Students take the lead in changing higher education at the University Innovation Fellows 2015 Annual Meetup.
by Laurie Moore
At 8:00 pm on Saturday, February 21, the second day of the University Innovation Fellows 2015 Annual Meetup was drawing to a close. Nearly 160 Fellows from across the U.S. had just participated in a 12-hour day of activities at Stanford University, including a one-hour movement workshop, a self-guided tour of campus to discover innovation spaces, and a four-hour, five-session circuit of experiential activities.
They should have been tired.
Instead, they sang karaoke together. They danced. They played basketball outside in the warm (to the East Coasters) evening air. They made s’mores around a fire pit and told their favorite stories from the day. They took selfies and gathered in small groups to learn more about one another and their schools. When the buses came at 9:30 pm to take the students back to their hotels, they demanded one final karaoke song, and then another.
It was hard to believe that these University Innovation Fellows met for the first time as a community only 48 hours earlier.
The University Innovation Fellows program, run by Epicenter, offers training and support for students to become change agents at their schools. Through the training and ongoing support, Fellows learn to navigate their campus landscapes and create offerings that hone peers’ entrepreneurial mindsets and instill creative confidence.
While many Fellows had met online during their intense 6-week video-conference-based training, the Annual Meetup allowed them to connect in person for the first time. Together, they had the opportunity to share experiences and insights from their schools, collaborate on new strategies for change in education, understand their role in this national movement, and learn from leaders in higher education and industry.
The Fellows at the 2015 Meetup were from two cohorts trained in Fall 2014 and Winter 2015. Also in attendance were 12 of the Fellows’ faculty sponsors, who who were invited to attend and participate alongside students as partners in achieving institutional change.
The Meetup was organized by the University Innovation Fellows program staff at Epicenter: Leticia Britos Cavagnaro, Humera Fasihuddin, Katie Dzugan and Laurie Moore. Eight Fellows assisted with the design and facilitation of the event and hosted several sessions: Atin Mittra, Meenu Singh and Valerie Sherry from the University of Maryland, College Park; Greg Wilson from the University of Georgia; Ryan Phillips from the University of Oklahoma; Bre Przestrzelski from Clemson University; Ben Riddle from Furman University; and new Fellow Bradley Dice from William Jewell College.
The event spanned three days. The first day at Google was hosted by Frederik Pferdt, head of Creativity and Innovation Programs at Google. Activities included an inside look into Google X with Amanda Kelly, a design challenge in teams, a panel discussion with representatives from People Development at Google, a spaces tour, and a talk on Google for Entrepreneurs with Daniel Navarro.
The second and third days of the Meetup took place at Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (d.school). Sessions on Saturday included a leadership through movement session with Stanford Dance and Performance Arts instructor Aleta Hayes, an exploration of Stanford innovation spaces, a talk with Olga Dotter from Citrix on the intersection of lean startup and design thinking, a circuit of five experiential activities, and a workshop to help students create and facilitate similar activities at their schools.
Sunday activities included a panel with educators and students on new models of education, examples of campus initiatives from current Fellows, and a workshop on how students can accelerate change in higher education. Several special guests stopped by the meetup, including Stanford alumnus and violinist Kai Kight and author and entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki.
At the end of the event, Fellows shared their insights from the event in the form of sticky note “bumper stickers” which they placed on a life-size, hand-painted University Innovation Fellows Volkswagen van. Examples included “If you can read this, you are dangerously close to the movement,” “Think, do, fail, learn,” “Innovation or bust,” and “Be the change.”
On Sunday afternoon, the Fellows left for the airport and returned to their campuses. Their charge: to be the change they want to see in higher education.
Learn more about the University Innovation Fellows on their blog at dreamdesigndeliver.org.
Event materials and articles:
Talking With America’s Future: Removing Barriers, by Shawn Drury http://bluenationreview.com/talking-americas-future-removing-barriers/
Event photo gallery: https://www.flickr.com/photos/epicenterusa/sets/72157650907065066/
Meet the changemakers: map of student attendees at the University Innovation Fellows Annual Meetup 2015: http://prezi.com/ahoz-sfvstdd/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share
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