February 8, 2016

Dear Epicenter Community Members,

We are so thankful for your ideas, passion and engagement in our work during the last five years. As we enter the last six months of our National Science Foundation grant, we are thrilled to share with you our plans for the future.

Epicenter’s National Science Foundation (NSF) funding began in July 2011 with a commitment of $10 million for 5 years. Directed by Stanford University and VentureWell, this new national center became a laboratory to explore ways to help engineering and computer science undergraduate students develop the knowledge, skill sets and mindsets to help them be more innovative and entrepreneurial. Our team experimented with many fresh approaches, analyzed problems, utilized new tools, collaborated with our community, and tested potential products. After our exploratory time, we created three products: the Fostering Innovative Generations Studies research initiative, the University Innovation Fellows program for students, and the Pathways to Innovation Program for faculty and administrators.

During the last few years, we have led these three core initiatives and engaged a growing community of educators and students across the country. Through our core initiatives and partnership activities, we have reached about 300 U.S. institutions to date; nearly 200 of those are engaged with at least one of our core initiatives, and nearly 100 are engaged with two or more of our core initiatives. We have hosted dozens of events, workshops and conference sessions, including annual gatherings for our program participants, two summits for HBCU leaders, and a workshop to design new research questions. Our approaches and methodologies have grown to encompass areas such as lean startup, design thinking, creativity, social entrepreneurship, and the maker movement.

The impact we have seen through our programming is substantial, and we see further opportunity for growth and impact on education in the U.S. and around the world. For this reason, Stanford University and VentureWell are developing plans to continue and expand these activities. At the end of June 2016, Epicenter’s NSF grant period will end, and our three products will leave the Epicenter lab and transition as described below.

  • The research conducted by the Fostering Innovative Generations Studies team will continue at Stanford University under the leadership of Epicenter co-PI and Stanford Professor Sheri Sheppard in her Designing Education Lab in the School of Engineering. The program leaders plan to continue collaborating with researchers across the country on the questions developed as part of the Epicenter grant, and they are actively seeking new funding sources.
  • The University Innovation Fellows program will be housed within the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (d.school) at Stanford University, under the direction of current program leaders Humera Fasihuddin and Leticia Britos Cavagnaro. The program leaders will continue training new students as they develop plans for continued growth and expansion. They are actively seeking collaborators and funders to support these intentions.
  • The Pathways to Innovation Program will be led by VentureWell under the direction of Victoria Matthews and VentureWell president Phil Weilerstein. The program will continue its mission to support faculty and administrators in creating lasting change in higher education, and is developing plans to evolve and expand its work with new funding.

All of these transitions will be effective on July 1, 2016, when the Epicenter grant will officially come to a close. Stanford University and VentureWell team members will support one another in finalizing plans and facilitating these transitions. We will communicate further details as the plans for these three programs evolve.

All of us at Epicenter are grateful to the National Science Foundation for their foresight on and dedication to this mission, to our National Advisory Board members for their advice and support, and to our community of program participants and friends for their engagement and passion.  

Thank you for your support and engagement,

Tom Byers and Sheri Sheppard
Co-PIs, Epicenter


Sign up for the three contact lists below to stay up to date with each initiative’s opportunities, resources, events and more after the NSF grant ends:

Pathways to Innovation Program updates
University Innovation Fellows updates
Fostering Innovative Generations Studies updates

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