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Connecting Students and Companies

Fellows often use start-ups as a way to involve other students in innovation and entrepreneurship. This story is an excerpt from Designing for Change.

David Shull (fourth from right) with other early employees of Handshake. Photo by Ben Christensen. 

When Fellow David Shull arrived at Michigan Tech in 2010 as a computer software engineering major, he dreamed of working for Apple. However, he discovered that his school’s connection to Apple was slim.

During his time in school, David connected with fellow student Garrett Lord. In 2014, Garrett offered him an opportunity to be the first employee at a startup he and other Michigan Tech students had founded called Handshake. 

This career network and recruiting platform connects universities, students, alumni and companies. The founders created Handshake to address their shared frustrations as students when they tried to find meaningful career opportunities at a remote campus.

“Garrett told me I could go work with a big company in Silicon Valley, or I could join Handshake and level the playing field for students so that everyone had a fair shot at their dream job, regardless of their socioeconomic background or where they happened to go to school,” David said. He took the job, and leads the company’s university growth efforts.

David also brought another Michigan Tech Fellow to Handshake. Brad Turner worked with David on UIF projects while in school, and he is now a leader on the company’s student product team.

Today, David said Apple and thousands of other companies are connecting with Michigan Tech and with the hundreds of universities using Handshake: “We’ve completely changed how college recruiting works at these campuses.”

In SINC with Students

A number of Fellows start student clubs and organizations as a vehicle to transform learning at their schools. This story is an excerpt from Designing for Change.

Fellow Vanessa Ganaden of Cal State Fullerton helped create the Student Innovation Collaborative, or SINC. The SINC team has worked with more than 120 students. Photos courtesy of Vanessa Ganaden.

In 2016, Vanessa Ganaden, a business major from Cal State Fullerton, discovered an interesting club at her school that connected engineering and business students. At the time, she said the club seemed focused on the business students helping raise money for the engineers. She wondered why there wasn’t more of these types of collaborations at her school, and how she might help the club bring together even more disciplines.

When Vanessa started her UIF training shortly afterwards, she realized that redesigning this club would be the perfect project to focus on. During training, the emphasis the UIF team placed on talking with potential users was one of the biggest takeaways for Vanessa. Along with Fellow-in-training Lorenzo Santos, Vanessa spent time talking with students, faculty and administrators to understand their perspectives and share their vision. 

“They understood the need, but hadn’t done anything because they knew it was difficult to bring together people from different majors,” she said.

She and Lorenzo discussed types of workshops that would appeal to students from different majors. They also wanted the club to add value so that students would learn practical tools and strategies to help them transition to their jobs. 

And so SINC was born — the Student Innovation Collaborative. Vanessa said that it’s the first multidisciplinary club at Fullerton. Their first workshops were focused on helping students learn skills relevant to the workplace, with visiting speakers and activities that helped them learn how to network and pitch. After a year, Yumi Liang, another Fellow, joined them, and they shifted direction of the club towards design thinking. 

Inspired by Design for America and the d.school’s Extreme by Design course, the team created project-based workshops focused on social causes. In Fall 2017, SINC students visited a homeless encampment to interview people and design solutions for them. In Spring 2018, the club worked on campus issues. In the last two years, more than 120 students have been part of SINC.

Vanessa said that the the SINC story is more than just the projects the students work on. She’s seen friendships and collaborations born, and participants taking away valuable life lessons. “SINC is about community and the students who are coming together to learn,” she said.   

Vanessa graduated in May 2018 and reflected on her time with SINC. “In UIF, we all share this bond of doing something bigger than ourselves,” she said. “Fullerton has been a great school for me. I am grateful for my experience there and I wanted to give back. This was my way.”