Fellows Featured On White House Blog – November 7, 2014

In this year’s proclamation of November as National Entrepreneurship Month, President Obama stated:

Across our Nation, in laboratories and around kitchen tables, passionate and creative entrepreneurs are developing new sources of clean energy, cures for life-threatening diseases, and inventions that will transform the way we see the world. America has always been a country of risk takers and dreamers – where anyone who is willing to work hard can turn a good idea into a thriving business – and our spirit of ingenuity remains a powerful engine of growth, creating jobs and bolstering our economy. This month, we recognize the grit and determination of American inventors and innovators and their many contributions to our Nation, and we reaffirm our commitment to support these entrepreneurs as they develop the products, services, and ideas of tomorrow.

University Innovation Fellows take inspiration from these words. They embrace Epicenter‘s mission to expand the innovation ecosystem in engineering… but they take it one step further. It is their belief that ALL students – not just engineers and business students – need tools that foster their creativity, innovation, leadership and entrepreneurial mindset. Why? Because the workforce requires it. Today’s graduates need to be better prepared for the skillsets and mindsets of their future employers. Students need to know how to come up with the really bold ideas that solve our society’s most throny problems, while also knowing how to execute on those ideas. Fellows understand this and work with faculty, administration and peers to identify, reframe and create infrastructure, programs and language that reaches a broader segment of the student population with essential learning opportunities, resources and more. With the speed that only comes from knowing they’re going to graduate soon, Fellows are laser focused on create lasting institutional change.

Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy featured the work of nine University Innovation Fellows who are implementing unique offerings based on the assets of that campus/region and their own personal passion and interest:

Bre Przestrzelski, Clemson University

Greg Wilson, University of Georgia

Lauren Abston, University of Oklahoma

Ryan Phillips, University of Oklahoma


Meenu Singh, Atin Mittra, and Valerie Sherry, University of Maryland


Mary Wilcox, Arizona State University


Ben Riddle, Furman University

We are very proud of their work and the impact they are making on their campuses. For the entire White House blog post, including their stories of making change in higher education, click here: http://1.usa.gov/13RFhF0. To learn how to become a Fellow, visit http://www.dreamdesigndeliver.org/apply.

~ Humera Fasihuddin, Leader, University Innovation Fellows

Twitter: @ihumera

Thinc-a-thon: Redesigning the UGA Experience

Imagine 11 students at the University of Georgia (UGA) creating solutions that redesign the home — from refrigerators to floors to lighting. Fast forward 5 months, and there are now 37 students redesigning the student experience at UGA through a similar Thinc-a-thon.

Gregory Wilson, a Fellow and Ph.D. candidate at UGA, developed the original idea for a thinc-a-thon last spring. The name of the event stems from UGA’s entrepreneurship initiative, Thinc. The approach of the event was inspired by IDEO — to get students thinking and creating and designing. The thinc-a-thon is a two day event that began on a Friday and ended the following Saturday evening. By increasing the Thinc-a-thons online marketing, the event more than tripled with participants.

Another perk to garner attention was the grand prize: a trip to Silicon Valley. The student teams, which were predetermined on Friday, presented to panel of 5 judges. Each presentation had 5 minutes, plus two minutes for Q&A to woe the judges. The 2nd place team received a prize of $400. In developing this event, including the prizes, Gregory had established a budget through the Vice Presidents for Research’s Office to purchase all of the supplies and food. However, for the trip to Silicon Valley, Gregory worked with the business school’s entrepreneurship club which takes the trip every year.

Gregory provided the Fellows with the inside scoop to running an event like this Thinc-a-thon. Take a deep dive into the details with him here: Talking With: Gregory Wilson, Thinc-a-thons.

Gregory Wilson, University of Georgia

Gregory Wilson, University of Georgia

Gregory Wilson is a Fellow and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Georgia. To view the strategic priorities for UGA, visit here.

Art + Engineering = Employment

Your opportunities for employment post-graduation are directly correlated with the fields you pursue and the activities in which you are engaged.

Infographic: Which College Majors Lead To Higher Employment, Unemployment?

Infographic: Which College Majors Lead To Higher Employment, Unemployment?

Should I bother getting a college education? If this is what you are asking yourself, I suggest you re-frame the question. Ask yourself instead, “Should I bother going to college to pursue a degree that isn’t in demand?” If employment isn’t your primary concern, go for it! But, if your goal is to pay down the debt you’ll generate and pursue a field you love then there is a basic phenomenon of supply and demand at play. The article “Infographic: Which College Majors Lead To Higher Employment, Unemployment?” published by mindflash.com illustrates this beautifully.

Engineering + Art = Employment

Over half of the top 15 majors with gainful employment have the words Engineering, Science or Technology in them. These are tough disciplines requiring a strong command of math and science. You’ll be working your butt off, but the payoff is gainful employment because that’s where there’s the most growth in U.S. jobs. Of course you can go to college to pursue some deep love or passion for clinical psychology or fine arts… but don’t expect you’ll be employed. Unless you’re the BEST in your field and pursue the highest training in those fields, the demand just isn’t there. However, there is one big caveat. Add fine arts to engineering and design, be it through your major, student project experience or by serving on a cross-functional team …and chances are you’ll have to beat back employers with a stick.

Greg Wilson, Chief Student Ambassador, University of Georgia

Greg Wilson, Chief Student Ambassador, University of Georgia

Companies, small and large, are desperate for people who have strong technical domain expertise that can be made relevant to society with arts and humanities. The US economy needs innovation now more than ever and it’s the bringing together of previously disparate and siloed disciplines that holds the most promise for innovation. There are numerous programs helping students bring these disciplines together, like California Art Center for Design, Pratt School of Design and programs like ArtX, at University of Georgia which happens to be where we are training a new Student Ambassador, Gregory Wilson (twitter), and are aggressively recruiting fellow student ambassadors and reach lots more UGA students. Student Ambassadors help expose peers to invention, innovation and design through events, programs and courses. Participation in these activities expose a broader swath of students on campus to the resources on campus, experiences and learning that can better prepare students for the innovation economy.

ArtX Program, University of Georgia

ArtX Program, University of Georgia

If you don’t have a program like this or a Student Ambassador effort at your campus, apply today to get one started. You can also pursue independent studies to try and combine your love and passion of not-so-employable fields with the hard sciences by working with our Student Ambassadors.

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