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Meetup Reflections: Creating Change Together


350 University Innovation Fellows and faculty traveled to the Bay Area for the 2019 Silicon Valley Meetup.

Nearly 350 University Innovation Fellows and faculty traveled to the Bay Area for the 2019 Silicon Valley Meetup, March 21-25, to learn new ways to create change in higher education. Our UIF team was thrilled to host so many amazing changemakers at Stanford University and Google for four learning-packed days.

This is the seventh (!) Silicon Valley Meetup we’ve held, and we wanted to try something different for this year’s event blog post. The Meetup wouldn’t be possible without 24 Fellows who served as Fabs (short for “fabulous”). These Fabs were bus team leaders, facilitators, mentors, speakers, event organizers and friends. We asked the Fabs for their reflections on different parts of the Meetup to provide an insider’s look at the action, adventure and learning.

Day 1: The first moments of the Meetup

By Carolina Vassallucci, University of Montevideo

The magic began when the Fellows registered in one of the rooms of the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Thursday afternoon. There were six tables decorated according to different teams that represented superheroes: Avengers, X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther, The Justice League and Fantastic Four. Each team was represented by four Fabs and had its table decorated according to their superhero team.

When the Fellows entered the room, all the Fabs shouted the name of their group and danced uncontrollably. What was the goal? To spread the energy from the very beginning, while doing simultaneous activities: checking who arrived, and giving them custom name badges, notebooks and UIF stickers. Fabs answered questions regarding dress code and agenda, and fielded comments about the excitement and anxiety for the days that were approaching.

Day 2: Google and a culture of innovation

By Jessica Aldrich, Wichita State University

Standing on the roof of Google helping set up one of the iconic Silicon Valley Meetup photos, I observed the formation of a community of individuals who had only met a few hours prior.

Fellows attending the Meetup spent their first full day at Google where they heard from Frederik Pferdt, the Chief Innovation Evangelist at Google, and were empowered to believe that they were ready to change the world. They were inspired by Daniel Holle from Loon, Ciela Hartanov from The Google School for Leaders, and Reena Jana, Head of Product & Business Inclusion Strategy at Google. They learned to build psychological safety within their teams and this community. After reflecting on the day with the Wichita State University Fellows, they shared with me some profound insights and takeaways:

“Become a leader when necessary, but not always. Be your own person, but work with your team too.”

“As soon as you shift your perspective, you change what you see.”

“Have courage to step into the unknown.”

This cohort of Fellows transformed from unsure about the day ahead (they were greeted with high fives at 8 am) to feeling like a deep community that embraced everyone when the buses rolled off Google campus at the end of the day. They had learned insights from industry leaders, experienced their first round of Fab ignites (short talks about their passions, challenges and activities as Fellows), and developed deep friendships that continued to grow over the rest of the week.

Day 3: Reimagining learning at Stanford

By Sienna George, Boise State University

On Saturday, Fellows experienced what it mean to “reimagine learning” through a day of experiential activities and a culminating unconference. They learned to test their own boundaries of what it means to learn and the potential they have to contribute to the learning landscapes at their own colleges and universities.

Throughout the day, Fellows embraced dance with Aleta Hayes from Stanford as a means by which to cultivate empathy for self-and-other and got inspired to challenge their own comfort zones. They engaged with the concept of space as a catalyst for connection and creativity using the d.school book Make Space as a guide for creating collaborative spaces. They learned public speaking and how to present themselves with confidence from Dan Klein of Stanford. They got “stoked” as they practiced how to reinvigorate mindsets and learned to energize others, and ultimately, embraced their own “true colors,” as they understood their leadership attributes and values, and how to collaborate with others during the “Six Thinking Hats” activity. The day’s culminating unconference presented students with the opportunity to couple their knowledge with an experience to share their own wisdom, demonstrating what it means to truly reimagine learning by contributing their brightest ideas for the future landscape of higher education.

As a Fab, my greatest take-away from the day was watching students transform their mindset from one of “I can’t do that,” or “that’s not for me,” into a mindset of “anything is possible,” and “that’s mine to make the most of,” embodying the spirit of true student agency.

Day 4: Designing for the future

By Sam Warach, University of New Hampshire

Sunday featured several inspirational speakers: Lisa Kay Solomon, designer in residence at the d.school; Alberto Savoia, Co-Founder of Agitar Software and former Google Innovation Agitator, who covered topics such as his concept of “Pretotyping”; Holley Murchison, founder of Oratory Glory, who talked about the importance of your personal brand and story; and Eric Edward Schell of Pride Portraits.

In the morning there were a series of panels featuring Fellows who had graduated and were in the workforce. During this, I had the opportunity to share my journey of growing my own startup NextStep HealthTech, and the launch of our mobile health software product, Hey NextStep. After the panel sessions, Fellows regrouped with members from their home universities to design system changes they would plan to implement upon their return. Students in my workshop group from India decided they were going to create a design club at their home university to cultivate positive change in their community.

In the afternoon, I personally had the honor to deliver a talk called “Take the NextStep: Harness the Power of Tenacity” to the attendees to share my experience as a Fellow working to create impact both in my Alma Mater community at the University of New Hampshire, and in the Behavioral Healthcare Industry after graduation with NextStep HealthTech.

I feel confident to say we will see the emerging leaders who have gone through the University Innovation Fellows program implement solutions to pressing problems, and change the world for the better.

Marvelous Monday adventures

By Vanessa Ganaden, California State University, Fullerton

On Monday morning, participants were given the opportunity to select one of six destinations: Stanford innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E) programs; the Garage at Microsoft Silicon Valley; Sustainable U (Stanford Sustainable Food Program); K-12 education at the Nueva School Innovation Lab; startup culture at Handshake headquarters; and a reflection at the Golden Gate Bridge.

I was a facilitator for the Stanford I&E program adventure. It was a fascinating look into how Stanford promotes I&E in the programs that they offer within the campus. For the first part, we explored how the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP) promotes entrepreneurship within Stanford’s School of Engineering. Then we took a look into how extreme and innovative thinking is being used to create social impact in the world’s poorest countries with the d.school’s “Design for Extreme Affordability” class. After those two programs, we participated in a workshop entitled “Designing with Machine Learning” with a goal to democratize machine learning through the use of design systems to create human-centric solutions.

When we say “innovation and entrepreneurship,” it can be hard to connect with, not because we don’t understand the importance of the topics, but rather it can be challenging to connect them  with our real world. Today’s activity showed me and the other Fellows that innovation and entrepreneurship are applied very deeply to the things that we care about, from social issues to new technologies such as machine learning. It also demonstrated that Design Thinking is a universal methodology that can transcend disciplines, technology and cultures to solve problems that change the world.

Lifelong connections

By Trevor Clevenger, Colorado School of Mines

There were hundreds of college students from around the world here for the Meetup. It was so inspiring to see people from such different backgrounds collaborating on how to make their campuses a better place. A lot of the students were noticeably shy at first, but you could tell that everyone opened up substantially as the weekend went on. By the end of the Meetup, real connections were being made that these students can carry with them for the rest of their lives.

What it means to be a Fab

By Jonathan Puhl, University of North Dakota

During our time as Fabs for this year’s Silicon Valley Meetup, we came to understand the true meaning of community. We helped orchestrate, implement, and keep the Meetup running, while helping any faculty or students with their needs. Our role seems to be a combination of facilitator and organizer mixed together.

While doing all the tasks associated with these descriptions, we also give ignite talks to the 350 attendees. Some topics included our questioning whether we are “just” students, overcoming incredible odds, and difficult happenings in our lives. We hope that these talks inspired the attendees do even more incredible things.

One thought we came away with this year wasn’t just that we got to be Fabs at the Meetup, but that through our involvement, we got to help others achieve their goals, simply by being able to tell our story, have a chat, or give them ideas to implement on their campus. This “role” is an amazing experience to bring our UIF skills to a different level and implement our learning through the UIF program and our lives, into a community focused purpose to help others do even greater things.

Life lessons

By Omri Gal, Swarthmore College

I learned how important it is to share your story. You never know who it will affect, and how. By sharing, you are able to connect with others and form deep and meaningful relationships. Working with the other FABs was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I have never worked with such an incredible group of people, and it taught me how important it is to surround yourself with empathetic, and caring people.

UIFamily forever!

By Daniel Kleinman, University of Florida, Leidos

Between my parents’ divorce when I was 13 and my dad and grandmother passing away when I was 23, the feeling of being a part of a family unit has not been much of a constant in my life. Feeling like I actually belonged to something (more than just being involved) created this raw, deep sense of connection that was something that I rarely, if ever, had felt in my life.

Being a Fab and part of this UIFamily was not just about feeling the love and support that comes with being surrounded by such amazing people, but truly how humbling it is to know that everyone is there for you on a deeper level, without a shred of doubt. There is certainly a practice of what we preach with empathy, passion, and inspiration for one another. There’s an unspoken confidence in the quality and commitment to these connections that makes them much more than friendships – and that’s when I knew I had found my UIFamily… and now they can’t get rid of me if they tried!

Collegiate Entrepreneurship – Learning through sharing and collaboration

 

 

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by Brandon Nolte
University Innovation Fellow at SIU Carbondale
Originally posted on his Linkedin

 

I’ve been wanting to write this article since I presented at the University Economic Development Associations Annual Summit with 4 other University Innovation Fellows.  This trip was one of the most eye-opening experiences since I decided to join the Fellows program and became dedicated to entrepreneurship and innovation. Recently I attended the Collegiate Entrepreneur Organization National Conference where I gained some amazing connections and learned from inspiring speakers.  From both the students and the speakers, I gained new insight into this discussion of Collegiate Entrepreneurship.

Why Entrepreneurship?

Every time I meet new entrepreneurs, I always ask them, why entrepreneurship?  Do you know why I ask them?  Because almost every time, they will tell you story about how they were introduced into entrepreneurship and how they are inspired to work harder.  It inspires me every time I hear a new story about why they want to create change, be innovative, and be forward-thinking.

What does entrepreneurship mean thou?  Everyone has their own definition. My definition does not define entrepreneurship as someone who owns a business, but someone who creates a solution to a problem in a different way than their competitors.  Entrepreneurship is a mindset and isn’t defined by a single individual but by how well a team chooses to diversify its skill sets.

Sharing and Collaboration is Entrepreneurship

When you think about what entrepreneurship is in my definition, it speaks in two different areas focused on skills.  You have the sharing of skills and you have the collaboration of skills.  Both of these complement each other in several areas but what is important is that they are different and once they come together, that is when great things happen!

Sharing

When you are launching your next startup or looking at developing that idea from the dorm, you should be looking at how someone can share their expertise with you.  If you are an engineer and can build a product, most of the time I bet you have not a clue on who is going to buy it.  If you are a businessman and you understand how to sell a product, find your target audience, and generate revenue, most of the time your ability to develop a product is going to be below par.

What is important is to note that each individual brings a different expertise to the team, and each person will boost the odds of having a successful entrepreneurial team.

Collaboration

Sharing is only successful if those resources can collaborate on a productive level.  There are a lot of factors for if a team will work well.   I framed in the beginning the skill sets of an engineer and a businessman.  These individual must have the same vision for the company, they might have different skill sets but both individuals are required for the companies success.  They must be driven and they must know how to be leaders when leadership is required and know how to be followers when needed.

How does this tie into Collegiate Entrepreneurship?

Collegiate entrepreneurship is on the rise all across the United States. Never before have universities been more pressured to giving attention to this discipline than ever before.

Entrepreneurship creates solutions to problems in a unique perspective through creative design, their mindset and their teams diversity.

We students have started a movement and there are a lot of parts to this forward-thinking movement. Students who have an entrepreneurial mindset are actively and publicly challenging their schools’ current teaching methodologies in teaching.  As education shifts, so does students’ preferences on how they want to gain experience and learn entrepreneurship.  If you ask student entrepreneurs, they will tell you that they would much rather work on their business than attend class, and here is why.

The experience a student obtains through experiential learning and learning through failures can be much more influential than any classroom setting.  When universities teach entrepreneurship, it should be taught around principles that show sharing of resources and collaboration of disciplines. By building a teaching curriculum around the foundation of start-ups, you create a center for students to live and act entrepreneurial every time they step in the door.

As any university begins to establish or evaluate its entrepreneurship program, remember to create an environment that is designed for students and if possible by the students themselves.  When students come together to create a shared collaborative space, they will feel home.

To all you student entrepreneurs, remember you matter!  You are designing your future, don’t be held back, what makes your an entrepreneur is your ability to overcome any obstacle and learn from your failures.

 

What the movie “Jobs” tells you about being an entrepreneur

By Elliot Roth

I went to see “Jobs” the other day with some friends and was thoroughly entertained. Ashton Kutcher’s acting was spot-on, with an excellent appearance from Josh Gad as Woz, who acted as Jobs’ conscience for most of the movie. I’m not sure whether Woz agreed with the performance, but it definitely tugged at my heartstrings.

The film was very Hollywood, with plenty of inaccuracies , but still gave some important lessons about entrepreneurship and starting a company:

1. Find the oddballs with the crazy ideas

From the very beginning of the movie, you can tell that Steve Jobs was a bit different. He dropped acid, cheated on his girlfriend, went to India, and sat-in on college courses without paying. Not only was Jobs different, but he gravitated to others who were strange, others with obsessions. You could label them as “geeks” but it’s more about having a single-minded determination and focus.

For example, Woz was a member of the Homebrew Computer Club, a fringe group of electrical hobbyists that believed in the social power of computers to connect and enable humanity. Back then, that idea sounded crazy, but this fringe group had the skill and knowledge to make it possible.

If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, but have no marketable skills, go to your local DIY meeting or Makerspace. You can learn something new, and find co-founders who may want to partner with you to bring their idea to life. Also, these groups may contain some of your first customers.steve-jobs-in-his-own-words

2. Customer first

Apple had its first customer before it was even a company. Paul Terrell ran a small computer parts store in the Valley and agreed to retail the Apple I. Jobs and Woz were in way over their heads before they even started. They needed to ship 50 boards in two months. They didn’t have the parts, they didn’t have the labor, and the prototype still needed some work. It was do or die.

The story of Steve and Woz’s first customer illustrates that you can never be ready for starting a business; you must constantly adapt and hustle to get things done. Their first customer also taught them some essential lessons for the future.

3. Oversell and over deliver

In the movie, Jobs is approached by Paul Terrell who still wants to buy the Apple I after a fumbling presentation. Jobs immediately begins underselling by saying that there are others interested in the Apple I (in truth there were none), but he’d stop by the shop. He walks into the shop the next day and immediately begins bargaining with such confidence that Terrell is taken aback and agrees to a large sale.

This salesmanship is repeated again when Mike Markkula comes to invest. Steve is quick and never loses his cool in the face of defeat or success. He renegotiates the contract to better benefit Apple and shows that Markkula isn’t dealing with amateurs.

What “Jobs” doesn’t show is the amount of behind-the-scenes research that goes into those snappy sales. By knowing the industry, and finance, you can make investments and sales work to your benefit. Steve knew that he needed some money in advance in order to build the Apple I. He worked out the pricing beforehand and oversold the computer to make a profit.

The last thing any entrepreneur should do is give up equity in your company. Steve knew that at a $300,000 evaluation, $90,000 is less than 1/3 of the company. At a certain point, it was this lack of control that ended Steve’s position at Apple. This happens over and over again to founders so be ready for it. Be indispensable to your company.

Overselling is nothing without delivering. Jobs delivered 50 motherboards to Terrell who immediately critiqued how they weren’t packaged products. Jobs countered by saying that Terrell could move more inventory by selling to hobbyists because he had all the components in shop, therefore he could make money. Without that quick counter, Apple would have ended as soon as it started. They under-delivered to their first customer. Terrell had taught them a lesson: customers only care about the final product and how simple and accessible it is to use.

4. Hiring is your worst mistake

There were two hiring mistakes in the movie. The first came from Steve’s best friend, Daniel Kottke. When hiring, there are numerous things to consider. The first is if new hires can create value for the company, the second is if they mesh with the team, the third is if they can adapt and learn, and the fourth is if they share the same values as the company. The movie portrayed that Kottke was only friends with Jobs and lacked the skills to adapt as Apple grew. Although the movie took some liberties, the story is generally true.

The second hiring mistake was John Sculley, the former CEO of Pepsi-Cola and a proclaimed “marketing-genius.” Seeking to augment Apple’s marketing department, Jobs hired Sculley, who had great success with Pepsi’s brand in the late 70s. Sculley did not directly fire Jobs, but let the board axe him after the Lisa failed and the Mac did not produce the numbers they expected. Sculley was more focused on immediate gratification and revenue rather than long-term outcomes. When picking a CEO, you not only need someone who is a good executor, but someone who aligns with the core ideals of the company. Sculley bent to the will of the board instead of embracing the ideals of “thinking different.”

5. Relationships or business. Choose one.

A recent article caused an uproar among the entrepreneurial community. In it, the author states that entrepreneurs cannot have relationships. Steve Jobs is a perfect example of this. In the movie, he left his pregnant girlfriend and disregarded former friends, all in the pursuit of Apple. A start-up takes up your attention and, in order to be successful, you need perseverance in order to make your idea come to fruition. Relationships may pose as distractions when there are one-hundred-hour work weeks. That is why it is much easier to start a business when you are young. You have the energy and limited attachments; you can afford to be thrifty and frugal without others to count on you.

If you ever become a CEO, it will become even more difficult. Many founders are divorced because their startup is all-consuming. A relationship is a balancing act that is very difficult to keep steady during the tumultuous first months of a start-up. Also, if friends are working in your company, your relationship is fundamentally changed. It’s lonely at the top, and emotions cannot cloud decisions made for the good of the company.

6. Heart over talent

Emotions run high at many points in “Jobs.” The love that he poured into Apple is felt throughout the movie. Steve was the company, the company was Steve. Without that love of the values that Apple espoused, there would be no Mac, iPod, or iPhone.

There is a scene in the movie where Steve goes around recruiting for the Mac team. He seeks out not the technical best, but the ones who really care. The team goes on tours of art museums, nature walks, and works with determination and attention to detail because the product is an extension of themselves. The Mac team is an example of how a group can transcend the sum of its parts to become something truly incredible.

7. Every detail matters

Let me repeat that. Every. Detail. Matters. It is not the overall product that the customer remembers, but the little experiences that go with it. The Mac team had this incorporated in its DNA. Only take projects at which that you can excel. Always produce terrific work. This means that you should say no to 99% of the things that come to you. For that 1%, hit it out of the park by crafting delightful user experiences that change the way people interact with the world.

The first thing that Steve Jobs did when he returned to Apple as CEO is to cut all the projects that weren’t innovating. They were the projects that were clones of what other companies were doing, projects that were focused on product, not user experience.

One of the first lessons to learn as an entrepreneur is to start a business because it is different. The second is to build experiences into your designs so customers always come back.

8. Go for needs not sales

“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” ~S.J.

Steve led his company like Wayne Gretzky, always going to the open spot, where the next big play was going to be. The Mac was years ahead of its time. The iPod revolutionized the music industry. I’m not even going to talk about the repercussions of the iPhone.

Jobs excelled in his ability to find the need of the customer, the root of the problem, the “pain point.” He then created with simplicity in mind, taking from Braun designer Dieter Rams to make a blank canvas for customers to interact with and imbue personality into. Apple’s products are beautiful because that is what users needed even before they knew they needed it. This attention to need has enabled Apple to develop products that are years ahead of its time and to rightfully hold the spot as the number one computer company in the world.

9. Absolute focus and adaptability

It’s a long way to the top. The only way to get there is with unyielding drive. Steve was a very direct person. He got straight to the point and wasn’t afraid to cut through bullshit. As Woz said: “Steve doesn’t like foreplay.” Jobs had a single-minded determination to carry out a project. He’d forgo relationships, food, and sleep in order to finish. Entrepreneurs would do well to take from his example.

Steve also had a diverse skill-set. He understood many things at a moderate level, which allowed him to communicate clearly and effectively with all sorts of people and employees. At different points he was an engineer, artist, manager, salesman, and advertiser. As an entrepreneur you must be able to learn quickly and do what ever job is necessary. Steve Jobs threw his entire being into his work and it showed.

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We can all take value from the life that Steve Jobs lived. His legacy lives on in Apple and in the numerous products he produced while working there. The film ends on the cusp of his success with the iPod, and shows the culmination of all the lessons he learned during his lifetime. I would recommend any aspiring entrepreneur to see the movie to discover how Apple became synonymous with innovation.

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Elliot Roth is a Junior in Biomedical Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University. His interests are myriad and include slam poetry, music, international jewel thievery, being an EMT, and writing incredible articles as a Student Ambassador. You can reach him at rothet@vcu.edu and follow him on twitter @rothet.

INFOGRAPHIC: The Entrepreneurial Mindset

Source: ODesk and Millenial Branding, The Future of Work

Thank you to ODesk and Millenial Branding for conducting this study and producing an awesome infographic that articulates the mindset of our Student Ambassadors. Our Student Ambassadors, most of whom are engineers, have “seen the light’. They have come to realize that through engineering, they can solve some of the world’s most pressing problems be it through a corporate job as an ‘intrapreneur’, a startup of their own or doing independent project work as many of the users at ODesk.

What makes our Student Ambassador Leaders different is their commitment to helping their peers on campus see the light.

Let’s face it, the most entrepreneurial and creative thinkers amongst us are going to find a way to pay down our college debt after graduation. It doesn’t matter if its by landing that dream job, creating a portfolio of projects that pay the bills or creating a venture spin-out while at school that ultimately employs ourselves and, for the sake of our fragile economy, many others. Student Ambassadors have a deep passion and motivation to enable their peers to pursue curricular and co-curricular opportunities while at school to prepare them to think entrepreneurially, operate independently and pursue a career path that is more meaningful than the peers that get stuck in a cubicle. For more information, check out the Future of Work Website and flip through the summary Powerpoint on Slideshare.

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

Entrepreneurship on College Campuses

infographicsnapshotHere’s a great infographic for why student ambassadors are leading the charge to create entrepreneurial ecosystems on their college campuses. Click on the graphic to see the larger image and read the post “The Rise of Entrepreneurship on College Campuses (Infographic)” by Diana Ransom, Contributing Editor of Young Entrepreneur.

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

Redefining the University & Entrepreneur’s Definition of Innovation.

When you google innovation, the definition pops up as “the introduction of something new” or “a new idea, method, or device.” Sure. But I see the NCIIA as able to challenge students to truly innovate. To take their freedom at academia and imagine the non-existing, mess around and see what happens, or apply two polar opposites in the same thought.

Today, we’re seeing lots of new products and ideas- but many are combinations of preexisting ideas with a twist or an existing application tried in a new environment.

As an Ambassador, my NCIIA Invention to Venture event will have an opening night called NYU Ambition. I’m out to reawaken and engage dreamers- students with ideas that society might make them feel are unrealistic or too hard to accomplish.

My goal this year is to ignite discussion and better understanding of the definition of innovation and how our University is faring from all angles…while simultaneously providing students the resources to take action and get rolling.

Vivek Wadhma recently tweeted something I agree with…

So how about we start considering innovation as the unknown- and allow ourselves to reach for it? I will be contemplating and working to initiate more ways for schools, governments, and businesses to provide more fertile grounds for innovation.

And if you’re still worried about Silicon Valley having it all, this chunk from Fred Wilson’s blog should ease your worries and inspire you:

“The entire world is now a rival to Silicon Valley. No country, state, region, nor city has a lock on innovation in technology anymore. The Internet has made this so and there’s no going back. We will see Apples and Facebooks get build in China, India, Brazil, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and plenty of other places.”

But please, spread the word that technology is not limited to internet startups,  that Universities are the place to experiment and start research or a company because of the freedom, support and resources available, and lastly- that you don’t need to be in or near a “hub-” you can start your own overnight!

Samantha Smith