Future Unveiled: University Innovation Fellows Post-NSF Plans

An Open Letter to the University Innovation Fellows Community

We have big news! 

As you know, the University Innovation Fellows program was born as a successful program of the Epicenter. This center was created with the support of a 5-year National Science Foundation grant and has served as a lab for learning about how U.S. schools might embed innovation and entrepreneurship into the student experience.

We are thrilled to tell you that when Epicenter’s NSF grant ends on June 30, 2016, the University Innovation Fellows program will leave the lab and continue to empower students to change higher education!

In its very essence, the University Innovation Fellows program will remain unchanged. Today, we are providing you with a breakdown of what our exciting future entails:

What will remain the same?

  • The program will keep the same name and mission.
  • We will continue training new student change agents and welcoming students from all disciplines.
  • We will continue offering online training and in-person meetups to support the development of change agents on your campus. We are accepting applications for fall 2016 with the deadline of May 2, 2016. (Request an application today)

What will change?

  • The new home of the University Innovation Fellows program will be Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design ( The UIF program will continue under the leadership current directors Humera Fasihuddin and Leticia Britos Cavagnaro and with the support staff you know and love. We’ve always considered the a center of gravity for the Fellows program and we are excited to create even further linkages between initiatives and your change efforts on campus. Next time you’re in the neighborhood, come check out our new space!
  • Without subsidy from the NSF, we will need to increase the program fee from $2,000 to $4,000 per student. We thought long and hard about this decision. The increase won’t cover our entire budget, but it will go a long way. We know it won’t be easy for some institutions. But, ultimately, we leaned in favor of maintaining the integrity of the program aspects we know to be catalytic in support of Fellows.
  • Campuses can continue to sponsor a Leadership Circle of up to four students for a single $4,000 fee, with a letter from the president of the university.
  • For future Silicon Valley Meetups, schools will continue to be responsible for the costs of the students’ travel to California, but this will now include the price of their hotel stay (please note that this change does not apply to the March 2016 Meetup).
  • We’re going global! We will now be accepting applications for Fall 2016 from countries around the world (we have already received requests for applications).
  • We will also offer workshops and resources for those who sponsor Fellows (faculty, staff and administrators). These offerings will include a 4-day workshop on design thinking pedagogy and a program for sponsors of Fellows to learn best practices in achieving change through their student leaders. We hope that revenue generated from these offerings will contribute to supporting the program.
  • We are seeking new funding sources and collaborators to grow the program.

How can you help us continue to strengthen our future?

Like any good social venture, we would love to break even by generating revenue through program offerings our customers love. However, these revenue streams may take time to ramp up. Until that time, we need to secure philanthropic funding with donors and foundations. We may even launch a crowdfunding campaign! To support these fundraising campaigns, we are creating a video featuring the Fellows story of impact on campuses across the nation. This video will collect all of the amazing stories, voices and faces to show the power of our movement as we build this new future for the program. Want to submit a 15 second video of your impact? Email Stacey: 

In the meantime, your work to create lasting institutional change is making a difference. This spring, we will publish articles, papers and books documenting Fellows’ impact, along with hard evidence from evaluators and researchers. We hope this will help expand the movement to new heights. We are grateful for all your hard work. Together we are ensuring a brighter future for young people in our nation.

For continued information and updates, follow the University Innovation Fellows program on social media:

Twitter: @uifellows, #uifellows
Instagram: @uifellows, #uifellows

To learn more about the future of Epicenter’s other initiatives, please read the letter from the PI’s to the Epicenter community.

We are excited about what the future holds!


The University Innovation Fellows Team
Humera, Leticia, Katie, Laurie and Stacey




Imagine, Create & Ignite: Building a Path to a Meaningful Future

STVP Future Fest 2015, Elon Musk

STVP Future Fest 2015, Elon Musk. Photo by Matt Beardsley.

by Francis Atore

As I sat in the Bing Concert Hall at Stanford University, I was in awe of the environment. The architecture of the hall plus the opportunity of being in the presence of influential people in attendance such as Bernie Roth and Heidi Roizen made me feel euphoric. As the talk began, Elon Musk, (founder of Tesla & SpaceX) and Steve Jurvetson (partner at Draper Fisher Jurvetson) walked out on stage. Steve began to ask Elon a series of questions about the future of technology and even Mars! I was blown away at the moonshot thinking that the people  around me had. They spoke freely about audacious goals and progress for mankind with moxie and hope. They even discussed how artificial intelligence (AI) and genetics are projected to be the next major revolutionary fields. Talking cars, watches and phones were regarded as impossible 20 years ago and are now reality. Holograms were a fairytale, but with the emergence of developer environments such as leap motion, they are now reality (I guess fairytales come true)!  An episode of MTV cribs on Mars now seems far fetched, but how about we fast forward to 2035. Will the first episode feature a University Innovation Fellow?

The event was an incredible experience and encouragement to what I hope to achieve as a person who happens to be studying engineering. Hearing Elon Musk speak about the future and the opportunity to go after goals that are often difficult for most people to picture exemplifies the seed that was planted in me through the University Innovation Fellows program. We always need to think about how people imagined our present world in the past, then think about the present, then think about how we view the future, and then time travel to the future by making it happen. We don’t necessarily have to focus on one thing our whole lives, and don’t have to specialize in what we went to college for or what we have always done.  It’s ok to be regarded as crazy–at least we know it. The crazy ideas tend to have the best chance of changing the world, but we always need a community of realistic collaborators and friends to keep us streamlined.

Alexandra Seda (left) & Francis Atore (right) with their DIY Tesla waiting to enter STVP's Future Fest with guest Elon Musk.

Alexandra Seda (left) & Francis Atore (right) with their DIY Tesla waiting to enter STVP’s Future Fest with guest Elon Musk.

I entered the program as a creative hopeful with the outlook that I could accomplish little. However, through the program I’ve grown to outgrow the limited mentality I once had–the mindset that dreams could not come true if I did not have sufficient resources on hand. Now, after becoming a Fellow and having the opportunity to travel to California twice, gaining and sharing as much knowledge accumulated back to my campus; I know this is only the beginning.

Elon mentioned how he only focuses on solving problems that will have a significant impact on others. He is able to solve these problems with an extraordinary team of doers who have the capacity to imagine and believe. As a Fellow, I hope that I can ignite the freedom of imagination and belief in solving mankind’s challenges through empowering the students on my campus. As we analyze the world we live in and imagine the future, we need to identify the most interesting problems to solve that will develop a meaningful purpose in others. Secondly, prioritize the sequence in which we tackle problems based on the amount of resources that are readily available for each problem. Third, the notion that good people finish last is not true and does not have to be the case. We can always help others shine and succeed and still be successful.

STVP Future Fest 2015 with guest Elon Musk at Stanford University.

STVP Future Fest 2015 with guest Elon Musk at Stanford University. Photo by Matt Beardsley.

UIF’s mantra is, “We believe students can change the world!” As a Fellow, I firmly believe and stand by this . How do Fellows live out this mantra? We live it by creating/strengthening innovation spaces, entrepreneurship events, design thinking workshops, multi-school collaborations, and national partnerships in the hopes that these offerings will raise up curiously empowered problem solvers and selfless entrepreneurs all across America and the world. “We believe students can change the world.” Do you believe?

P.S. This has nothing to do with the talk, but you need to make sure that you have the RIGHT type of post its. That is, a number of 3 X 3 post it brands and not yellow (too generic), multi colored set. For more technical details consult Leticia, the POST IT guru.


Francis Atore, Texas Tech

Francis Atore, Texas Tech University

Francis is an honors college student studying
Chemical Engineering at Texas Tech. He is
engaging students in design thinking and
creativity through Do. Think. Make. events.








Alexandra Seda, Ohio Northern University

Alexandra Seda, Ohio Northern University

Alexandra Seda, Ohio Northern University

Alexandra is studying Electrical Engineering
at Ohio Northern University. She is working to
redesign spaces across campus to enhance
creative thinking in students.