29 Schools Collaborate on National Initiative to Attract and Retain New STEM Students

29 higher education institutions are taking part in the University Innovation Fellows program’s national STEM initiative.


April 13, 2016 — Today, the University Innovation Fellows announced that 29 higher education institutions are taking part in the national STEM initiative called #uifresh (University Innovation Freshmen). Schools participating in the initiative commit to exposing all incoming freshmen to design thinking, entrepreneurship and innovation in order to attract and retain more students in STEM disciplines.

This news was announced on April 13, 2016, to coincide with the White House Science Fair as part of a collection of initiatives to expand high-quality STEM education opportunities (read the White House fact sheet).

The #uifresh initiative was created by the University Innovation Fellows, a student leadership organization, to combat STEM attrition in the United States. According to a report published by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, about 60 percent of students who arrive at college intending to major in STEM subjects switch to other subjects, often in their first year. #uifresh was launched with 10 institutions during the 5th White House Science Fair in March 2015 (read the launch announcement at Since then, 19 additional institutions joined the initiative, including 9 new schools in the last three weeks.

The University Innovation Fellows program is run by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter), which is funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Stanford University and VentureWell. The program empowers students to become change agents in higher education who help their peers develop an entrepreneurial mindset and creative confidence. The program has trained more than 600 students at 143 institutions since its inception.

The Fellows are working with their institutions’ leaders and orientation week organizers to provide learning opportunities that are fun, experiential, creative and lead to increased interest in innovation on campus. Fellows were required to secure letters of support from their college and university presidents in order to join the campaign.

Nine new institutions joined the initiative in 2016 (view the schools’ commitment letters in the links below):

The following institutions joined #uifresh in 2015:

In Fall 2015, #uifresh schools organized a variety of specially designed freshmen orientation activities. These activities ranged from a design thinking workshop with 1,300 freshmen from all majors to an event for first-year engineering majors focused on awareness, communication and teamwork. Read more about the Fall 2015 activities at

To learn more about the University Innovation Fellows and their activities, visit The program is currently accepting applications for Fall 2016; apply by May 2 at


About Epicenter:

The National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter) is funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Stanford University and VentureWell (formerly NCIIA). Epicenter’s mission is to empower U.S. undergraduate engineering students to bring their ideas to life for the benefit of our economy and society. To do this, Epicenter helps students combine their technical skills, their ability to develop innovative technologies that solve important problems, and an entrepreneurial mindset and skillset. Epicenter’s three core initiatives are the University Innovation Fellows program for undergraduate engineering students and their peers; the Pathways to Innovation Program for institutional teams of faculty and university leaders; and a research program that informs activities and contributes to national knowledge on entrepreneurship and engineering education. Learn more and get involved at

About Stanford University:

At Stanford University, the Epicenter collaboration is managed by the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP), the entrepreneurship center in Stanford’s School of Engineering. STVP delivers courses and extracurricular programs to Stanford students, creates scholarly research on high-impact technology ventures, and produces a large and growing collection of online content and experiences for people around the world. Visit us online at

About VentureWell:

VentureWell was founded in 1995 as the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) and rebranded in 2014 to underscore its impact as an education network that cultivates revolutionary ideas and promising inventions. A not-for-profit organization reaching more than 200 universities, VentureWell is the leader in funding, training, coaching and early investment that brings student innovations to market. Inventions created by VentureWell grantees are reaching millions of people in more than 50 countries and helping to solve some of our greatest 21st century challenges. Visit to learn how we inspire students, faculty and investors to transform game-changing ideas into solutions for people and the planet.


Media contact:
Laurie Moore
Communications Manager, Epicenter
(650) 561-6113

Purpose, Passion and the Quest for ‘Why?’: Today’s College Students Yearn to Make Sense of STEM

The Massachusetts STEM Summit, held October 22, 2014, had roughly 1,300 attendees at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts. Attendees traveled from across the state to discuss engaging k-12 students in science, technology, math, engineering and independent research. The University Innovation Fellows were invited to present in the afternoon. The following excerpt appeared in the MA STEM Summit program booklet. 

“Weed-em-out’ courses, dry lectures, rigorous math and an array of prerequisites stamp the love of learning out of young college students. Some universities are getting it right, but overall not so much. Fewer than 40% of students who enter college intending to major in a STEM field complete a STEM degree, according to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Our nation needs us to produce one million more STEM college graduates than predicted. So, how do we, as K-12 educators, who care about the future of our most promising students, ensure a successful handoff to our collegiate counterparts? A new program called the University Innovation Fellows empowers college students to develop a culture of creativity and innovation. These students are developing strategies and learning opportunities that engage peers in project-based learning and human-centered design. The model of empowering students to develop their voice to serve as partners to faculty in bringing about institutional change has been a fruitful one, yielding innovation spaces, new courses and has even attracted alumni investment in new programs. University Innovation Fellows believe connecting high school graduates to a creative community of makers and innovators is the answer. Connecting freshman to learning opportunities that inspire students based on relevant and real-world problems as soon as they arrive at college is a means to keeping students engaged in STEM. As 168 Fellows at 85 schools work to expand and attract peers to innovation and entrepreneurship programs, the opportunity exists to create a bridge for high school students to a cool creative culture of like-minded students who can introduce and engage them in the innovation ecosystem. Recognized by the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, the University Innovation Fellows is a program of the Epicenter and is funded by the National Science Foundation. In this session, participants will be introduced to the work of two Fellows who also volunteer their time in local K-12 schools to inspire young STEM enthusiasts. Learn what triggered their interests in STEM and hear their recommendations for high schools to guide students towards successful STEM careers.

The session was moderated by the Fellows Senior Program Officer, Humera Fasihuddin. The two Fellows panelists were Ellery Addington-White and Kevin Desjardins (below).

Ellery Addington-White

Ellery Addington-White

Ellery is currently a senior at Beloit College in Wisconsin working to complete a Computer Science degree. He is actively involved in CELEB, the Center for Entrepreneurship in Liberal Education at Beloit. Find out more about his student priorities here.

Ellery became very interested in digital art in high school, which led him to teach the class to other students his junior year. He now volunteers his time to work with the Beloit Boys & Girls Club and other K-12 youth to make innovation, entrepreneurship, coding and computer science more accessible.



Kevin Desjardins, University of Massaschusetts, Lowell

Kevin Desjardins

Kevin is a senior at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. He is completing his degree in Civil Engineering and his taking his capstone project to the next level by creating an immersive, hands-on, project-based learning experience in Haiti. Find out more about his student priorities here.

Kevin has always had an interest in engineering. He works closely with Future Cities and other local organizations to bring underserved youth STEM education learning opportunities.