Designing Mobile Clinic with the Community

Connecting universities and disciplines around formal/informal learning opportunity

By Ilya Avdeev, PhD—Faculty Innovation Fellow; Alex Francis, PhD and Antonina Johnston—University Innovation Fellows from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee 

During the summer 2022, our human-centered design lab’s team at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) was approached by the Froedtert Hospital leadership with an intriguing proposal to get involved in designing a future mobile health clinic addressing women’s health in the community with limited access to healthcare. Moreover, the question on everyone’s mind was how might we involve the broader community to be involved in the clinic design from the start? As academics, we saw an opportunity to tie this real-world project to curriculum. Complexity of the task offered us a chance to engage medical, engineering, nursing, art and design students in interprofessional formal and informal learning of design principles and their practical application.

An 18-inch rule

Resembling an unfinished tiny house at the framing stage, everything in the 8-foot-tall, 24-foot mobile clinic model displayed for two months in the MCW lobby was designed to be moved around, including mockups of mammography equipment and other OB-GYN elements constructed of foam core boards. A tool for learning and discovery, the mockup model supported creative process and facilitated full-scale exploration of design possibilities.

Interestingly, the mockup model was also considered a fire hazard because it was built within 18 inches of the ceiling. We used this unexpected hazard, reported by the fire department, as a metaphor for pushing boundaries and testing the limits of what is traditionally accepted. This project represents an experiment in collaborative, community-driven design, where we work with the community, not simply design for them.

Mobile clinic development project – a platform for experimentation

We saw tremendous potential for creative exploration and discovery when Dr. Mark Lodes and the Population Health Team proposed last summer that the Human-Centered Design Lab participate in developing the mobile clinic. This project clearly would challenge our ideas and assumptions about academic collaboration, the adaptability of medical curriculum, and the creative confidence of stakeholders involved, including Milwaukee community members and organizations, and an intricate network of MCW/Froedtert Health individuals.

For the past six months, the following questions have guided and driven our work forward:

·   How can we involve a wide range of diverse stakeholders in our design process and empower their creativity and sense of control?

·   What would a collaboration between University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) and MCW students look like?

·   How can we balance the dynamic nature of a real-world project with a structured curriculum to benefit learners?

·   How can we bring value to the Froedtert team developing the clinic through innovative design-based activities?

·   What can we learn about incorporating healthcare design projects into medical education?

Expanding our design team

Designing with the community, not just for them, is the cornerstone of our approach. Developing a mobile clinic is like putting together a puzzle where the pieces are not yet clear, and the final picture is uncertain. Creativity and innovation are required to overcome the ambiguity.

We took a unique approach by expanding our design team beyond the Population Health and Human-Centered Design Lab teams. We included anyone from the stakeholder map interested in contributing their expertise and ideas to the problem space (issues such as access to healthcare, managing chronic conditions, insurance coverage gaps, staffing, scheduling, safety, and business models) and the solution space (clinic layout, workflow, atmosphere, technology, services offered, etc.). There were 150 designers in total!

This approach is like citizen science or distributed scientific inquiry projects, where the collective intelligence of many individuals is more impactful than the brilliance of a few. By engaging stakeholders early on, we also cultivate buy-in and support for the pilot implementation and future iterations.

Snapshots from design sprint. Group of people and also discussion at white board.

Design sprints – exploring problem and solution spaces through play

To engage a broad range of stakeholders and tap into their collective imagination, we arranged a series of 90-minute design sprints. Over the course of multiple sprints, 100+ designers were invited to collaborate in teams of four to tackle 10 different scenarios centered around a person in need of medical and social care at a mobile clinic.

To guide the design process, each team was provided with a framework prompting them to consider the needs and wants of the patient, necessary actions and workflow, clinic layout and ambiance, and technology elements involved. Using low-resolution prototyping techniques, such as brainstorming and building mockups with LEGO blocks and foam core, participant teams rapidly designed the clinic for each scenario. At the end of each sprint, each team presented their ideas and “walked” us through their clinic prototypes, providing valuable insight and inspiration for the design process.

This activity allowed us to equally engage experts, novices, providers, and patients in creative play. By randomly assigning teams and encouraging diverse participation, we were able to cultivate an environment of imaginative play, where experts, novices, patients, and providers alike could contribute. These design sprints not only highlighted the complexity of the design challenge but also demonstrated the passion and commitment of the community toward making this mobile clinic a reality.

Collaboration with students and curriculum

This project also provided a valuable opportunity to bring together students from different disciplines and backgrounds. Engineering and design students from UWM worked together to design and construct clinic models as part of their coursework in the ME-405/ART-405 Product Realization course, taught by Drs. Avdeev and Francis. UWM and medical students from the Health Systems Management and Policy Pathway participated in joint design workshops, and graduate nursing students from the UWM College of Nursing played a critical role in piloting the design sprints at UWM before the clinic model was moved to MCW. Medical students also facilitated and participated in the design sprints at MCW, making this a truly interdisciplinary and collaborative effort.

Including students in the design team proved to be highly enriching and fulfilling. However, we also encountered challenges in aligning this dynamic project with the structured medical curriculum. This highlights the need for reimagining and streamlining integration of such projects into the curriculum in the future.

What Have We Learned?

More than 500 ideas were captured during 6 design sprints. We developed a map of design variables that helped focus ideation on critical areas of the clinic (Figure 1). After capturing 500 ideas, we analyzed the data and synthesized the following themes or idea clusters (Figure 2).  We then clustered ideas within a theme (Figure 3).  

What’s Next?

With a talented and diverse design team made up of both community and internal stakeholders, we have been gifted with a wealth of ideas and perspectives. Our challenge now is to carefully put these pieces together to support the mobile clinic development project. Our goal is to produce a result that will not only inform and inspire the development team, but also have a tangible and meaningful impact on the communities it serves.

Circle diagram divided into fourths with arrows pointing outwards. Segments are: Neds/wants; actions; floorplan and workflow; ambiance and tech.
Figure 1
Figure 2

The original article can be found in the Enhancing the Higher Ed Ecosystem section of the 2022-2023 Change Forward Journal— Visions and Voices of Higher Education’s Future.

The Life of the Mind

Using mental health education to give back to myself and my community

By Chibuikem Iheagwaram—University Innovation Fellow, Fisk University

In the last year, I have learned that feeling the fear and doing it anyway is the true definition of courage. It all started in August 2021 when I landed in the USA from my home country Nigeria, via a combination of flights that had lasted 32 hours and 30 minutes. Now, I was in a foreign land and needed to learn how to integrate myself into my new reality. Research has shown that when a person moves to a new country, they usually need six months to begin adjusting. Culture shock was the first thing I encountered: the weather felt different (four seasons compared to the two seasons I grew up with in West Africa), social dynamics, academics, amongst other things. Though I consider myself to be a very adaptive person, my mental health soon started to take a beating as I worked to build my new support system.

“I felt like a student whose interests had no home to fit themselves in. That inspired me to start an organization of my own whose sole mission was to enrich the minds of others through exposing them to neuroscientific, psychological, and mental health education.”

An important part of my story is that I took five gap years before college, and this hiatus was not voluntary, but due to financial lack. Hence, I had to retrain my mind to adjust to an academic setting. One of the good things that came from my gap years was going on medical mission trips to rural communities in Nigeria where I developed a passion for mental health. As a person who was always prone to asking questions to uncover the ‘whys’ behind life, I soon realized I was already thinking like a scientist. The day I came across a self-help book that expounded on the relationship between mental health and physical illness, was the day I fell in love for the first time. That was when I became familiar with the terms – neuroscience and psychology – and became passionate about exploring them.

In my first-year of college, I ardently searched for a student organization at my institution that could expose students to the fields of neuroscience and psychology, but there was none. There was no club or course dedicated to neuroscience education. I felt like a student whose interests had no home to fit themselves in. That inspired me to start an organization of my own whose sole mission was to enrich the minds of others through exposing them to neuroscientific, psychological, and mental health education. This was new since such a club had not existed at my school since its inception 157 years ago. In fact my school did not have a neuroscience major. 

In the second semester of my freshman year, I discussed my ideas with a professor I was doing neuroscience research with, and he excitedly offered to be a faculty advisor for the potential organization. I was the only first-year student in his laboratory at the time and even though my coursework was demanding due to being dual-enrolled at Vanderbilt University where I was taking a psychology honors seminar, my passion for neuroscience was my drive for wanting to start the club. In summer 2022, I was doing research at Johns Hopkins Medicine and going through a mentorship program at Harvard Medical School. These experiences further propelled my innovative thinking. Starting such an organization felt uncharted and scary but with the assistance of my professor, the Dean of Natural Science and Math at Fisk University, and a few friends, a constitution was created, and we registered the club for launch in the fall of 2022. We decided to name the club AXON. Our motto would be “Vita le mentis” – Latin translated as ‘the life of the mind’.

On the day of my school’s organization fair, I had minimal expectations. I had resolved in my mind that this project was not in a bid to inflate my ego but was a chance for me to give back to my community. At the end of the fair, we had 70 students sign up for the organization. My executive board and I planned a couple of events including an introduction to what our club stood for, one discussing the fundamentals of neuroscience and psychology, as well as other seminars with resource persons from Johns Hopkins University, Harvard Medical School, and Meharry Medical College. Going through the UIF program also in fall 2022, I was able to learn design thinking skills that helped me bring my imaginative ideas about AXON to actualization. As a creative with a bunch of ideas to further neuroscience education on my campus, I soon learned how to identify the stakeholders at Fisk and beyond that could help in the execution of those ideas.

As word continued to spread about our organization, we grew past 100 members. Though we initially struggled with securing funding, eventually we received a grant from an anonymous donor. One of our projects with the grant was to launch a scholarship initiative to assist a Fisk student who had significant financial need. In Spring 2023, we planned field trips and community outreach projects, as well as a computational neuroscience event where we invited a neuroscientist from Johns Hopkins to give a talk on machine learning, deep learning, and artificial intelligence. Eventually, due to significant interest from students at other schools, we began to envision creating new AXON chapters at other colleges in the Tennessee area and beyond.

Looking back, even though I was uncertain about starting AXON, I am astounded by how well it has been received. AXON has become a neuroscience support system for me as well as other students at my school. I am happy to have created such a space. I have learned that feeling the fear and doing it anyway, is the true definition of courage. Dear reader, I hope you know how important it is for you to chase your dreams because the world will be better for it. Keep imagination and innovation alive!

Axon logo and QR codes for Instagram and Linkedin

Check out our impact on Instagram and LinkedIn at “AXON Neuroscience Clubs”.

The original article can be found in the Focusing on Belonging and Wellbeing section of the 2022-2023 Change Forward Journal— Visions and Voices of Higher Education’s Future.

Breaking the Taboo for a Better You

How Shaw University is prioritizing mental health care and wellness

By Marc Brown, Janell Odom, Tamara Wood and Louichard Benjamin— University Innovation Fellows, Shaw University; Dr. Vonda Reed—Faculty Innovation Fellows candidate, Shaw University

“Strengthening Our Bears’ Mental Health”      

Shaw University is the first Historically Black University in the South, founded in 1865 by Henry Martin Tupper. Shaw University is prominently known as the “mother of African American colleges.” The founder of North Carolina Central University (NCCU) and the first presidents of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical University (NCAT) and Elizabeth City State University were all Shaw University graduates. Upholding our history of “firsts,” through leadership, students were trained through the University Innovation Fellows (UIF) Early Training Program and hosted our university’s first Mental Health Wellness Week.

“We began analyzing our campus ecosystem to get our stakeholders’ points of view through one-on-one interviews, stakeholders’ meetings, and surveys.”

During a UIF training session on Design Thinking, we were asked to explore how our university might support students’ social and emotional wellbeing. We began analyzing our campus ecosystem to get our stakeholders’ points of view through one-on-one interviews, stakeholders’ meetings, and surveys. Two of the stakeholders we interviewed were President Paulette Dillard and Vice President for Academic Affairs Renata Dusenbury. Through these collaborations with our stakeholders, the majority of them expressed that our university did not have the proper awareness of mental health within our campus ecosystem. Mental health care is an important issue to explore when analyzing collegiate life, especially at Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs), where it is considered taboo among the Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) population. Moreover, the impact of COVID-19, national exposure to traumatic racial events, systemic oppression, and struggles with identity have further increased the demand for mental health care for BIPOC. Consequently, we asked, “How might we inform our campus stakeholders about the importance of self-care and how to improve it mentally and physically?”

We planned our Mental Health Wellness Week by partnering with our counseling center, Center for Teaching and Learning, and Student Government Association. In the past, our counseling center hosted one mental health day during the academic year. We believed that a week would be efficient so that students could participate in fun and enriching activities geared towards mental health care for an entire week rather than hours for a day. With the extension to a week, stakeholders would be able to attend various events that could positively impact their mental and physical well-being. We also decided to execute this Mental Health Wellness Week the week before midterm examinations. This would allow students, faculty, and staff to unwind mentally, physically, and emotionally before enduring a traditionally stressful week.

On Saturday, March 4, 2023, each UIF and a resident advisor engaged in an eight-hour training to become certified Mental Health First Aiders. During this training session, participants became familiar with various mental health disorders, the sources of trauma, available mental health resources, and ways to assist stakeholders within our campus ecosystem that may experience mental health challenges. After the training, participants completed an assessment and received their certificates. Counseling Center Director Jerelene Carver shared that her office will ensure that additional students, especially resident advisors, become certified in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA).  

The Mental Health Wellness Week was launched during March 6-10, 2023. Empathetically realizing that numerous factors influence one’s mental health, we agreed to host 13 activities to aid our stakeholders in understanding the importance of self-care and how to improve it mentally and physically. We began our Mental Health Wellness Week Monday by offering yoga and ended the day by organizing a walk to the local YMCA. Those who joined the walk to the YMCA signed up for the free 7-day pass to access the gym amenities, excluding the pool. 

Tuesday morning, stakeholders learned how to implement self-care and health and wellness practices into their daily lives to enhance their academic and professional lifestyles through the Re-Creation, De-stressing in a Stressed-out World event. Later that night, they learned techniques to improve their financial literacy from our Senior Financial Aid Counselor Daniel Warari, followed by the Lets TACO Bout It, a table talk event led by the SGA.

Wednesday consisted of free massages, which allowed participants to fully relax and decompress before continuing their busy day, followed by a session on navigating through life’s difficult times, breaking through barriers, and learning how to survive. The final event for Wednesday was a dance-based workout to help with de-stressing.

Thursday also consisted of 3 events. The first event was Barbers for Bears. During this event, local barbers provided free haircuts to stakeholders. Partners with Paws was the next event where stakeholders interacted with therapy dogs to experience comfort, affection, and warmth to ease their anxiety, reduce stress and increase their joy. Next, it was time for stakeholders to wind down the evening through the Sip and Paint, an event catered by Thompson Hospitality. They provided stakeholders with high-quality service and individually customized, healthy smoothies while they enjoyed soothing, relaxing music!

The last day of the week ended with stakeholders learning how to cope with stress through various body-tapping techniques and affirmations that can be done in class or at work, followed by another dance-based workout session.

Results from oral and written feedback support that Mental Health Wellness Week was a success! One hundred eighty-six stakeholders participated in the week’s activities; most were students, and some attended multiple events or events numerous times (e.g., massages). After each event, stakeholders rated events on a 5-star scale. Ratings ranged from 4.43 (lowest) to 5 (highest). A survey was also sent to stakeholders; most were female respondents. Most of them rated the Sip and Paint event followed by the massages and Re-Creation, De-stressing in a Stressed-out World events. They shared that their mental health and/or physical health improved because of the events, and the events provided them with skills and strategies to cope with stressors. Most of them agreed (strongly agreed: 69% and agreed: 31%) that their overall mood improved after participating in their events, and most agreed (strongly agreed: 63% and agreed 31%) that they plan to make changes to their health and wellbeing as a result of the events. Results also support that they will attend another Mental Health Wellness Week, and most of them shared that we should host it twice a semester.

Our next steps are to host more Mental Health Wellness Weeks and increase the number of certified Mental Health First Aiders on our campus. We also want to partner with other HBCUs to increase culturally competent and targeted interventions to improve mental health and overall well-being on our campuses. Shaw University is setting an example for other HBCUs by prioritizing mental health care and wellness for our stakeholders and creating an environment where mental health care is not taboo but necessary for our survival. We challenge HBCUs to become a part of the UIF Program. Join us and follow our tracks!

The original article can be found in the Focusing on Belonging and Well Being section of the 2022-2023 Change Forward Journal— Visions and Voices of Higher Education’s Future.

The Pioneering Spirit

Lessons from my UIF experience

By Temitope Ajibola—University Innovation Fellow, Morgan State University

As I sat down to reflect upon my University Innovation Fellows journey, a lot of things came to mind, but one theme that resonated with my entire UIF experience is “the pioneering spirit.”

While I learned a lot from the different aspects of the program and the tools such as design thinking as an element for driving change, it was the UIF Silicon Valley Meetup, particularly the Ignite sessions (TED-style talks), that had the most impact on me. Hearing several Fellows share their passion and how they drove change in their communities ignited something in me, and I took that back to Morgan State University to birth the first-ever student-led hackathon, MorganHacks, that garnered attention even up to the office of the Vice President of the United States of America.

Mind you, my UIF team had launched “Bear Talks,” a signature event to drive conversations around entrepreneurship. I also had a personal vision of an event that could make Morgan State University a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship among other Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). I studied how several Ivy League institutions and Predominately White Institutions utilized the hackathon model to drive innovation on their campuses. The impact was as far-reaching as transforming the entire entrepreneurship ecosystem of cities, states, as well as an entire nation. Amazingly small startups grew to become powerhouses contributing massively to global development — one of which is GroupMe, developed in a University of Michigan hackathon, and acquired by Microsoft. I really felt something needed to be done quickly to engage the innovative potential in HBCUs.

“We took risks by venturing into uncharted territory, organizing a large-scale hackathon that had never been done before at our university. And we persevered through the challenges and setbacks, never losing sight of our ultimate goal.”

While the idea seemed daunting at first, I knew that with the pioneering spirit and the support of the UIF community, I could make it happen. Even before the Silicon Valley Meetup, I started tapping into the resources in the UIF community, especially people who had successfully organized hackathons on their campuses, seeking their guidance and support. This was particularly valuable when it was time to form a team because I now had insights into the type of people needed on the team and the best way to lead the team in order to obtain maximum results. Shortly after, we started working tirelessly to bring this vision to life.

The challenges were many. Securing funding, finding sponsors, coordinating logistics, and marketing the event were just a few of the hurdles we had to overcome. But with each obstacle, we found innovative solutions and pushed forward. We held countless meetings, developed a comprehensive plan, and rallied support from faculty, administrators, and corporate entities. Slowly but surely, the pieces started falling into place.

About a week before the hackathon, I attended the UIF Meetup; I was completely tired and needed every form of encouragement to carry on. I remember quickly leaving the last Ignite session to have a meeting with my team. It was there I began transferring the energy from the Meetup to my team members. Finally, the day of the hackathon arrived, and out of 300 students that we expected, we were able to gather 65 students from 8 universities in the United States (Morgan State University, Stevens Institute of Technology, Howard University, Bowie State University, Goucher College, Johns Hopkins, Maryland University and Coppin State University) and 1 university in India (Jaypee University of Engineering and Technology); and they all gathered at Morgan State University, ready to showcase their skills and creativity. The atmosphere was electric, filled with excitement and anticipation. It was a true testament to the power of collaboration and the potential within diverse communities.

Photo by Morgan State University

Throughout the event, I couldn’t help but think about the words of Ibn al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, who once wrote, “Success comes to those who dare to dream, to take risks, and to persevere.” This quote resonated with me deeply as I witnessed the impact of our pioneering spirit. We dared to dream of creating a platform for innovation and entrepreneurship in an HBCU where similar experiences were not readily available. We took risks by venturing into uncharted territory, organizing a large-scale hackathon that had never been done before at our university. And we persevered through the challenges and setbacks, never losing sight of our ultimate goal.

Looking back on my University Innovation Fellows journey, I am filled with gratitude for the experiences and lessons it has brought me. I learned the importance of dreaming big, taking risks, and never underestimating the power of collaboration. The pioneering spirit is not limited to any particular field or industry—it is a mindset that can be applied to any endeavor, big or small.

As I continue on my path, I carry the lessons from my UIF experience with me. I am committed to embodying the pioneering spirit and using it to create positive change in my community and beyond. And I encourage others to do the same, for it is through our collective efforts that we can truly make a difference.

The original article can be found in the Helping Students Engage and Lead section of the 2022-2023 Change Forward Journal— Visions and Voices of Higher Education’s Future.

New! Alumni Network

Today we are thrilled to share an exciting development that marks a significant milestone for our community. A group of early-career UIF are leading the charge in forming an alumni network to address the ongoing needs, interests, and learning opportunities of Fellows who are now in their careers. We have been working with this group since 2022, sponsoring the Connected Futures Forum convening in D.C. with alums who helped shape this effort. Our alumni are in well-placed, strategic positions throughout the globe and represent unparalleled levels of impact and opportunity. We urge you to join this initiative at an early juncture to help shape this valuable resource. See below for details and sign up for the Town Hall.

With love, 

Humera, Leticia, Catherine, Ghanashyam & Laurie.


Introducing The Official UIF Alumni Network: Help Shape It’s Formation

TL;DR: Alumni assemble! A UIF Alumni Network is forming and needs your input. The initiative is independent of, but collaborative with the Our next steps over the coming months are to hear what’s happened to date, determine governance, and flesh out the initial workplan. Everything that follows is our hypothesis of what an Alumni organization would look like and do, but we need you to attend Townhall #1: What’s Happened to Date to help shape the strategy!

As we say, “Once a Fellow, always a Fellow” – so why should our passion for changemaking and connecting with kindred spirits be relegated to our university careers? It shouldn’t!

As a valued member of the UIFam, you are part of a vibrant and diverse network of professionals committed to making a difference. After years of requests from Fellows, the day has finally come: the formation of the UIF Alumni Network, dedicated to fostering impact and nurturing our network.

This collective effort has been years in the making, and is a response to the overwhelming desire of Fellows to keep the energy available and alive as you journey into the professional world.

Our Vision and Mission

The UIF Alumni Network is rooted in the belief that design has the power to transform societies and create a better future. Our mission is to:

  • Enhance Impact: Support initiatives that drive meaningful change through design.
  • Build Community: Strengthen connections among alumni and current Fellows, facilitating collaboration, mentorship, and growth.
  • Promote Learning: Offer continuous learning opportunities to keep our community at the forefront of design innovation, both in their personal and professional lives.
  • Embrace Belonging: Promote an empathy-driven world that prioritizes inclusive practices. 

Again, these are all hypotheses. Come to Townhall #1 to help shape strategy.

Join Us in This Exciting Journey

We are just getting started, and your involvement is key to the network’s success. Stay tuned for more updates, including upcoming events and opportunities to engage with The UIF Alumni Network. Here are some ways to get involved:

  • Join one of the Town Halls on February 27th or March 3rd (virtual)
  • Get involved on teams: Participate in our initial teams to help shape the network
  • Sign up to stay informed: Don’t miss out on early updates and upcoming enrollment
  • Attend upcoming events: Attend exclusive events to connect with fellow alumni and industry leaders.

Feel free to reach out to with any ideas, questions, or if you wish to play a more active role in the network. Or contact Vincent by phone, text, or WhatsApp at 516-286-0002. Alternatively, feel free to reach out to Humera by phone or text for context from the UIF Team, 413-222-5400.

We are excited to hear from you,

Vincent Arena, Jackie Curtsinger, Dominic Gelfuso, Daniel Kleinman, Mahmoud Khedr, Nariman Gathers, Caro Vassallucci, Raneem Elsayed, Rachel Tate, Forrest Satterfield, Gerrit Olbert, KC Christopher, Bre Przestrzelski, Jade Garrett, Jonathan Puhl, Kenneth Brewer, RJ Lualhati, Tommy Clifton, Omri Gal, Christian Weiss, Dinesh Chintapalli,… and many many others.

2024 Applications Open

Applications for the Fall 2024 cohort are now open! Nominate one cohort (hard limits this year) and submit your campus application by April 30th. We’re very excited to share that this cohort will also be going to Twente in Twenty Twenty Five … see what we did there 🙂 … That’s right, the 2025 meetup will once again be hosted by our wonderful colleagues at the DesignLab at the University of Twente in The Netherlands. Start your application today at

And, big news! A group of passionate Fellows have launched an Alumni Network. Get involved by joining the newsletter, attending an upcoming Town Hall, or joining a team.

Strangers Are Just Friends Waiting to Happen

How an interdisciplinary workshop changed our campus life 

By Janette Kaspar, University Innovation Fellow of FH Salzburg (Salzburg University of Applied Sciences)

In our ever-changing world we notice different perspectives and viewpoints from both ourselves and from our peers. It’s natural to have differences in ideas, concepts and executions, and there is always a reason and benefits. But do we, as students and teachers, take them into account?

It has never been more important to be able to work through unexpected situations, to be able to deal with changing environments and to understand each other on a whole new level. Studies have shown that people who broaden their horizons, and who can think outside the box, generally do better than those who stick to just one area throughout their lifetime.

That is where interdisciplinary workshops and design thinking come into play. We noticed at our institution that the different degrees and programs became separated during the pandemic (or perhaps never had been that interconnected to start with). Some peers didn’t even know that certain programs and workshops existed. We decided to change that in hopes of bringing the different degrees and people closer together. And that we did.

In the beginning of Fall 2021, we were able to participate in the first part of a conference held at our university. Many first-year students attended this event, so we decided to use this opportunity to act and promote UIF at FH Salzburg and amongst the new students.

One of our aims is to increase the level of participation and democratic voice students get to have in their own study experience. Thus we held a survey during the conference and received confirmation that a lot of students basically didn’t know each other, had no real connections and were unaware of all the different opportunities at our institution. They wanted more interdisciplinarity.

They also were asked to request topics for the second part of the conference, which was set for Spring 2022 and wished for specific topics that were hardly ever covered. We already had this feeling but seeing it in numbers hit us hard. We had to do something now. The idea of holding a workshop arose almost immediately.

Through our training and experience with UIF we slowly developed the idea to create a workshop as a third part of the conference: a space where students could collaborate and work on the lecture topics from the conference.

Our university gave us a lot of support to organize and develop the two-day event for the conference participants. The first day consisted of four different talks about four different aspects of our day-to-day life, to give the students a better and broader perspective. On the day of the conference, talks were chosen based on results of our survey from the conference part one in the Fall. Day two was our day.

Our cohort hosted an interdisciplinary workshop, as part of the conference with the same title “Climate.Change.Resilience” (but we called it the CCRxUIF workshop). Our workshop consisted of three major components. First we gave the participants an insight into the world of UIF. Inspired by the 2022 UIF Meetup at Stanford University, we did a little wake-up session with the help of some energizing stokes, we introduced the agenda for the day, showed them various creativity methods for the ideation phase that we had learnt from our experience as well as from the book Creative Acts for Curious People and held a brief presentation on Design Thinking. We explained UIF and design thinking to the students, showed them methods for brainstorming and introduced them to Design Thinking. But just these input talks and motivational words would not result in more innovative thinking and collaboration. So we had a special plan in mind. It was important to us that the participants would actually get the chance to apply the Design Thinking steps while working on some of the big questions posed in the talks the day before.

At the UIF Meetup, we were part of an unconference, where students decided what to talk about and how to talk about it. Other participants could decide to join whenever they wanted. We found the idea very interesting and decided to try something similar for our workshop.

Our university allowed us to use the small castle on university grounds to hold our workshop. Each room contained a challenging question that had been discussed during Day 1 of the conference — just a general question, no instructions, no directions. However, just like in the UIF Meetup session “Co-Creation Is the Ghost in the Machine,” we also created a recommended agenda for their time as a group that they could follow if they felt lost. 

We then asked our peers to pick their favorite, something that sparked their interest and something they would love to talk about. Assigning the groups that way resulted in different students, from different degrees, with different viewpoints to all come together to discuss one topic they all had an interest in. The results were interdisciplinary, vastly different and thoroughly mixed groups that got combined by passion.

With some light support on our side — we assigned buddies for every team — the groups worked on ideas, problems and solutions for the topics, identifying issues and coming up with creative ways to solve them.

To motivate our peers even further and keep the energy going, we held a “find-your-mate” type of game during lunch. The instructions had been given in the welcome bag. Each student received a bag at the beginning of the day containing a notebook, pens, stickers and a card. Each card had a game printed on it. Have you ever seen people doing a push up competition in the middle of lunchtime, or someone suddenly speaking anything but their mother tongue? Starting a big game of “Marco Polo”? We certainly did and it was a blast! 

After lunch, the groups finalized their work and presented what they had come up with. We heard about how to reduce pollution by equipping cargo ships with hydrogen motors, how higher education could change the way we think about our failures, how you can use AI and still be cautious with it, and many more ideas and future projects.

The workshop was a success. The students loved interdisciplinarity, working together and getting to know each other. The final presentations were also held in front of a representative of the rectorate, and we received a lot of positive feedback. The rectorate has now asked this to be an annual event as part of the conference for our first-year students, in order to ignite our university spirit and to bring interdisciplinary innovation to our institution.

We believe we can notice how people now come together more often for new projects, our university is becoming more and more lively every day.

We can see the change. We can see what UIF taught us and what we can give the students at our university. For us as fellows it is wonderful to see that we have an impact at our very own university and that we can help to bring that motivation to innovate and improve our peers. Design Thinking and innovation to our peers. We saw different viewpoints and offered them to the students. It is clear that some of them gained a new perspective.

The original article can be found in the Events section of the 2021-2022 Change Forward Journal— Visions and Voices of Higher Education’s Future.

Is an impactful life work life possible?

Create impact through your profession without owning an impact enterprise

by Zişan Özdemir, University Innovation Fellow from Boğaziçi University

When I was a newcomer at the Chemical Engineering department, it was quite disturbing for me to realize that I would be working for companies producing petroleum-based products. Because, I thought I was going to work in industries that don’t care about their damage to the environment. (At that time, my knowledge of chemical engineering consisted only of what was taught in lectures.) This awakening demotivated me for a while but it didn’t take too long.  

Thankfully, with the help of a schoolmate, I discovered alternative ways of using my major for better purposes. With impact-oriented experiences (projects, trainings, internships, etc.) I gained throughout my college life, I was able to shift my career to the field I wanted. Long story short, if you haven’t discovered impact-oriented career opportunities yet, I’m writing this article exactly for you!

“With the mindset shift to the cross-sectoral approach, we are more aware than ever before that the participation of all stakeholders, a collective transformation, is essential to fully achieve sustainable development.”

The combination of pandemic conditions and increasing social and environmental awareness has been a massive wake up call, and people got the opportunity to rethink their career choices. Many people began to feel the need to change their jobs and look for a “purpose” in what they do. When it comes to “purposeful” jobs, thankfully, it’s been a long time since the only way to make a social and environmental impact was volunteering for an NGO. However, we still witness far too many people rushing towards just one option: becoming an impact entrepreneur! Of course you may start your own impact-oriented business if you have an idea to solve real-world problems and make a profit at the same time. However, impact entrepreneurship is more than owning an impact-oriented business, it’s a mindset! (Yes, I’ve also been asked many times why I haven’t founded an impact venture yet. The answer is very simple: I still don’t have a solid idea and not everyone has to found a start-up.)

With the mindset shift to the cross-sectoral approach, we are more aware than ever before that the participation of all stakeholders, a collective transformation, is essential to fully achieve sustainable development. From government to non-profits to impact ventures to venture capitals to academia, and the rest of the traditional for-profits, there’s a role for all organizations to contribute to the transition to sustainability. It’s a must! Therefore, you can make an impact as a policy-maker, impact investor, sustainability consultant, academician or intrapreneur. (We can extend this list as long as we want.) But first, you have to decide why and for what you want to make an impact. (Climate change? Poverty? Inequalities? Human rights?…) Which problem in the world is bothering you the most?

Besides all these, of course, you don’t need to have “sustainability” or “impact” in your title to make an impact in your position. There’s a growing number of impact enterprises or corporate companies that truly care about sustainability and impact out there. If you sincerely believe in the company’s mission and vision and if you enjoy the working conditions associated with the company’s culture, you may genuinely find fulfillment by joining such an organization, which is one of the alternative ways to use your expertise to make an impact.

In an ideal world we expect everyone to look after society and the environment in what they do, but I’ve tried to compile ways we can do our best until we get closer to the ideal (based on my own experiences). I believe we will achieve better as we demand. (fingers crossed!)

I’ve found my way to create impact by managing the carbon footprint of companies as a sustainability consultant @3pmetrics, and I want to contribute to decarbonization more and more!  


Finding a Great Team

A great team can help us shine and tackle problems effectively

By Macarena Oyague, Marcela Yeckle, Mia Townsend and Mirella Rivas—University Innovation Fellows from Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología

Being inspired all the time is difficult even for creative people. It is a hard reality we’ve come to realize because, despite our urge to create a positive impact in every person that crosses our path, at times we may feel like our motivation can falter, becoming a never ending storm in which negative aspects are eclipsing our desire to change the world. And this is a completely normal feeling. Also, at some point in our lives, we may be facing difficult situations in personal matters as well as in the professional side. Sometimes we may even feel alone trying to overcome this, but surrounding ourselves with colleagues that can match those pieces of your soul can help you to overcome every situation and make you believe that the rainbow at the end of every storm will appear. Digging even more in this topic, an inspirational teamwork is not about a competition to discover which star is shining more. On the contrary, it is about sharing our inner light with someone who needs it the most at a particular time. 

It is human to feel that someone has qualities that you admire, but it is also human to accept that you also have qualities that someone else would admire. The key to making a great team is to identify and appreciate the different abilites each person has and help them in the one they need to improve. Maybe one person can be the best at speaking in front of people but is not so good at managing bad news, and someone else could be capable of creating peace in chaos but is too shy to express their ideas. Together, they can improve all the difficulties, and that is the kind of empowerment we found at the time we start working as a team. 

Inspiration is about empowering the people around us to find their own path and be happy. We know that this can be seen as an idealistic philosophy, but it is seen in that way because there are always people who try to turn off the light in others. We are conscious that it is difficult to continue if someone is telling you that you won’t succeed. 

In our particular case and story, all of us have known each other for a short amount of time, but ever since we had started to work together in different initiatives, workshops, projects and even talking about life itself, we came to realize that this philosophy made us achieve a lot and learn as well. We inspire each one of us through difficulties in work and life, and come with crazy and amazing different ideas to overcome anything. This is the kind of group you can be with and think that you can overcome anything that comes in your way. 

Designing ideas and projects involves working harder. For that reason, you need to know that envy and competition are something that will always be there by the ones that only want themselves to succeed. We as a team, Mia, Mirella, Marcela and Macarena, have discovered a helpful insight to you: find a great team that helps you to literally shine with your inner selves and make you believe that at the end of every storm a rainbow will appear. 

The original article can be found in the Perspectives section of the 2021-2022 Change Forward Journal— Visions and Voices of Higher Education’s Future.

Emancipated Impact for Indonesia

Bridging Indonesia students to government funded opportunities with Kampus Merdeka

By Nurrizky Imani, Vincent Junition Ungu, Elan Yudhoprakoso, Fajar Kenichi Kusumah Putra—University Innovation Fellows from Universitas Gadjah Mada

As students, we never imagined that the lessons we learned in University Innovation Fellows would have such a profound effect on our fellow students. Ever since the very first training session, our Universitas Gadjah Mada team has been functioning below its potential. Due to everyone’s busy schedules outside of UIF, we regularly fell behind the target. Because of everyone’s varied schedules, we occasionally had to catch up on last week’s work. We even sometimes wonder if we’ll be able to sustain the impact beyond the UIF leadership period as we near the end of the training. It turns out, we underestimated how much it would grow.

“We discovered a missing piece of the puzzle in our community regarding how students have strong technical skills but insufficient work experience.”

During the most recent training, we developed an ambitious plan to establish three strategic priorities on campus. We thought it was too ambitious and the fact that Nurrizky, one of our fellows, was leading the UIF UGM in a different time zone  12 hours while on exchange at the University of Pennsylvania. In the end we develop these three priorities : 1) Creating a space for students to obtain industry internships. 2) Providing students with mentoring opportunities for preparing them for international experience through exchange students. 3) Creating an environment where students can learn about product engineering jobs and opportunities.

Our strategic objectives were determined by what we had learned as product engineering students in technology. We discovered a missing piece of the puzzle in our community regarding how students have strong technical skills but insufficient work experience. This has become an endless loop from which students cannot escape. On the other hand, we discovered that the Indonesian Ministry of Education is pushing a massive program called “Kampus Merdeka,” which translates to “Emancipated Campus,” to encourage students to learn off-campus via internship and exchange program. 

This allowed us to test our first strategic objective, “Mentoring Kampus Merdeka: Internship,” in which we established a mentorship program to assist students in obtaining their first internship. This mentoring program instructs mentees on how to compose a personal branding and interview. During the implementation, we were able to identify nine mentors with various business and engineering responsibilities. In addition, 42 individuals signed up to be mentors, and 18 students were selected as their mentees. With only one month of mentoring, we provide the students with learning activities and modules that give them a comprehensive understanding of each interview process. This Mentoring assists mentees in obtaining their initial internship. After 5 months, 75% of our mentees were offered internships. Our first endeavor has inspired us to make a second significant contribution. 

On our second priority called “Mentoring Kampus Merdeka: Exchange”,  we assisted students in applying for the Indonesia International Student Mobility Awards (IISMA). This mentoring program provided students with the opportunity to study at partner universities outside of Indonesia, including the University of Pennsylvania, Melbourne University, UC Davis, and more than 50 other institutions. UIF UGM created a mentorship program that assists students with the review of their essays and each step of the activity, such as the interview and test administration. We were able to attract up to 30 mentees and assist  20 students during the second round of applications for this mentorship. We were ultimately able to help 10 students be accepted in the program. It was remarkable that ten students were able to gain international experience in world class universities. This simple, cost-free but powerful mentorship has helped students have their best college experience.  

The impact of UIF UGM has led to unimaginable opportunities for students in our campus, and this has led them to a new journey of learning opportunities. This impact was not something that we expected in the first time and this led us to be excited with our next impact both on campus and also in other communities.  You can check our impact in instagram on @uif.ugm 

The original article can be found in the Operations and Student Life section of the 2021-2022 Change Forward Journal— Visions and Voices of Higher Education’s Future.

Diseña Tu Vida Universitaria

How can we help students design a fulfilling university experience?

By Valeria Aguayo, Danae Chipoco Haro and Diego Muñoz—University Innovation Fellows from Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología

I’m excited, it is the first week of the semester. I’m going to study a lot, I’m not going to fail any course. I think about the classes I’m taking, I hope to have good professors. “You must take the most of college to find a good job” says Mom. But one part of me doesn’t want to work. What is a “good job” anyway? It is the first week of the semester and I’m excited, yet at the same time afraid.


Thinking about the future

During our freshman year, we don’t know much about the various activities and programs that our institutions can offer. Sometimes we are even overwhelmed by the information and some of it gets lost. But at the same time, we want to enjoy this time because we know it is going to be unique. Not all of us get to immerse ourselves in activities that will drive us closer to our goals. Some of us are trapped between classes and assignments. We think constantly about the future, but we cannot plan it.

Design Thinking for Life

Design thinking is a methodology to create and develop solutions. It has become one of the most used methodologies when designing prototypes and innovative services or at the moment we launch our first start-up. This human-centered process has allowed many companies to discover unsatisfied needs of their customers and improve their products. 

If design thinking has helped companies to succeed, could it do the same with our lives?

We can approach life planning through several ways. Design thinking sparks our curiosity and invites us to learn from others and ourselves; set us into a constant iterative process allowing us to learn fast and improve. Many times, our lives are not a straight line path and our problems are not resolved by consecutive steps. We are complex beings with many wishes and interests. We change all the time, as we discover new things. Thus, we need a plan with multiple options and objectives. By developing several life plans we have the chance of imaging different paths, each of them exciting in a unique way. In this way, we learn what works.

With the objective of showing freshman students these tools, we invited them to think about what they want and how they want to do it,to evaluate the different opportunities that college offers to take the most of it. Above all, give them confidence to take risks, try new things, to think as a designer and to build their path.

To show these tools to college freshmen, we invite them to reflect on what they want to do and how they want to do it, evaluate the various opportunities college presents to them to decide how to make the best use of their time there. Specially, give them the security to dare to take risks, try new things, think like a designer and build their way step by step.

Hands on!

Inspired by the books Creative Confidence and Designing Your Life, we discovered several tools to apply them in the design of university life and professional career. The first challenge was to select a few and how to present it to freshmen in a short time.

One of the distorted thoughts is the belief of finding a passion to dedicate yourself to it as your occupation. This generates fear or insecurity in people who enjoy doing different activities and do not know which one to choose as a “passion”, or others who do not believe they have found it yet. Therefore, we decided to start with an introduction to remove that fear and give them the confidence to find their occupations without having a passion in mind. Then, we went with them through three activities.

  1. Take part in meaningful activities. Before forming life plans, it is necessary to get to know ourselves and what we like to do. For this reason, we presented this part of the workshop, in which a diary of different activities carried out on a day-to-day basis is made and different comments are written about them. In addition, the level of commitment you feel with these activities and how much energy it demands or gives you is evaluated. This is how the students were able to get to know each other better through their day-to-day life.
  2. Build a north. If you want to pursue a journey, its because you want to enjoy all of it, not just one part of it. In the case of life plans, we want to create paths we will enjoy in all aspects important to us. But how do we know that? First we need to know what is important to us, and how we will treat those important aspects of our life. In this activity, students were given several questions regarding their occupation, hobbies, interpersonal relationships to guide their thoughts and how to best complement them.
  3. Design several futures. After the students get to know themselves better, we encourage them to plan their next five years. First they had to think about a plan with the resources they currently had. Then, they were asked to forget their constraints and focus only on what they wanted. To help them evaluate their plans, indicators were added at the bottom of the activity sheet: resources needed, how much they liked it, confidence, and coherence between the plan and what they have learned about themselves in previous activities.
  4. Identifying doubts. When thinking about our future plans it is normal to have doubts about them: am I ready for this? Are there job opportunities within my city/country? Are people currently working on the field fairly paid? But what’s important is to solve our doubts. Thus, we created a space for students to write down their doubts and solve some of them (the ones we could) among the people in the workshop. Finally we encourage them to talk with people that have done things related to their plans to solve their doubts.
Credit: Ariana Beraun Gasco

What have we learned along the way?

Most universities seek an integral education of their students and give them several opportunities for complementing their technical formation.

However, the way of communicating opportunities is usually not adequate. In addition, the number of opportunities can overwhelm the students and decrease their focus to take advantage of them.

Therefore, it is important for students to have spaces to think about what they want to do or what they want to try, so that they can take the most of this experience. Moreover, college is an important space for discovering new things and getting to know themselves better. As a result, it is common for students to change their goals along their years. Thus, developing these life plans at several stages of their career help them to focus on what they want. Moreover, allows them to identify questions and doubts which motivates them to solve and allows students to gain confidence to pursue their goals.

What Now?

A team of University Innovation Fellows at UTEC started the program “Diseña Tu Vida Universitaria” to teach students at several levels of higher education design thinking tools to plan their lives. This creates spaces to connect students at several stages and disciplines with alumni. Moreover, it facilitates experiences for students to get closer to different professional paths in their fields of interest that helps them in their career choices.

The original article can be found in the Events section of the 2021-2022 Change Forward Journal— Visions and Voices of Higher Education’s Future.

How Might Education Change to Prepare for the Future?

And what role does the workforce play?

By Harrison Kellick, University Innovation Fellow from University of Technology Sydney

Looking towards the future of work, technology should only replace or automate what we don’t need to think about. Human-centric skills cannot be programmed and will continue to grow in importance. I spoke with Humera Fasihuddin at the 2022 University Innovation Fellows (UIF) meetup at Stanford University, she said that “90% of problems are human problems [and] there are some tech problems that’ll require a human touch too.”

The pace of education is failing to keep up with the rapidly changing skills market. As universities typically offer long term study, with courses of three to five years, there is little room for integration of current in-demand skills. Interest is growing for the just-in-time learning approach, which may address the shortcomings of traditional educational institutes by delivering training on an as-needed basis for the learner. Learning is heading towards short form content or micro-credentials, in intensive and practical bursts to match industry needs, which can be referred to as flexible learning.

The rapid transition to online learning throughout the COVID-19 pandemic brought competition between education institutions to a global stage. For the first time, individuals can now complete micro-credentials based anywhere in the world from the comfort of their own home. The market is crowded by organizations targeting flexibility and costs, such as LinkedIn Learning and Coursera, driving up competition. Despite promoting fewer barriers to entry, these platforms are still in their adolescence and continue to struggle with financial and accessibility barriers.

Another emerging problem is the disconnect between secondary education, tertiary education, and the workforce. Secondary education fosters an environment in which students compete against one another for their rank and final mark, only to join a workforce dominated by teamwork and collaboration. Ise Lyfe’s and Bre Przestrzelski’s workshop at the UIF meetup ‘Co-creating is the ghost in the machine behind great design’, explored our human desire to be independent by nature through the lens of puberty. A child is heavily reliant on their parents for everything, whereas a teenager has a drive to be their own person. However, once independence is reached, many people stop there. My favorite quote from this session was “Independence is childish, and maturity is being interdependent with one another.”

A crucial step in the transformation of education is for organizations and industries to be more vocal about what they are looking for in a candidate. For example, a consultation company in the United Kingdom is now hiring school students in listings that call for transferable skills that students already possess, such as a knack for organization. This allows them to avoid competing for graduate talent and provides emphasis on the crucial role of human-centric skills in the workplace. Similarly, organizations are partnering with tertiary education to develop work-integrated learning, where students receive credit for work experience. When organizations are vocal, they help break student perceptions and highlight that flexible education is a legitimate and welcome pathway. Educational institutions will need to integrate flexible approaches to keep up with the rapidly changing paradigm of work.

To explore this, the UTS UIF 2020 team have curated workshops highlighting important skills of the future and how students can develop them, and have recently embarked on a project encouraging students to develop a portfolio that evidences these skills. As I approach the end of my degree and transition into the workforce, I’m interested in exploring new perspectives within this system and the impact that reflexivity or self-awareness has on a student’s experience joining the workforce.

I encourage you to consider what role you play in this evolving complex system; how might we encourage active, life-long learning?

The original article can be found in the Perspectives section of the 2021-2022 Change Forward Journal — Visions and Voices of Higher Education’s Future. 

Now Accepting Applications for Fall 2017 UIF Program


Applications for the University Innovation Fellows program 2017 fall training are now live! Please request an application here: Once requested, you will receive access to the full student application within 24 hours.

What You Need

In order for your application to be complete, you need the following materials:

  1. A student application (one per student);
  2. Three letters of support from peers and mentors in your community (submitted online after the student application is submitted);
  3. A faculty application, complete with the $4,000 program fee;
  4. One institutional letter of support from the university President, Provost, Chancellor, or other VP-level administrator.

Student Letters of Support

We have adjusted the letter of support process for students this year because we want to learn more about you! We’re now asking for three letters from your peers, faculty or mentors. We are suggesting a few  different types of letter writers, in which you need to ask three:

  • A student peer
  • A person with whom you have volunteered
  • A faculty, staff or administrator
  • A mentor in your community
  • A student peer with whom who have collaborated on a project

Next Steps

The application deadline is Monday, March 24, 2017, midnight Eastern Time. EXTENSION: Monday, May 1, 2017, midnight Eastern Time.

We take one week to reconcile all of the application materials for each school. We will then send a status update sheet so that you can view items that have been submitted and items that have not. Based on the status sheet, if all application materials are submitted, your school will be marked in green (for GO!), and you and any other students from your school will be invited to interview together during the month of April.

Interviews are conducted in leadership circles (up to 4 students applying with you from your school). These are interactive and meant to showcase you as a team, whereas the application is to get to know you individually. If you are the only student applying from your school, you will be interviewed, we encourage you to find like-minded students like yourself to apply alongside you. All interviews are conducted by current University Innovation Fellows and recorded for review.

Once all interviews are completed, we will be in touch about your status with the program. Interviews run for up to a month (maybe a week more), so you should hear from the program team no sooner than mid-May.

Training Dates

Fall training will begin on Tuesday, September 5, 2017, with orientation. There will be two orientation sessions running, as we are now accommodating global time zones. Orientation is one hour, and will introduce you to the 6 weeks of the online training program and set expectations.

  • The first orientation is September 5 at 8 p.m. eastern time.
  • The second orientation is September 5 at 10 p.m. eastern time for participants in India (8:30 a.m. India standard time)

Training will conclude with your official launch as a University Innovation Fellow on October 20, 2017.

Fall Meetup

Upon successful completion of the program, you will be invited to attend our Silicon Valley Meetup November 16-19, 2017. You will learn more about this at orientation and throughout training.

If you need more information as a student, please follow this link:

If you need more information as a faculty sponsor, please follow this link:

Or, visit our frequently asked questions page:

If you still have questions about the application, or the program in general, please contact Katie Dzugan,, or +1 (413) – 274 – 7077.

Do-Think-Make: Engage in Design Thinking & Creativity at Texas Tech

The Texas Tech University Innovation Fellows, composed of Marshall Head, Victoria Young, Valente Rodriguez, Taylor Persons, Francis Atore and Benjamin Simmons, were able to host an innovative thinking event on their university campus called Do-Think-Make. This event was similar to the activities at the recent University Innovation Fellows 2015 Annual Meetup.

The goal of the Do-Think-Make event was to:

  1. Encourage cross-pollination of ideas and information between students of different backgrounds
  2. Help students overcome the challenges brought about by being in unfamiliar situations and environments
  3. Show a fun and exciting way design thinking could be presented

Event participants composed of 40 students from the Honors College, engineering, wind sciences and South Plains College. The Do-Think-Make event was sponsored by the Edward E. Whitacre College of Engineering, National Wind Institute, Honors College, Group NIRE and South Plains College.

Held on April 18th from 10 am to 2 pm, the Do-Think-Make event began with a rock paper scissors warm-up, whereby the loser became a fan of the winning team until only two teams are left at the end. The students also took part in a table activity where they were asked to come up with eight ways to improve the innovative ecosystem on their campus. They then chose an idea they liked best and expanded on the idea. The table then voted on one another’s idea and the table clustered as a team around the idea with the most votes. The final idea was then graphically prototyped and pitched by the table to the rest of the groups. It was observed that innovative spaces were a popular theme, with 60% of the groups choosing it as their project of choice.

The students were then engaged in a creative sound exercise where they imitated and created new sounds with their peers, namely sound ball. Sound ball had the highest reviews, due to the fact that it initiated the most laughs and challenges. STEM majors do not often practice sound creation and imitation, and may be one reason it was the most challenging; however, it was also named as the “most fun” portion of the overall event.

At the end, as the students were taking part in a maker space design challenge, that constituted a physical prototype, we were joined by a member of the community who is currently in the process of building a community maker space. This member of the community was able to witness the raw energy of the students as they conveyed their needs and interests. The community maker space, namely Ubiquitous Labs, is envisioned to promote local entrepreneurs and complement design education in the local schools. The event then ended with a wind turbine challenge where students were given 45 minutes to design a wind turbine for a building.

The amount of ideas and prototypes generated within the 5 hour period was immense, but even more important were the bonds that were generated and ideas that were exchanged. It is currently a great time for the Lubbock community, as new technologies and practices emerge. Companies such as Wayne Brown Institute are collaborating with emerging startups to help them understand their venture readiness, while organizations such as Lubbock Economic Development Alliance (LEDA) are providing resources and incentives to retain innovative businesses. As departmental and community stakeholders continue to merge their strengths, the region will continue to grow, resulting in a lasting positive impact.

Penned by the South Plains College & Texas Tech University Innovation Fellows

/pen/ verb. past tense: penned
write or compose.

Virginia is for Makers*

Bluestonehacks 5*A play on Virginia’s state motto, “Virginia is for Lovers.”

We kicked off our roadtrip strong, driving 5 hours through 5 states – MA, CT, NY, NJ, and PA – before stopping in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to get some Zzzs. Our biggest priority was to get to James Madison University to join their first-ever, student-led 24-hour hackathon, Bluestone Hacks. Participants of the hackathon had started innovating about the time we hit the road Friday night (6 p.m. on Friday, April 17) and were up all night developing their ideas, building working prototypes, and honing their final presentations.


On Saturday, we arrived at Memorial Hall eager to see the students present their ideas in one of three categories: food and agriculture, health and medicine, or consumer goods and products. Humera Fasihuddin (co-lead of the Fellows program) was invited to judge the food and agriculture category. We arrived to an open auditorium with roughly 60 participants and tables covered in prototyping materials, computers, food and red bull. The participants’ 24 hours was up, and it was time to present their final ideas.

JudgesPanelFourteen teams had formed and had 5 minutes to present with an additional 2 minutes of Q&A from the panel of judges. The teams had developed ideas from aiding local food producers market where they would be selling local produce to gym powered greenhouses to apps organizing medical emergency information to a mobile solution for HR companies on-boarding their new hires. The winner of Bluestone Hacks was Volterre, a mobile app designed to predict epidemics. The software monitors moods, social networks and google searches in a geo-targeted location to identify the spread of sickness in order to avoid epidemics. The winner was a senior at JMU studying physics.BluestoneHacks-Winners

Bluestone Hacks was an amazing event, and the fact that 5 Fellows organized the entire experience in less than one month and raised $8,000 from sponsors in two weeks is highly impressive.

20150419_141902Sunday was an entirely different atmosphere. We took hit the road an hour south to Charlottesville, VA, to meet up with our University of Virginia Fellows and their faculty sponsor, David Chen. After an amazing lunch and tour in beautiful downtown Charlottesville, after which we hit the infamous TomTom Festival. In short, the TomTom festival is a celebration of founders, named after one of our nation’s original founders Thomas Jefferson. A celebration of the startup, creative and innovative talent in Virginia, the TomTom Festival is a two-week shindig incorporating art, music, food and innovation in a fabulous outdoor neighborhood street-fair setting.

GeniusHourThere, we attended the Genius Hour — an event for makers of all ages — and saw many K12 and collegiate-level projects. It was described as “…a celebration of tech enthusiasts, crafters,  educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, artists, and students.” We had the opportunity to meet one of the organizers, Nate, a senior at UVa, who reached out to TomTom Fest organizers and pulled together the community to exhibit their creativity. As a program, we had heard we were making a difference (from both faculty sponsors and Fellows), but we were blown-away as community members recognized our University Innovation Fellows t-shirts at TomTom Fest.


After a wonderful afternoon at UVa, we headed back to JMU to have dinner and tour of the ICE House and ICE Maker House. The ICE House is a hub of resources providing students with access to resources for startups and small businesses, a maker space (ICE Maker House) and iterative learning experiences.


Fast forward to Monday afternoon. Humera and I were invited to attend our first pinning ceremony with the JMU Fellows, their faculty sponsor Nick Swayne, President Jonathan Alger and his wife, Mary Anne Alger. Fellows Chris Ashley, Timothy Moore, Emily Pratt and Jack O’Neil gave an amazing presentation on their work as Fellows. We were extremely proud of their ability to articulate their vision and describe the enhancements they wanted to see on JMU’s campus.

And now, we’re on our way to Kent State University to our Fellows Robin Bonatesta, Sravan Kumar, Tapti Saha and Matthew Allen. We have put nearly 800 miles behind us, with many more to go!


Humera and Katie

Pictured Below: James Madison University Fellows: Chris Ashley, Jack O’Neil, Emily Platt, and Timothy Moore; Nick Swayne, Faculty Sponsor; and Humera & Katie.PinningCeremony-UswiththeCoolKids

Pictured Below: University of Virginia Fellows: Ben Matthews, Angela Liu, Katie Kan, Rachel Smith, Anish Dalal, Dasha Tyshlek; David Chen, Faculty Sponsor, and his beautiful children Sofia and Austin; Katie and Humera, along with Humera’s children Noah, Aliya and Jeremiah.UVA-GroupPhoto

Read all posts in this series here:

UIF Roadtrip April 2015

Virginia is for Makers

Just Kent Get Enough

What Role Can Students Play in Attracting & Retaining their STEM Peers?

#BigBeacon Twitter Chat – April 22, 2015

Join the conversation at 8 p.m. EST.
Tweeting as @epicenterusa, using the #BigBeacon.

Preparing college graduates for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is a national education priority in the United States. According to a report published by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, fewer than 40 percent of students who enter college intending to major in a STEM field actually complete a STEM degree. Many organizations have been working to address this issue on the national level, and higher education administrators and faculty are working on ways to attract and retain more STEM students on an institutional level.

This article was originally posted on To read the full post, please follow this link.

A Trip to Georgia Tech

Amin Mojtahedi,  UW Milwaukee

Amin Mojtahedi, UW Milwaukee


This article was written by Amin Mojtahedi, a University Innovation Fellow Candidate at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. Amin is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Architecture and was visiting the Georgia Tech campus for one week at the end of January. See his full bio here



As part of an architectural study for Georgia Tech (GT), I had the chance to spend the entire last week on the GT campus exploring places related to the landscape of innovation and entrepreneurship

Georgia Tech Invention Studio

Georgia Tech Invention Studio

(I&E). One of my most memorable visits was to the Invention Studio at the Manufacturing Related Disciplines Complex where Alexis, a PhD candidate in Electrical Engineering, gave me a comprehensive tour of the facility. The Invention Studio was a student-run maker space where the opportunity for students to design, prototype and share was provided through workshops, experienced student “masters” in about 13 areas, and access to a wide range of materials and impressive cutting edge machinery including computer controlled machines (e.g., 3D printers, 3D scanners, laser engraving and cutting machines, waterjet, etc.), powered manual machines (e.g., bandsaw, injection molding, drill press, etc.) electronics equipment, and hand tools. In the fifth year of its operation, the Invention Studio has about 170 members and is opening branches in other schools on campus. Despite the rapid growth, members still bond over video games and move nights in the comfy lounge equipped with a large screen right across the Studio.



Innovation & Design Collaborative, Georgia Tech

Perhaps the most exciting part of the trip was meeting the GT three UIFs: Megna, a 5th year Biomedical Engineer; Alex, a 3rd year Mechanical Engineer; and Rachel, a 5th year Biomedical Engineer. We all first met at the Starbucks in the architecturally impressive Clough Learning Commons. Later, Megna and Alex kindly gave me a complete tour of the Innovation & Design Collaborative in the GT library. IDC, or Design Block as Megna liked to call it, was an intelligently designed 4,000 sqf space with a variety of furniture from playful foam cubes to customized tall studio-like desks for group work. A Unistrut ceiling and racks provide drop-down access to electrical utility for users to be able to plug in while being in their desired spot and white boards were everywhere. With Wayne Li’s help, the space and program were designed after Stanford’s I concluded the tour by participating in Wayne’s class on Contextual Awareness – as one of the five tenets the 21st century creative thinker can use to disrupt markets and drive innovation. IDC’s space is open to GT students 24/7 and is currently holding workshops while providing resources for learning Design Behavior.






Fellows Mid-Atlantic Regional Meetup: University of Maryland and Washington D.C.

Originally published by Epicenter


The University Innovation Fellows Mid-Atlantic Regional Meetup will take place November 1 – 2, 2014, at the University of Maryland and in downtown Washington, DC.

October 28, 2014

The University Innovation Fellows, a national student organization, will host a regional event at the University of Maryland and in downtown Washington, DC, focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education.

The University Innovation Fellows Mid-Atlantic Regional Meetup will take place November 1-2, 2014. Fellows from across the country will join students from the University of Maryland to participate in experiential activities focusing on entrepreneurial thinking, creativity, design thinking and community engagement.

This event is hosted by the University Innovation Fellows program in collaboration with Fellows from the University of Maryland who designed the two-day program: Atin Mittra (Aerospace Engineering B.S. ‘14), Valerie Sherry (Architecture M.A. ‘15) and Meenu Singh (Civil Engineering B.S. ‘14).

“Our goal is to get participants thinking about innovation and entrepreneurship in new, inclusive ways that challenge the traditional assumptions of what it means to integrate these fields within higher education,” said Meenu Singh, one of the three Fellows organizing the event.

The Fellows are a national community of student leaders who help students at their schools learn about innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity, design thinking and venture creation. The program is run by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter), which is funded by the National Science Foundation.

“Student engagement is the key to a vibrant and growing innovation ecosystem, yet many institutions struggle to inspire and activate their student body with top-down efforts,” said Humera Fasihuddin, leader of the University Innovation Fellows program for Epicenter. “Students, on the other hand, have been especially successful at igniting their campus culture across all majors. This event will be an opportunity for students to share best practices and develop new ideas.”

The theme of the event is “Creative Collisions” to help students incorporate innovation and entrepreneurship into all facets of student life and across all areas of study. The event is a collaborative experience that will allow participants to learn from practices at the University of Maryland and share insights from their home institutions.

Activities on November 1 will take place at the University of Maryland and include a creativity workshop, a discussion with administrators on partnerships with students, a campus scavenger hunt and a business model activity. Activities on November 2 will take place in downtown Washington, DC, and include a design challenge, visits to co-working spaces and points of interest, and a movement workshop on the National Mall.

A full schedule of activities is available upon request.

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

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

Hypothesis Affirmed! Greenville, SC Ignited By Southeastern Regional Meetup

Last week, we tested our hypothesis that we could bring together a group of Fellows with other college students interested in creativity, innovation and design thinking and replicate the energy of our Annual Meetup at Google and Stanford at a place very far from Silicon Valley. We chose Greenville, South Carolina. Why? Because two of our star University Innovation Fellows happen to be in that region: Ben Riddle of Furman University, and Bre Przestrzelski of Clemson University, and their amazingly supportive faculty sponsors Ross McClain (Department Chair, Art, Furman) and John Desjardin (Associate Professor, Bioengineering, Clemson). What ensued gave strong support to our hypothesis.

Ben and Bre’s work analyzing the Furman and Clemson Innovation & Entrepreneurship ecosystem informed their strategic plans to enhance that ecosystem (Furman Student Priorities, Clemson Student Priorities). They completed this work last year, over a 6-week WebEx-based program to become University Innovation Fellows and, as part of their training, flew to Google Headquarters and Stanford’s world-renowned (the Hasso Plattner Design Institute). Over three days, 88 Fellows from all over the nation soaked up the innovation culture in Silicon Valley and discussed ways to lead a movement in student innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship on their campuses (March 2014 agenda, and photos). The Annual Meetup was transformative; both Ben and Bre saw the opportunity to replicate the magic and attract peers on campus.

Again, why Greenville? Program leaders, over the year that followed, discovered just how cool of a community Greenville, SC is, as both Fellows reported back the success and overwhelming support they received from institutional and community leaders. Greenville has a strong history of public-private partnership dating back to the entrepreneurial Mayor Max, under whose leadership the city attracted a major Hotel Chain and narrowed a four-lane thoroughfare into the charming downtown Main Street filled with great restaurants, culture, art and more. So, when the pair invited Epicenter and its founders, Stanford University and VentureWell, to co-facilitate design thinking and lean startup sessions with local experts, program leaders enthusiastically agreed. Thus was born the plan for the…

Southeastern Regional Meetup, Hosted by Clemson University and Furman University

SEregionalsmallEpicenter organizers, University Innovation Fellow program leaders and Fellows flew in from California, Massachusetts, Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, New York and the Virgin Islands. Fellows drove from North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and even as far away as Michigan and Massachusetts! They were joined by 20 Furman and 20 Clemson students. All had one thing in common: a desire to learn the techniques of design thinking and lean startup, two approaches used to develop strong human-centered ideas and develop scalable business models around them. Using real-world issues from the Greenville community, students applied new-found techniques in observation, empathy, brainstorming, prototyping, customer segmentation & value proposition development.

Students developed low-resolution prototypes and articulated real opportunities to improve Greenville – a more friendly main street and redesigning the eating experience. Students learned by doing and they discovered that their entrepreneurial mindset could be honed on real-world challenges in their local community. On the flip side, community members saw students as motivated and capable individuals who bring a fresh-perspective and an open mind to arrive at highly innovative and achievable solutions to their challenges. One student openly remarked during the debrief, “I learned more this weekend than in the entire semester,” a sentiment often heard by many who first encounter hands-on and experiential learning opportunities. The mood at the reception with community and academic leaders was one you’d see at a sporting event, as evident by the Bear Ninja Cowboy video posted below. This kind of enthusiasm for learning can transform our nation’s higher education institutions. We look forward to replicating this success in Washington D.C. and at UMD on November 1st and 2nd, ringing in National Entrepreneurship Month with an invitation only Meetup for 100 University Innovation Fellows. More on that soon!

~ Humera Fasihuddin, Co-director, University Innovation Fellows (on behalf of Leticia Britos Cavagnaro, Katie Dzugan & Laurie Moore)


A Big THANK YOU to our Collaborators and Supporters

We are extremely grateful to the many local community members, without whom, this past weekend would not have been possible:

Design Thinkers Group USA, especially Joel, Marc and Susan, for their tremendous efforts in co-designing and co-facilitating a two-day experiential learning experience with our colleague Leticia Britos Cavagnaro from Stanford.

John Desjardin, Clemson, for his awesome giant room-sized Business Model Canvas exercise, imparting Lean Startup skills to participants in an experiential way (and his moral support).

Ross McClain, Furman, for forging an unprecedented partnership between a liberal arts institution and a major research university (and his moral support).

OpenWorks, for being so accommodating and allowing us to use their open work space for our activities on Friday (see agenda below).

Greenville Health System, especially to Robin, for joining us to discuss what you should never do in an interview — and making it funny.

Clemson MBA at ONE, for giving us access to their swanky new space on Main Street.

Also a special shout out to Envision SC, the Spiro Institute, Ten at the Top, SCBio and all of our additional facilitators and guests of honor.

Fellows Southeastern Regional Meetup Collaborators and Sponsors

Fellows Southeastern Regional Meetup Collaborators and Sponsors

Fellows Southeastern Regional Meetup Agenda

Fellows Southeastern Regional Meetup Agenda

58 U.S. Students Named University Innovation Fellows by NSF-Funded Epicenter

For Immediate Release
October 2, 2014

58 U.S. Students Named University Innovation Fellows by NSF-Funded Epicenter

Palo Alto, CA – Fifty-eight students from 26 higher education institutions across the United States have been named University Innovation Fellows by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter).

The University Innovation Fellows program empowers students to become agents of change at their schools. The Fellows are a national community of students in engineering and related fields who work to ensure that their peers gain the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to compete in the economy of the future. To accomplish this, the Fellows advocate for lasting institutional change and create opportunities for students to engage with entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity, design thinking and venture creation at their schools.

This new cohort of Fellows brings the total number to 168 Fellows from 85 schools. The program is run by Epicenter, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Stanford University and VentureWell (formerly NCIIA).

“It is so critical for students to have an entrepreneurial mindset in today’s economy. They need more than just technical skills to solve the big problems our world is facing,” said Humera Fasihuddin, leader of the University Innovation Fellows program for Epicenter.

“This mindset helps students learn to be flexible, resilient, creative, empathetic. They learn how to identify and frame problems rather than simply solving what’s put in front of them. With these skills, students will be able to leave school better prepared to tackle challenges and create new and fulfilling jobs for themselves and others.”
Individual Fellows as well as teams of Fellows are sponsored by faculty and administrators at their schools and selected through an application process twice annually. Following acceptance into the program, students complete six weeks of online training, where they connect with their new network, examine their current entrepreneurial ecosystems and formulate action plans to implement their ideas. Throughout the year, they take part in events and conferences across the country and have opportunities to learn from one another, Epicenter mentors, and leaders in academia and industry.

Fellows have created student design and maker spaces, founded entrepreneurship clubs and organizations, worked with faculty to design courses, and hosted events and workshops. In the last academic year alone, Fellows created 553 activities, 22 new spaces and 65 innovation and entrepreneurship resources at their schools.

“Fellows are having a powerful impact at their schools,” Fasihuddin said. “They are working alongside students, faculty and their university leaders to help all students learn an entrepreneurial mindset, dream big and pursue their career aspirations.”

Learn more about the University Innovation Fellows at and

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

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


Summer 2014 Updates

Dear Fellows,

We can hardly believe that school is back in session – and we’re almost half way through training! We hope all of you enjoyed your summer endeavors and are settling back into campus life and managing your course loads this fall. As we catch up with you individually, we’d like to recap what we have been up to this summer:

National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges for Engineering
April 30 – June 1, 2014

UIFs & Dan Mote, National Academy of Engineering

UIFs & Dan Mote, National Academy of Engineering

Our first event of the summer was hosted at the National Academy of Engineering in Washington D.C. During these two days, Fellows discussed the 14 Grand Challenges identified by the Grand Challenge Scholar’s Program (GCSP) alongside deans from institutions across the country. Karuna Relwani (UPitt) presented on the student panel with students from Engineers Without Borders (EWB), Engineering Projects In Community Service (EPICS) and the GCSP. Each student discussed their experience with these programs at their institution and also their key learnings from being exposed to experiential engineering. Megna Saha (Georgia Tech), Mary Wilcox (ASU Tempe), Yifan Ge (Bucknell), Valerie Sherry (UMD College Park), Ben Riddle (Furman), Lauren Distler (James Madison), Natalia von Windheim (NC State) and Corey Brugh (Colorado School of Mines) joined as well to light the fire for these deans to commit to creating change on their campus. The outcome of these two days was 66 deans signatures that solidified their commitment to bringing visibility to the Grand Challenges on their campus. For more information, visit to see a video of the commitment that Fellows made and additional articles written by both Megna and Mary after this event.

Deshpande Symposium for Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Higher Education
June 10 -12, 2014

UIFs & Desh Deshpande, Deshpande Symposium

UIFs & Desh Deshpande, Deshpande Symposium

Back in June, Humera and I hoped in a car and met Nate Smialek (UPitt), Mary Wilcox (ASU Tempe), Rob Soloman (UWMilwaukee), Ben Riddle (Furman), Bre Przestrzelski (Clemson) and Valerie Sherry (UMD College Park) in Lowell, Massachusetts for the Deshpande Symposium. We also conveniently saw Kevin Desjardins (UMass Lowell) and his faculty sponsor Tom O’Donnell. The Deshpande Symposium is designed around innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems, curriculum, commercialization and trending topics. Fellows facilitated a session titled: Students: Secret Agents of Change. Fellows discussed their path to serving as campus change agents and offered tips on how to foster student engagement. We had two faculty sponsors join us: Ross McClain of Furman University and Ilya Avdeev of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. To add to the discussion, the faculty spoke to their approaches in cultivating a faculty sponsor-Fellow relationship and how they were supporting their Fellows strategies for change on campus. In addition, we got to visit UMass Lowell’s M2D2, a Medical Device Development Center; the New England Robotics Validation and Experimentation (NERVE) Center; and Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center (ETIC).

EurekaFest 2014
June 20 – 21, 2014

Katie Dzugan, UIF Program Associate (left) & Fellow Hristina Milojevic, Union College at EurekaFest 2014.

Katie Dzugan, UIF Program Associate (left) & Fellow Hristina Milojevic, Union College at EurekaFest 2014.

EurekaFest is an MIT and Lemelson Foundation sponsored event hosted at MIT in June. InvenTeams are high school student teams invited to showcase their work from the year throughout the day in various formats — presentations and a demonstration. Student Inventions included a robotic snowblower to a pedal desk that created energy to light up a classroom to a reinvented irrigation and water system. In the evening, were the collegiate prizes which showcased the winners of two categories, “Cure it!” and “Use it!” The Lemelson-MIT student prize winners presented their technology-based inventions that were designed to improve healthcare and consumer devices and tools. The winners ranged from an easily accessible classroom 3D printer to a device that helped people monitor glucose levels. We were joined by Hristina Milojevic (Union), Natalia von Windheim (NC State) and Malik Oliver (Fayetteville) and also received a tour of the amazing MIT Media Lab. The MIT Media Lab is THE. ULTIMATE. MAKER SPACE.  Any undergraduate student that wants to support the work of the many research teams within the media lab can do so with ease. Imagine this at every campus.


Epicenter Research Summit
August 4 – 5, 2014

Cooking Up New Research Ideas: With Students, About Students; Epicenter Research Summit 2014

Cooking Up New Research Ideas: With Students, About Students; Epicenter Research Summit 2014

Fast forwarding to August, several students joined us at the Epicenter Research Summit held at Stanford’s Fellows in attendance were Hristina Milojevic (Union), Bre Przestrzelski (Clemson), Gurlovleen Rathore (Texas A&M), Ben Riddle (Furman), Elliot Roth (Virginia Commonwealth), Valerie Sherry (UMD College Park) and Gregory Wilson (University of Georgia). Along with program leaders, Fellows co-facilitated a session titled, Cooking Up New Research Ideas: With Students, About Students. We were extremely impressed with how each Fellow stepped up and truly helped plan and lead this session for an audience of roughly 70 researchers.


Researchers saw first hand that students were much more than research subjects and recipients of education. They could be active partners and co-designers of their educational experience. After a high-level program summary, researchers joined four

Valerie Sherry (UMD) during UIIF breakout groups; Epicenter Research Summit 2014

Valerie Sherry (UMD) during UIIF breakout groups; Epicenter Research Summit 2014

breakout groups, each led by a pair of University Innovation Fellows. They explored two research threads of interest to students:

  1. The what, who and why of successful I&E spaces for students: maker spaces, incubators, accelerators; and
  2. Personal and contextual factors that support the success of UIFs as change agents.

As a result of their participation, Fellows have reportedly joined together to undertake research projects with one another and with Researchers.  For more information on the Summit, click here.



Training, Fall 2014
August 25 – October 4, 2014

Fall 2014 Training Orientation; August 25

Fall 2014 Training Orientation; August 25

We have launched our Fall training! Much of our summer was consumed by application intake, interviews and planning training for the fall cohort. During the afternoon of Monday, August 25, over the course of 3 hours, we held a successful orientation session via Blue Jeans with over 80 participants, including new candidates, faculty sponsors and Epicenter staff!  In those 3 hours, we had an overview of the University Innovation Fellows mission, a faculty-only orientation discussing cultivating a strong candidate-faculty sponsor relationship and two breakout sessions for students before we convened to a close. So far, candidates have covered design thinking and have interviewed current Fellows to create 30 new how-to guides on the Wiki. This week they are surveying the ecosystem and delivering the first draft of their landscape canvases! Training will also cover spaces of innovation, the lean approach, students’ strategic priorities and finish with their strategies to give voice to student priorities for Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

Student IP Mission

Caleb Carr (UC Denver) has done an amazing job of getting Fellows involved to push the national agenda of student intellectual property issues. As a team, these Fellows are creating a full campaign, including a website, a petition, a Facebook and indiegogo page — even drafting bill language for the Higher Education Reauthorization Act that went up for revision this August. The following is a request for additional help from Caleb Carr (

I wanted to thank each and every one of you for your work and support these last couple weeks while pushing this very important initiative. We really are starting to lift a new leaf on the topic surrounding undergraduate/master’s research, innovation, and entrepreneurship. I am emailing you all to request some help. We need help in the following areas:

  • ​​Logo Development
  • Marketing
  • Social Media Management
  • Lobbying
  • Podcast development

If any of you have specific strengths that would help us in these specific areas and would be willing to put some time in it would be greatly appreciated. As always, if you have any questions or concerns please dont hesitate to contact me via email or phone. <End Message>

**Please note that this initiative is not directly supported by Epicenter or it’s affiliated partners: the National Science Foundation, Stanford University and the NCIIA.**

Meeting with NAB board members — Key Takeaways

Susan Brennan; Epicenter Research Summit 2014

Susan Brennan; Epicenter Research Summit 2014

Humera, Leticia and I met with three of the Fellows National Advisory Board Members — President Rick Miller of Olin College, Susan Brennan of Bloom Energy and Steve Blank of Lean Launchpad and Stanford. Our initial meeting included three Fellows: Bre Przestrzelski (Clemson), Ben Riddle (Furman) and Jaime Arribas (Morgan State). Way to represent! They discussed the projects they are implementing on their campus and what being a Fellow means to them. We met with Susan Brennan in California, just after the Epicenter Research Summit to discuss future strategies for the Fellows program.


(left to right) Katie Dzugan, Humera Fasihuddin & Leticia Britos Cavagnaro; Olin College 2014

(left to right) Katie Dzugan, Humera Fasihuddin & Leticia Britos Cavagnaro; Olin College 2014

Later in August, we had a wonderful visit from Leticia — she came to Massachusetts this time! During her stay we visited President Rick Miller at Olin College, had a wonderful tour from an undergraduate engineering student and also had lunch to meet a few key faculty members.

In other news: please keep up with the google group, where we frequently post travel opportunities for Fellows to travel around the nation with us and represent the national movement. We also hope you are available to join us for one of the two Regional Meetups this fall — Southeast: Greenville, SC (October 3&4) and Northeast: UMD College Park (early November).

Applications Open for University Innovation Fellows Program

Applications are now open for Epicenter’s University Innovation Fellows program.

University Innovation Fellow Meetup 2014
May 16, 2014

This week, the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter) opened the application process for its University Innovation Fellows program for U.S. college and university students.

The University Innovation Fellows, a national community of students in engineering and related fields, are leading a movement to ensure that all students gain the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to compete in the economy of the future. To accomplish this, the Fellows advocate for lasting institutional change and create opportunities for students to engage with entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity, design thinking and venture creation at their schools.

The program is run by Epicenter, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Stanford University and the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA).

Fellows have created student design and maker spaces, founded entrepreneurship clubs and organizations, worked with faculty to design courses, and hosted events and workshops. At present, there are 78 Fellows at 110 institutions.

“The University Innovation Fellows program empowers students to become agents of change on their campuses,” said Humera Fasihuddin, leader of the University Innovation Fellows program for Epicenter. “With a little bit of training, some guidance, and a great support network, Fellows are working alongside engineers, their interdisciplinary peers and faculty to prepare students to pursue their career aspirations with an entrepreneurial mindset that is so critical in today’s economy.”

The Time Is Now: The University Innovation Fellows Manifesto

John DesJardins, Associate Professor of Bioengineering at Clemson University, said about his school’s Fellow and bioengineering graduate student Breanne Przestrzelski: “As a result of her University Innovation Fellows experience, Bre has systematically begun to transform the entrepreneurial and innovation landscape of our bioengineering program, our college, our university and our community. At every level, Bre has challenged the engineering and business educators, administrators and leaders in our community to become active facilitators of student-driven engagement in entrepreneurship and technology innovation.”

Elliot Roth, a University Innovation Fellow and engineering major at Virginia Commonwealth University, spoke to the benefit of having a network of like-minded peers across the country: “During the training, I learned what it takes to be a leader, to tell a compelling story, and to work alongside a community in making a sustainable impact. Possibly the most important thing about being a Fellow is the other amazing students in the program. By sharing our experiences, we collectively learned more as a group than any one of us ever could alone.”

The deadline for program applications is June 30, 2014. Students can request an application, and faculty can request an application to sponsor a student at

Application and program details:

  • The application deadline for the Spring/Fall 2014 cohort is June 30, 2014.
  • Ideally, applicants are undergraduate students in engineering or other STEM fields, but Epicenter is thrilled to consider undergraduate and graduate applicants from all disciplines who are passionate about technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.
  • Students can apply individually or in groups of up to five, called a Leadership Circle.
  • Applicants are sponsored by a faculty or administrator who can provide a program fee, travel support and a letter of support.
  • Following acceptance, students are required to take part in an online training and in-person events. Upon successful completion, students participate in a three-day immersive experience in Silicon Valley.

Learn more 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 the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (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. Learn more and get involved at

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

Click here to download the full press release: Epicenter University Innovation Fellows press release – May 2014.

Epicenter University Innovation Fellows press release - May 2014 (2)_Page_1




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