at orientation and throughout training.

If you need more information as a student, please follow this link: http://universityinnovationfellows.org/apply/students/

If you need more information as a faculty sponsor, please follow this link: http://universityinnovationfellows.org/apply/faculty/

Or, visit our frequently asked questions page: http://universityinnovationfellows.org/apply/faqs/

If you still have questions about the application, or the program in general, please contact Katie Dzugan, katie@universityinnovation.org, or +1 (413) – 274 – 7077.

Summer Updates and Fall News

To our student and faculty community, welcome back to school! The new academic year is an exciting opportunity to explore new opportunities for learning and to continue making change on campus.

It’s also a brand new year for the University Innovation Fellows program. We are quickly settling into our new home at Stanford University’s d.school, after the mid-summer conclusion of the NSF-funded National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter).

What have we been up to over the summer?

  • In June, we hosted a workshop with a colleague from Google as a partner event of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit called “Hack Your Creative Culture.” Fellow and facilitator Alexandra Seda shares her experience at the workshop and stories of five entrepreneurs she met in this blog post (and see photos here).
  • In June, we also hosted sessions and the Fellows presented posters at the annual ASEE Conference in New Orleans (see photos here).
  • In July, we hosted the first Teaching and Learning Studio workshop for higher education teachers (see photos here). These workshops help educators experiment with new ways of engaging students using design thinking.
  • On September 6, we launched the orientation for our Fall 2016 training.
  • We’ve got a big international opportunity in the works. Stay tuned for the announcement!
Fellows spoke and facilitated a workshop at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit at Stanford University in June 2016l

Fellows facilitated a workshop at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit at Stanford University in June 2016.

What’s new this year?

  • The University Fellows Program has gone international! We’re accepting students from around the world.
  • We’re offering new workshops for higher education faculty and teaching staff called the Teaching and Learning Studio. The first workshop took place in July (see above), and additional workshops are planned in January 2017, June 2017 and July 2017. They are held at the d.school and facilitated by the UIF program team and Fellows. Learn more here.
  • We’re handing over the reins of our Instagram feed to Fellows who are hosting events and taking part in some exciting venture. Find out what they’ve been up to this summer.
  • Our new home at the d.school will provide our Fellows and faculty with lots of new opportunities for engagement. Stay on the lookout for new d.school friends and resources.
Fellows and program leaders hosted the first Teaching and Learning Studio for faculty in July 2016.

Fellows and program leaders hosted the first Teaching and Learning Studio for faculty in July 2016.

What will continue as always?

  • Being a program of Stanford’s d.school allows us to maintain the same mission and vision as we had with Epicenter and also provides us with new support from d.school teaching experts and collaborators.
  • We will continue to place an emphasis on design thinking, entrepreneurship, innovation, and creativity.
  • Applicants can be students from all majors and all levels of higher education (freshmen through PhD students).
  • We’ll hold two application and training cycles each year (next deadline is October 31, 2016).
  • We’ll host the annual Silicon Valley Meetup in the spring and Regional Meetups throughout the year (stay tuned for information on this year’s Regional Meetups).
  • There will be many opportunities for Fellows and faculty to join us at conferences and workshops around the world.
Fellows at the annual American Society for Engineering Education conference in June 2016

Fellows at the annual American Society for Engineering Education conference in June 2016.

Yes, we’ve got a lot going on, as we always do. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Want to get involved? Here are some ways you can join in the fun:

  • Share your updates with us. We want to bring you with us to events and conferences and feature your work on the UIF website (and the soon-to-launch new d.school website). Once we know what you’re working on, we’ll know what opportunities to connect you with. Send us a quick note in this Google form.
  • Give our social media followers a look into the work you’re doing at your school. Email Katie to guest-post on the UIF Instagram channel. On Twitter? Include #uifellows or @uifellows on your tweets. 
  • If you’ve got a story burning at your fingertips, we have a UIF Medium channel, and we’d love to include your article. Email Laurie for more details.
  • Fellows, want to meet some new future friends and help out as a mentor? We’re looking for volunteers to help with several projects, including interviewing Spring 2017 candidates. Let us know in the UIF Volunteer Opportunities form.
  • Fellows: find out what your community is up to! Connect with all of us on Slack, the closed Facebook group, the google group, and subscribe to our blog.


From the UIF team, we love you all, and we continue to be immensely proud of the work you’re doing. You are making a lasting impact on your university and in the lives of your peers. It’s important work, and we’re so glad you’re doing it.

Your #UIFamily,

Humera, Leticia, Katie and Laurie

123 U.S. Students Named University Innovation Fellows by NSF-Funded Epicenter

For Immediate Release
February 24, 2015

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

123 U.S. Students Named University Innovation Fellows by NSF-Funded Epicenter

(February 24, 2015) — 123 students from 51 U.S. higher education institutions have been named University Innovation Fellows by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter).

The University Innovation Fellows program empowers students to become agents of change at their schools. The Fellows are a national community of students in engineering and related fields who work to ensure that their peers gain the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to compete in the economy of the future. To accomplish this, the Fellows advocate for lasting institutional change and create opportunities for students to engage with entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity, design thinking and venture creation at their schools.

This new cohort of Fellows brings the total number to 291 Fellows from 114 schools. The program is run by Epicenter, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Stanford University and VentureWell (formerly NCIIA).

“In today’s competitive economy, it is critical for all students to learn an entrepreneurial mindset, which helps them learn to be resilient, creative and empathetic,” said Humera Fasihuddin, co-leader of the University Innovation Fellows program. “Students need to leave school better prepared to tackle our world’s big problems and create new and fulfilling jobs for themselves and others.”

“Our program provides a platform for Fellows to learn to be strategic thinkers, examine the landscape of learning opportunities at their schools, and formulate action plans to implement their ideas,” said Leticia Britos Cavagnaro, co-leader of the Fellows program and Deputy Director of Epicenter. “Fellows develop a community and share strategies about what’s working at their schools. Ultimately, these students, with their drive and motivation, are leading accelerated change in higher education.”

Individual Fellows as well as teams of Fellows are sponsored by faculty and administrators at their schools and selected through an application process twice annually. Following acceptance into the program, schools fund the students to go through six weeks of online training and travel to the University Innovation Fellows Annual Meetup in Silicon Valley. Throughout the year, they take part in events and conferences across the country and have opportunities to learn from one another, Epicenter mentors, and leaders in academia and industry.

Fellows have created design and maker spaces, founded entrepreneurship clubs and organizations, worked with faculty to design new courses, and hosted events and workshops. In the last academic year alone, Fellows created 553 activities, 22 new spaces and 65 innovation and entrepreneurship resources at their schools.

“Over the course of the program, we’ve seen Fellows have a powerful impact on student engagement and campus culture at a national scale,” Fasihuddin said. “Word of their success has attracted more than 50 institutions for this new cohort. We’re thrilled to see the impact of the new Fellows in the year ahead.”

The new Fellows gathered in Silicon Valley on February 20-22, 2015, for their annual meeting, where they took part in immersive experiences at Google and Stanford University. At the event, Fellows participated in experiential workshops and exercises focused on topics including movement building, student innovation spaces, design of learning experiences, and new models of change in higher education. They engaged with leaders in academia and industry from Google, Google for Entrepreneurs, Stanford University, and Citrix, among others. Additional information and photos from the event are available upon request.

Learn more about the University Innovation Fellows at http://epicenter.stanford.edu/university-innovation-fellows.

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 epicenter.stanford.edu.

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

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


Epicenter principal investigator, Sheri Sheppard, named U.S. professor of the year

The University Innovation Fellows program is one of three strategic initiatives of the Epicenter, or National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation. This National Science Foundation funded center aims to change the way undergraduate engineers are prepared for the workforce. And, it couldn’t come at a better time. Today’s complex global challenges require game-changing solutions to preparing our youth to see the big picture, break it down into its constituent parts and tackle it with real and sustainable solutions. That’s what we train Fellows to do, in bringing such learning opportunities to peers across U.S. college campuses. It’s also reflected in the game-changing ways our Principal Investigator teaches Engineering.

The Epicenter principal investigator, Dr. Sheri Sheppard, was named U.S. professor of the year. She has been recognized for her accomplishments in taking the traditional 100+ student engineering lecture and breaking it down into pods of students who are thinking strategically and learning experientially. Stanford put together a great video that describes her impact on teaching and student learning in engineering:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKIc0aZKMKQ&w=560&h=315]

Following is Sheri’s statement about teaching and her acceptance speech:

Stanford University posted news of the recognition here.
We couldn’t be more proud of our colleague and friend.


~Humera Fasihuddin.
University Innovation Fellows.

58 U.S. Students Named University Innovation Fellows by NSF-Funded Epicenter

For Immediate Release
October 2, 2014

58 U.S. Students Named University Innovation Fellows by NSF-Funded Epicenter

Palo Alto, CA – Fifty-eight students from 26 higher education institutions across the United States have been named University Innovation Fellows by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter).

The University Innovation Fellows program empowers students to become agents of change at their schools. The Fellows are a national community of students in engineering and related fields who work to ensure that their peers gain the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to compete in the economy of the future. To accomplish this, the Fellows advocate for lasting institutional change and create opportunities for students to engage with entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity, design thinking and venture creation at their schools.

This new cohort of Fellows brings the total number to 168 Fellows from 85 schools. The program is run by Epicenter, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Stanford University and VentureWell (formerly NCIIA).

“It is so critical for students to have an entrepreneurial mindset in today’s economy. They need more than just technical skills to solve the big problems our world is facing,” said Humera Fasihuddin, leader of the University Innovation Fellows program for Epicenter.

“This mindset helps students learn to be flexible, resilient, creative, empathetic. They learn how to identify and frame problems rather than simply solving what’s put in front of them. With these skills, students will be able to leave school better prepared to tackle challenges and create new and fulfilling jobs for themselves and others.”
Individual Fellows as well as teams of Fellows are sponsored by faculty and administrators at their schools and selected through an application process twice annually. Following acceptance into the program, students complete six weeks of online training, where they connect with their new network, examine their current entrepreneurial ecosystems and formulate action plans to implement their ideas. Throughout the year, they take part in events and conferences across the country and have opportunities to learn from one another, Epicenter mentors, and leaders in academia and industry.

Fellows have created student design and maker spaces, founded entrepreneurship clubs and organizations, worked with faculty to design courses, and hosted events and workshops. In the last academic year alone, Fellows created 553 activities, 22 new spaces and 65 innovation and entrepreneurship resources at their schools.

“Fellows are having a powerful impact at their schools,” Fasihuddin said. “They are working alongside students, faculty and their university leaders to help all students learn an entrepreneurial mindset, dream big and pursue their career aspirations.”

Learn more about the University Innovation Fellows at http://epicenter.stanford.edu/university-innovation-fellows and http://www.dreamdesigndeliver.org.

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 http://epicenter.stanford.edu/.

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


Upcoming Deadline (June 30): University Innovation Fellows Program

When you’re paired with a group of motivated and energetic individuals, anything is possible.”  – Elliot Roth, University Innovation Fellow, Virginia Commonwealth University

After training 66 University Innovation Fellows this past spring, 110 students from 78 different institutions across the nation have come together to build a more experiential learning system for undergraduate engineers and their peers on campus.

Fellows join this movement to better the higher education system as a whole for their current and future peers. There was a moment for these Fellows when they decided that they needed something more from their higher education, something to challenge them more emotionally and mentally. These Fellow’s have been told “No;” been told they are “Crazy;” and been told countless other negative things about their visions for their future. The University Innovation Fellows program is a peer-based environment to support these students. The program allows Fellows to build a network of support for their visions and their ideas for the future. There is an overwhelming sense of pride, inspiration and amazement when these students come together and to define themselves as the economic future of our nation.

These 110 Fellows understand our nation needs us. That our future depends on us. They are leaders, followers, students, entrepreneurs, innovators, problem-solvers, hard-workers, professionals, teammates, mentors, mentees, owners, influencers, and visionaries. Fellows are changing institutions of higher education one at a time, while tackling the nation’s largest problems as a whole. They are taking their degrees into their own hands, creating an experiential learning environment and challenging the boundaries of traditional education systems. These Fellows work with administration, faculty, deans, congressmen/women, and students. They are building the future we currently dream about.

Fellows have surpassed just creating awareness on campus around innovation and entrepreneurship and are building lasting institutional change through events, workshops, makerspaces, venture funds and curriculum. Last year, Fellows created more, built more and designed more. The lasting institutional impact is being scaled by efforts through Leadership Circles.

There are 5 days left to apply for the fall cohort (deadline: Monday, June 30). The application can be found here. If you have further questions, please post them below so we can share the Q&A with other visitors. We will respond in a timely manner. If you would like to speak to someone directly, please contact Humera Fasihuddin at humera@nciia.org or Katie Dzugan at kdzugan@nciia.org, (413) 341-1663. We are extremely excited to get to know our new candidates this fall!


Katie Dzugan
UIF Program Associate

Cal Poly Freshman and Dublin High School Alum Nicholas Sinai Selected as Prestigious University Innovation Fellow

University Innovation Fellow, Nicholas Sinai, is recognized by his high school (Dublin High School) for his entrepreneurial pursuits at Cal Poly University San Luis Obispo during his freshman year. His past teachers and family provide an amazing insight into the type of person Nicholas is, and we couldn’t agree more. Keep up the great work Nicholas!

Pinning Ceremony

On March 20-22, 88 students from across the U.S. descended on Silicon Valley in California for our University Innovation Fellows (UIF) Meetup 2014. Over the course of three days, we convened at Google, Stanford University and OPEN 2014 to participate in an action-oriented, highly-engaging agenda (which was shared here a few days back). These 88 students comprised of elders, current Fellows, and new Candidates of the UIF program who are completing their training this week.

This event marked the first meeting of the Fellow Candidates and allowed them to forge partnerships with students from neighboring schools, find peers who were interested in the same opportunities, and create lasting friendships.

At the meetup, we recognized the University Innovation Fellows in our previous cohorts, who have already been incredibly active at their campuses. These students have put in tremendous amounts of work. They took part in 6 weeks of demanding training sessions last fall and spring that included researching strategic resources, interviewing other Fellows to learn from their activities, analyzing their campus ecosystems, learning about what students on campus want to see, and combining all of their new knowledge into a strategic vision to deploy on their campuses. This amazing group of talented, smart students have put in countless hours to engage students on their respective campuses to take interest in innovation and entrepreneurship and empower other students to harness their ideas and take control of their learning.

Below are students from our 2013 fall and spring cohorts.

Back row (from left): Dean Tate (Texas A&M), Brian Rhindress (UPitt), Valerie Sherry (UMD College Park), Mary Wilcox (ASU Tempe), Breanne Przestrzelski (Clemson), Brittany Wouden (WSU), Gregory Wilson (University of Georgia), Jennifer Mayo (Oklahoma State), Yifan Ge (Bucknell), Derek Dashti (Tulane)
Front row (from left): Katelyn Stenger (Rose-Hulman), Graham Leslie (Texas A&M), Terrence Agbi (NYU Polytechnic), Nate Smialek (UPitt), Ellery Addington-White (Beloit), Chen Cui (University of Iowa), Nolan Nicholson (University of Nevada, Reno), Andrew Dalman (North Dakota State)
Not pictured, but present at the Meetup: Jared Karp (UC Berkeley), Sharang Phadke (Cooper Union), Jack Goodwin (UC San Diego), Karuna Relwani (UPitt)

On the afternoon of March 21, we called these 18 Fellows up on stage, and symbolically welcomed them into our program by presenting them with Epicenter pins. We asked they choose a Candidate Fellow from the audience with whom they recently bonded to “pin them” (see below).

Front (left): Jorge Sanchez (ASU at the Polytechnic Campus); (right): Nolan Nicholson (University of Nevada, Reno)
Back (left): Kelly Thomas (UVA); (right): Brittany Wouden (WSU)

Each Fellow from the 2013 cohort now wears this pin with pride:

Congratulations to these students for tackling their learning needs and inspiring others to harness their creativity in order to make the world a better place! They represent a diverse group of leaders who will continue to inspire our up-and-coming generations.

Our Candidate Fellows will be finishing their training at the end of this week and we will acknowledge their efforts by presenting them with Epicenter pins in the very near future. The optimism and hope illustrated by this group of Fellows and the Candidate Fellows is remarkable. We are training groups of Fellows every semester. To host a University Innovation Fellow at your campus, apply today. Our fall deadline is September 8, 2014.

We truly believe students will change the world. Our nation needs us. The time is now.


 By: Katie Dzugan, Program Associate, University Innovation Fellows

Attention: This is a matter of national security.

Secret Agents Wanted. Report to ASEE Booth #417.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/68241834 w=500&h=281]

We are recruiting operatives for the Fall training. Faculty and Administration should report to the Epicenter Booth at the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) to learn why the country’s future, not to mention the future of your engineering school, will only be secured by the addition of a secret agent of change (a.k.a. Student Ambassador) helping institutionalize a culture of innovation and engaging engineering peers in adopting an entrepreneurial mindset. Authenticate your identity, watch the video and report to ASEE, booth #417 this Sunday, June 23rd through Wednesday, June 26th for further instructions.

~ Humera Fasihuddin, Manager of Student Programming, T: @ihumera

The Cat’s Out of the Bag

by Humera Fasihuddin

Update 7pm 6/19: And the standings have been announced! See below for each team’s placement and prize.

 1st place students get $10,000 in prize money and their Departments get to house the coveted trophy, sometimes referred to as the 'Stanley Cup of Biomedical Engineering'.

1st place students get $10,000 in prize money and their Departments get to house the coveted trophy, sometimes referred to as the ‘Stanley Cup of Biomedical Engineering’.

Today, I have the great honor of awarding a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winner for the ninth year of the BMEidea Awards.

The top three represent the finest in student innovations addressing real clinical challenges in the health sector with creatively-designed biomedical solutions. Read on to find out who ranked 1st, 2nd or 3rd, just announced this afternoon at the prestigious industry trade show and conference, Medical Device and Manufacturing East (MD&M East), at the Medical Design Excellence Awards (MDEA) Ceremony.

~ Humera Fasihuddin, Manager of Student Programming, T: @ihumera

EchoSure, 1st Place, $10,000 Price


The team members:
Devin Coon, 30, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Adam Lightman, 26, from Memphis, Tennessee
David Narrow, 22, from Baltimore, Maryland

Johns Hopkins University

The device:
A simple system that, for the first time, enables nurses to perform routine monitoring of patients’ vascular health at the bedside. Find out more…

AWAIR, 2nd Place, $5,000 Prize

The team members:
Rush Bartlett II, PhD, MBA, age 26, from Tulsa, Oklahoma and Austin, Texas
Ryan Van Wert, MD, age 33, from Toronto, Canada

Stanford University

The device:
AWAIR created the Wyshbone drug delivery catheter, which continuously applies topical anesthetic to the throat to reduce endotracheal tube discomfort. Find out more…

Gala Pump by DS Labs, 3rd Place, $2,500

The team members:
Susan Thompson, age 28, from Baltimore, Maryland
Adriana Blazeski, age 26, from Ann Arbor, Michigan

Johns Hopkins University

The device:
A hands-free, concealable, and quiet breast pump that women can use discreetly in the presence of others. Find out more…

Four Student Ambassadors Launch Innovation Space Venture, BetaVersity

Congratulations to Student Ambassadors Sean Maroni (NCSU), Lucas Arzola (UC Davis), Blake Marggraff (Washington University St. Louis), and Jared Karp (UC Berkeley) who launched BetaVersity this past April. BetaVersity designs and installs prototyping labs and ‘design kitchens’ for students to not only cook up new ideas, but also to make them a reality.

For a fee, campuses can be up and running with a space and brand that draws students from all disciplines to design and bring their idea to life. For their investment, campuses receive training and support for student leaders and campus officials who are increasingly recognizing the importance of supporting a ‘maker culture’ to support the anticipated demand in manufacturing jobs (summarized well in this Forbes piece: The End of Chinese Manufacturing and Rebirth of U.S. Industry).

Within a month, the team landed their first customer UC Davis and now lists UC Berkeley and North Carolina State University as BetaVersity sites. These happen to represent three of the four locations where the founders go to school, so my guess is that Washington University at St. Louis will take advantage of their ‘in’ before BetaVersity has a backlog.

Tim Huntley’s piece BetaVersity – Taking Innovation to School, in An Entrepreneurial Life, credits the team’s visit to Stanford E-Week. There, the founding team met for the first time learning about the value of innovation spaces like Stanford’s D.Lab or ‘The Garage’ on Google’s campus. Imagine the power of connected innovation spaces on each of the nation’s 350 undergraduate engineering schools. Now THAT would make for an economically competitive future. To learn more, visit their website at www.betaversity.com.

~ Humera Fasihuddin, Manager of Student Programming, T: @ihumera

Makers Earning $45K After High School, Our Future Innovators

Today show segment showcases exciting new program that’s ‘making makers’ within high school.

High School Makers in MA Earning Big Bucks in Robotics & Advanced Manufacturing

High School Makers in MA Earning Big Bucks in Robotics & Advanced Manufacturing

According to the segment, The unemployment rate for people under the age of 25 is 16.2%, double the national average. A new program in Massachusetts is designed to train students in advanced manufacturing, robotics and precision machining to satisfy the predicted 100,000 jobs that will be available in medical devices, biotechnology and other technology sectors. The program trains students in advanced techniques at vocational school, and students graduate with their high school diploma with 100% chance of getting a job in their field at rates at a starting salary of $45,000. As someone who believes in the value of a college education for the experience of broadening one’s viewpoint, adopting solid STEM expertise, dabbling in the humanities and more … the phenomenon does give me pause. Still, one can’t argue with the defying of unemployment odds. If they felt they needed it, $45K allows students to self-fund evening and weekend courses to earn the notch on their resume that contributes to upward mobility. Heck, they could potentially take Stanford and MIT Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for free and amass a powerhouse of knowledge, allowing them to lead the U.S. rebirth of technology-driven manufacturing debt-free and on their terms.

If you’re a college track student, though, you can still gain these practical skills. We see a growing trend in Colleges and Universities offering Design Kitchens and Innovation Spaces complete with CNC machines, 3-D Printers and other prototyping, invention and innovation tools. NCIIA has funded a number of of these with its Course and Program Grants in which faculty get $50,000 to support University/College build-out of such programs, five page proposal deadline due next Friday, May 10th). We highlighted six such spaces at the Smithsonian during our OPEN 2013 national conference last month in Washington D.C.. If you’re a faculty member or student thinking about ‘setting up shop’ at a place the University community can openly access maker tools, check out the YouTube video below. You’ll hear six 3-minute talks faculty from U-Michigan, Georgia Tech, Rice, Stanford, Berkeley and the K-12 environment. Imagine a space, central on campus and accessible to students regardless of major or year. Imagine a space that allowed students to create Valentine’s Day presents and other personal items in order to encourage a culture of making, inventing and innovating. Imagine a space staffed entirely by students, developing strong student expertise and incorporating strict codes of safety. Now, imagine a nation of makers and entrepreneurial-minded young people, socially aware and passionate about tackling the world’s most pressing problems. College students don’t want to find themselves at a disadvantage to those who gained practical skills through vocational training. They’re dissatisfied with the pace of change within academia (Making, Entrepreneurship and Innovation seen as one in the same practical tool set College Students want) and many are leading the charge within their own institutions, like Jared Karp our Student Ambassador from Berkeley and one of the six speakers in the following video. While academia may be slow to change, students have more of a sense of urgency (with graduation comes repayment made impossible without a job). What’s more, they’re the customer! And that gives them a certain clout and ability to avoid institutional politics. Click and get ready to be inspired:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgTgP2vfSbw&w=560&h=315]

To inquire about bringing a Design Kitchen or Maker Space to you your campus, contact me at humera at nciia dot org.

~ Humera Fasihuddin, Manager of Student Programming, T: @ihumera

April 2013 Issue of Harvard Business Review Includes Steve Blank and Lean Startup Methodology

The April issue of Harvard Business Review features a must-read article from Steve Blank on the acclaimed Lean Startup Methodology being deployed widely in the technology venture development circles. This is an especially exciting development for two reasons:

1) While HBR has published widely on management issues faced by large and established companies, it hasn’t been known for its relevance to the startup world (until now), and

2) It casts a much-needed spotlight on a disciplined process that has received a lot of attention, namely for its proven results in minimizing wasted development investment prior to vetting the business model.

Steve Blank’s Article in the Harvard Business Review

At the heart of this technique is the rigorous, and oft times brutally honest, customer development process in validating, refining and finding the customer value proposition and associated business model that makes the most economic sense. National Collegiate Inventors & Innovators Alliance has been managing the scale up of the National Science Foundation’s use of this methodology as it relates to its I-Corp research grant recipients. In addition, NCIIA and Epicenter (National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation) are about to hold a third workshop for University faculty to learn directly from Steve Blank, who teaches University venture teams at U.C. Berkeley, Stanford University, Columbia University, Caltech and the Joint Berkeley/Columbia Executive MBA program. The workshop, called, Lean LaunchPad Educators, will be held from June 18 – 20 in the Bay Area. There’s one slated for the East Coast in late September as well. These tend to sell out, so make your favorite faculty person aware. There may be opportunities for Student Ambassadors to attend future versions of this workshop. If you’re a Student Ambassador interested in this opportunity, let me know.

Read Steve’s blog post and access the HBR article here.

When Hell Froze Over – in the Harvard Business Review.

~ Humera Fasihuddin, Manager of Student Programming, T: @ihumera

UC Berkeley Ambassador Speaks at Smithsonian, Washington D.C.

Jared Karp, Student Ambassador from University of California Berkeley, spoke at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in an event entitled, “Spaces of Invention.”


The six-speaker event, held as part of the NCIIA Open Conference in Collaboration with Epicenter and was delivered Pecha Kucha-style (also known in some circles as an Ignite talk). In 15 slides that auto-advanced every 15 seconds, Jared Karp, a 3rd year Mechanical Engineering major at Berkeley, captivated the audience with his team’s quest to bring a Stanford d.School and IDEO-esque design space to the Engineering School at UC Berkeley. The result of their work, the Design Engineering Collaborative is a space now claimed by the Engineering Department as their own and is used by student clubs and faculty alike. Less lecturing and more hands-on making will create more inventive and innovative engineers, is the premise under which Jared Karp, Adam Eastman and other core team members are operating. NCIIA has seen many faculty espousing this belief in its 17 year history, but it’s the first time we’ve seen a student-led effort to make it so. Student Ambassadors joining the program will learn catalytic strategies like these to institutionalize a maker culture within their STEM Colleges and Universities. To see Jared’s 3.5 minute talk, advance to 32:40 of the following YouTube video of all six talks.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgTgP2vfSbw&w=560&h=315]

The five other speakers include faculty who describe their Design Kitchens and maker spaces from the collegiate through K-12 arenas. They include:

~ Humera Fasihuddin, Manager of Student Programming, T: @ihumera

Bottling the Bay Area and Stanford Magic

Student Ambassadors travel to Bay Area, attend Stanford E-Week

[wpvideo Jczop8dN]

Nine top-performing Student Ambassadors had an immersive experience in Silicon Valley last week to bring back best practices to their campuses. Some may say, “What happens at Stanford can’t be replicated in our region!” Perhaps not in its entirety. But, we think by breaking down the constituent parts of the magic that is at Stanford and its surrounding area, Student Ambassadors learned valuable new tools that will enhance their own Entrepreneurship and Innovation (E&I) ecosystems.

Student Ambassadors reported that the trip was life-changing for them and as one student described, it was a “completely tremendous experience, exceeded literally every other leadership/entrepreneurship event I’ve ever had the chance to attend.” They learned about several key-ingredients in the secret sauce at Stanford, including the importance of optimizing SPACE for creative thinking, to “unencumber the mind from constraints”. They learned about being EMPATHETIC, which allows them to get at the root of the source of the problems for people instead of just treating symptoms of assumed problems. They were involved in 2-hour and 12-hour DESIGN CHALLENGES saying, “it was cool to work with a team of strangers to get something done.” They attended a lecture with Tom Byers that “broke down entrepreneurship” and spent some one-on-one time with Byers who inspired them to lead an E&I movement on their campuses.

Off-campus, they met examples of rising-star INTRAPRENEURS at Google and EBay/PayPal and saw first-hand how Google’s open workspaces, casual atmosphere, and amenities like free food and laundry service maintain happy/healthy/productive people who foster an their inherent culture of design thinking, creativity and innovation. Students returned to the d.lab to have a one-on-one with CEO Rick Klau of Google Ventures who imparted words of wisdom like “beware of small successes”, and kicked-off roundtables with 12 portfolio company CEOs. Student Ambassadors also attended lectures and signature classes like the Entrepreneurship Thought Leaders Series (top download from iTunes U) with the four founders of SkyBox Imaging, followed by a discussion of their backstories with the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Class, taught by Draper Fisher Jurvetson Partner Heidi Roizen.

All-in-all, the trip was amazing, exhausting and inspiring. Students Ambassadors are all digesting the experience and returning to their campuses having bottled a bit of the magic. Stay tuned for more as we develop step-by-step materials that teach Student Ambassador how to implement the implementable on their campuses. In the meantime, recruit a Student Ambassador to attend our Spring Training, which begins at the OPEN Conference on March 21st of this month (register here: Apply).

~ Humera Fasihuddin, Manager of Student Programming, T: @ihumera

UPDATE 3/26/13: View additional photos at the Epicenter Facebook Album.

Nine Top Performers Announced! Trip to Stanford E-Week.

Nine Top Performers Announced! Trip to Stanford E-Week.

John Oliver, pictured above in blue, is one of nine recognized as a Top Performer.

John Oliver at Penn State is one of nine students who is being recognized as one of our 2012-2013 Top Performers. He is called out amongst the 27 Student Ambassadors not for the 2 concurrent SPARKs he led during Global Entrepreneurship Week, nor for the awards event that culminated, but rather for the Ultimate Trader Challenge that is taking off with more thrust than the Space Shuttle! Inspired by the Canadian who traded up a red paper clip to a house over a year and 14 trades, the Challenge at Penn will start with a blue pen and has been featured in this week’s campus paper, The Collegian, and on radio B94.5 The Morning Zoo Crew.

Now THIS is student-led impact… for a first-time competition, there are 110 already signed up to trade up from a blue pen to goodness knows what else! Even if it only engages 110 traders, that’s countless others who will trade with them and watch from the sidelines. What does trading have to do with entrepreneurship? Well, this exercise in particular teaches participants about the value (or perceived value) of an object. It teaches people to get behind your entrepreneurial vision and support you in your quest to trade up to something meaningful. It teaches you that you don’t get what you don’t ask for AND you’ll never attain a goal by watching on the sidelines. That is entrepreneurship. To generate value, get behind a goal, inspire people and hustle. Now, imagine a huge campus like Penn State bit by the entrepreneurial bug… That is what movements are made of—go John! It’s no wonder that you are one of the 9 top performers we are rewarding with a trip to Stanford’s E-Week.

Aside from John Oliver of Penn State, the top performers include Sean Maroni of NCSU, Michelle Zwernemann and Nishant Kumar of Johns Hopkins, Lucas Arzola of UC Davis, Jack Goodwin of UCSD, Alexandra Halbeck of Tufts, Blake Marggraff of University of Washington St. Louis and Elliot Roth of Virginia Commonwealth University. They will spend five days and four nights in the Bay Area attending E-Week events at Stanford, meeting Google Ventures, meeting start-up founders and other luminaries.

If you are interested in becoming a Student Ambassador, or having one to lead an entrepreneurial movement on your campus, and would like to have a shot at prizes like the trip to Stanford E-Week, act fast! Registration for the Spring Training closes on March 21st. Students trained this spring and next fall hold their Student Ambassadorship for the ’13-’14 Academic Calendar (the spring training gives you the advantage of coming to NCIIA’s Open Conference and to learn from incubent student leaders on their campus, before some graduate and leave campus). We believe students can change the world. Join us in starting a movement on your campus.

~ Humera Fasihuddin, Manager of Student Programming, T: @ihumera

Why Student Ambassadors?

Today, we are starting our new online training for 8 student ambassador candidates. This departs from our typical format of bringing 20 or so students to NCIIA headquarters in Hadley, MA to indoctrinate them in the lessons that make a great student ambassador. The online training consists of six one-hour sessions with experiential learning during the week. Student Ambassadors hit the ground running while drawing on the power of an unrivaled national network of student leaders.

You’ll learn more about the 8 candidates in the coming days, but here’s the list:
Tyler Salem, University of Central Florida
Wilson Kurian, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Karuna Relwani, University of Pittsburgh
Elliot Roth, Virginia Commonwealth University
Jared Karp, University of California Berkeley
Blake Marggraff, University of Washington St. Louis
Kevin Mobolade, Mercer University
Alexandra Halbeck, Tufts University

To learn more, watch the Prezi: “Student Ambassadors of Innovation: The Making of a Movement”
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Students interested in participating in a Spring online training (dates TBD) to serve as a Student Ambassador for the 2013-2014 academic year, click here. Faculty interested in sponsoring a student for the Spring online training, click here.

Brilliant Student Innovations Address Global Challenges

The NCIIA grants program is one that has given rise to numerous student-led companies. Actually, given that NCIIA has been around for 17 years, many are ‘all grown up’ and employ hundreds of people, garnering millions in economic impact…. but I want to highlight the ones that one might classify as ‘International Development’. If you’re from a campus that has a well-developed programs to help students explore opportunities for ‘social venturing’, you are lucky. Look into it. For those that do not, students should know that philanthropies, corporations and venture capitalists are investing in for-profit business models to serve the bottom-of-the-economic-pyramid customer base. Socially focused enterprises are thought to effectively address poverty through affordable services and products, including health care, sanitation, clean water, and energy, to those most in need. The NCIIA encourages students to apply for grant funding and create new ventures that benefit society, including ‘bottom-of-pyramid’ customers for whom socially beneficial products, like neonatal technologies, can be a game-changer.

I watched this video today and it hit home personally. Liya’s Diary, produced as part of the Bill and Melinda Gates ‘Living Proof Project’ video series outlines the persistent global challenges of maternal and neonatal health. My father grew up in a rural village in India. Although I was very young, I can remember visiting the poor dwelling where he and his 15 siblings lived. As a woman who has given birth to three children in the last 10 years, one who was born with severe jaundice, the notion that 600,000 deaths still occur annually due to jaundice illicits a personal and emotional response. Ben Cline is a student from Stanford that helped form Brilliance, a company that makes phototherapy devices for the developing world. We first met Ben in 2009 at NCIIA’s venture-development workshop which he had to leave early to catch a flight to India, to develop the innovation further and investigate the best means to bring it to market. We’re pleased to report that in three short years, the phototherapy device is hitting the market at a price point of $400 (see NYT article below).

What separates this success from other student-led projects that aim to have the same level of meaningful impact? Well, there are many but in my mind it was the early partnership with D-Rev, a Bay Area-based non-profit that has years of experience commercializing technologies for the developing world. For any given technology, market sector or innovation, the partner might be different but the importance of forging a strong commercial tie to an organization that has the experience, network and financial resources to move accurately and expeditiously towards appropriate commercial track is one of the biggest challenges for student ventures. Watch the TEDx talk (right) delivered by D-Rev’s, CEO Krista Donaldson, and the value of such a partnership is readily evident.

Last June National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) convened the Neonatal Technologies Forum with support from The Lemelson Foundation. According to the report from the meeting released by NCIIA last September, University-based innovation teams’ technology development and dissemination work is taking place in the context of a larger international development and global health push to improve maternal and child health. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) four and five call for reductions in child and maternal mortality by 2015. The UN’s 2010 Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health calls for new interventions, including new technologies, as key components of an integrated global strategy to achieve the MDGs. Other aspects of the strategy include health systems strengthening, integration of care, support of country health plans, and ensuring access to comprehensive care interventions and services. Students searching for a meaningful way to do well in life and do good should consider ways to be part of the solution.

– Humera Fasihuddin, Program Manager, NCIIA

(On twitter @ihumera)

How to Pick Great Speakers

Who better to tell our Student Ambassadors how to pick great speakers than Matt Harvey of Stanford Technology Ventures Program. As Content and Communications Director at Stanford, Matt is responsible for finding some of the great speakers who come talk to Stanford engineers within the Entrepreneurial Lecture Series class. Most of these talks are made available by podcast or video at Stanford’s ECorner. Here are some pointers for students holding events and workshops designed to inspire other students to pursue technology entrepreneurship:

  • Favor honest dialogue for flashy events. High profile speakers that fill a room are great, but smaller name companies can ‘keep it real’ and give an even better experience. Don’t be afraid to keep the event intimate. An event that’s too large might deter the speaker from giving the inside story.
  • Be wary of self-promoters. You don’t necessarily want people who have just written a book or are there to promote a certain agenda.
  • Be careful of leaders delegating to another person in the company, who will give an infomercial to recruit. Let the marketing person know that an infomercial will backfire.
  • Capturing the content just as important as the live event; great promotional tool.
  • Raffle away three exclusive spots to dinner with the speaker, rather than give away free food (which will attract people who want to eat).
  • Reach out to your Development Office to provide alum prospects a more meaningful way to engage with campus.
  • Be sure to ‘network up the chain’ by showing that speaker a great experience… give them a tour, show them what’s up and coming, intro them to key people. After they leave, you can contact them for people they know who can also come speak.
  • Contact smaller start-ups before their fame. Especially before they get involved in acquisition activity where they can’t speak about things freely.
  • Contact serial entrepreneurs who can speak of their past successes/failures more honestly than if they’re living it.
  • Contact smaller, newly acquired subsidiaries and you’ll find yourself referred up the chain in a big GE-like company.
  • Look for large companies practicing ‘intrapraneurship’.
  • Be flexible in the format: long talk, panel, interview, storyteller v slides… ask speaker what they are most comfortable with.
  • Frame expectations about the talk in advance. What is the most appropriate topic given the audience [of student engineers].
  • Regarding vetting speakers, be sure to find multiple data points who can attest to the quality of that speaker. You can also find video or audio of a person, or people who have heard their talks firsthand.