Change Agents Activated

Students take the lead in the evolution of higher education at the University Innovation Fellows 2015 Annual Meetup. Originally posted via Epicenter

by Laurie Moore

At 8:00 pm on Saturday, February 21, the second day of the University Innovation Fellows 2015 Annual Meetup was drawing to a close. Nearly 160 Fellows from across the U.S. had just participated in a 12-hour day of activities at Stanford University, including a one-hour movement workshop, a self-guided tour of campus to discover innovation spaces, and a four-hour, five-session circuit of experiential activities.

They should have been tired.

Instead, they sang karaoke together. They danced. They played basketball outside in the warm (to the East Coasters) evening air. They made s’mores around a fire pit and told their favorite stories from the day. They took selfies and gathered in small groups to learn more about one another and their schools. When the buses came at 9:30 pm to take the students back to their hotels, they demanded one final karaoke song, and then another.

It was hard to believe that these University Innovation Fellows met for the first time as a community only 48 hours earlier.

The University Innovation Fellows program, run by Epicenter, offers training and support for students to become change agents at their schools. Through the training and ongoing support, Fellows learn to navigate their campus landscapes and create offerings that hone peers’ entrepreneurial mindsets and instill creative confidence.

Fellows on the last day of the Annual Meetup at Stanford's

Fellows on the last day of the Annual Meetup at Stanford’s

While many Fellows had met online during their intense 6-week video-conference-based training, the Annual Meetup allowed them to connect in person for the first time. Together, they had the opportunity to share experiences and insights from their schools, collaborate on new strategies for change in education, understand their role in this national movement, and learn from leaders in higher education and industry.

The Fellows at the 2015 Meetup were from two cohorts trained in Fall 2014 and Spring 2015. Also in attendance were 12 of the Fellows’ faculty sponsors, who who were invited to attend and participate alongside students as partners in achieving institutional change.

The Meetup was organized by the University Innovation Fellows program staff at Epicenter: Leticia Britos Cavagnaro, Humera Fasihuddin, Katie Dzugan and Laurie Moore. Eight Fellows assisted with the design and facilitation of the event and hosted several sessions: Atin Mittra, Meenu Singh and Valerie Sherry from the University of Maryland, College Park; Greg Wilson from the University of Georgia; Ryan Phillips from the University of Oklahoma; Bre Przestrzelski from Clemson University; Ben Riddle from Furman University; and new Fellow Bradley Dice from William Jewell College.


Rhythm of a Movement






The event spanned three days. The first day at Google was hosted by Frederik Pferdt, head of Innovation and Creativity Programs at Google. Activities included an inside look into Google X with Amanda Kelly, a design challenge in teams, a panel discussion with representatives from People Development at Google, a spaces tour, and a talk on Google for Entrepreneurs with Daniel Navarro.

The second and third days of the Meetup took place at Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design ( Sessions on Saturday included a leadership through movement session with Stanford Dance and Performance Arts instructor Aleta Hayes, an exploration of Stanford innovation spaces, a talk with Olga Dotter from Citrix on the intersection of lean startup and design thinking, a circuit of five experiential activities, and a workshop to help students create and facilitate similar activities at their schools.

Sunday activities included a panel with educators and students on new models of education, examples of campus initiatives from current Fellows, and a workshop on how students can accelerate change in higher education. Several special guests stopped by the meetup, including Stanford alumnus and violinist Kai Kight and author and entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki.

Surprise guest: Kai Kight

Surprise guest: Kai Kight

At the end of the event, Fellows shared their insights from the event in the form of sticky note “bumper stickers” which they placed on a life-size, hand-painted University Innovation Fellows Volkswagen van. Examples included “Never give up,” “Think, Do, Fail, Learn,” “Innovation or Bust,” and “Be the change.”

After the three-day event ended, Fellows returned to their campuses. Their charge: to be the change they want to see in higher education.

Fellows Bus after creating bumper stickers.

Fellows Bus after creating bumper stickers.

More 2015 Annual Meetup materials and articles:

Talking With America’s Future: Removing Barriers, by Shawn Drury

Event photo gallery:

Meet the changemakers: map of student attendees at the University Innovation Fellows Annual Meetup 2015:


Sponsors Crash Fellows Meetup: A Faculty Glimpse into the Student Movement

The following post is a reflection of two faculty sponsors: Landon Young of William Jewell College (Missouri) and John Santa Lucia of Wayne State University (Michigan). Both faculty sponsors had the pleasure of joining Fellows at two separate meetups; the first was the Southeastern Regional Meetup in Greenville, South Carolina, from October 3 – 4, 2014 and the second was the Mid-Atlantic Regional Meetup in College Park, Maryland, and Washington D.C. from November 1 – 2, 2014. Each meetup had a unique theme dedicated to the strengths of the universities being represented and the resources within local community relationships. 

Southeastern Regional Meetup

John Santa Lucia (right), Fellows Faculty Sponsor;  Professor at Wayne State University and Owner, DNA Software, Inc.; Southeastern Regional Meetup

John Santa Lucia (right), Fellows Faculty Sponsor; Professor at Wayne State University and Owner, DNA Software, Inc.; Southeastern Regional Meetup

It takes a special person to be an entrepreneur. It takes courage, vision, innovation, optimism, energy, perseverance, team building, leadership, and technical skill. Few people have the winning combination of skills needed for success. However, three students from Wayne State University — Nikolas Upton, Siwatu Sanders, and Pradeep Bhat — have these skills in spades. All three of them successfully completed the training for the University Innovation Fellows (UIF) program. Nationwide, only 168 students have completed the program to date.

As a faculty sponsor, it is a privilege to mentor Nik, Siwatu and Pradeep. I have been working with them to refine their business ideas and their ideas for spreading entrepreneurship at Wayne State through business short courses and the creation of a “maker space” for 3D printing, prototyping and fabrication. The capstone event for the UIF training was a regional meeting October 3-4 in Greenville, SC. This was attended by 68 students from throughout the U.S. and our hosts from Clemson and Furman University were wonderful. I was thrilled to be able to participate in this event.

John Santa Lucia, Southeastern Regional Meetup

John Santa Lucia during dancing (!!!) activity; Faculty Sponsor, Wayne State University

We started out at 9:00 PM with an overnight road trip from Detroit to South Carolina. The road trip itself was a great opportunity to have extended conversations with the students. Their energy and optimism is infectious. At the UIF meeting we were treated to some wonderful talks from local entrepreneurs and various instructional games from the Design Thinking Group. The students participated in several workshops that involved brainstorming business ideas in small groups, making elevator pitches, writing business plans, dancing (!!!), and performing real marketing research by performing polls of people on Main Street. As a faculty sponsor, I had great fun mostly observing the incredible creativity of the students. It was also fun to jump in and offer some guidance and to ask some probative questions.

I love the social idealism of this generation. Most of their business ideas involve socially conscious issues such as care of the elderly, how to deal with student loan debt, green technologies for energy and waste disposal, engineering prosthetic devices for handicapped people, and engineering clean water for poor countries. One of the unique aspects of the regional meeting was that the structure of the meeting was engaging, instructional and FUN! Quite different than the usual classroom didactic. I think that more faculty sponsors should be encouraged to go to these meetings so that they can import some of the entrepreneurial ideas into their curricula. Entrepreneurs like Nik, Siwatu, and Pradeep give me optimism for the future of our country.

John SantaLucia
Professor and UIF faculty sponsor, Wayne State University

Mid-Atlantic Regional Meetup

I am thrilled that I chose to attend the University Innovation Fellows (UIF) Mid-Atlantic Meetup at the University of Maryland with my students! It was a provocative weekend that helped me to better understand the goals and activities of Epicenter and the UIF program. I was able to experience the activities with students first-hand, and this shared experience reinforced the bond with students and gave us a shared vocabulary, vision and purpose.

The hands-on activities gave the students experience in materializing their ideas into tangible products and designs, and we all had a blast laughing at ourselves as we fashioned virtual reality wearables out of fuzzy pipe cleaners!

Landon Young (left), Faculty Sponsor, William Jewell College

Landon Young (left) during the creativity circuit; Faculty Sponsor, William Jewell College

The meetup took several serious turns as well. As a group, we discussed national trends and specific ideas for William Jewell College, including an outline that we developed for changes in the student curriculum. The most meaningful take-away for the students was being guided into a mindset of empathy, which gave them insight into other points of view, including the perspective of a customer, a friend, and an administrator on campus.

As a faculty member and advisor, I was able to meet the staff and organizers from Epicenter. Over the course of the two-day gathering, I saw the passion and knowledge that they brought to the table and learned the specific methodologies that they use. This group of driven and focused individuals guided the students with care and gave specific as-needed instruction to each Fellow. The group accomplished so much together, and I left inspired by the relationships forged and the innovative dialogue we shared. I cannot wait for the next meetup when I can join students and advisors in shaping the next phase of the UIF program.

Landon Young
Professor and UIF faculty sponsor, William Jewell College