Pitt | Swanson Engineering
Five Pitt Students Named University Innovation Fellows by NSF-Funded Epicenter

(February 22, 2016) — Five undergraduates at the University of Pittsburgh are among 155 students selectred from 47 higher education institutions who have been named University Innovation Fellows by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter). Mark Doman (finance), Grant Jacoby (marketing), Emily Klonicki (microbiology), Zach Patterson (mechanical engineering), and Aakash Sudhakar (bioengineering) developed a proposal to address student awareness of innovation programs on campus.

The University Innovation Fellows program empowers students to become agents of change at their schools. Fellows work to ensure that their peers gain the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to compete in the economy of the future and make a positive impact on the world.

To accomplish this, the Fellows advocate for lasting institutional change and create opportunities for students to engage with innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking and creativity at their schools. Fellows design innovation spaces, start entrepreneurship organizations, host experiential learning events and work with faculty to develop new courses. Fellows who joined the program in the 2014-15 academic year held 112 events and established 35 spaces at their schools.

The program is run by Epicenter, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Stanford University and VentureWell. With the addition of the new Fellows, the program has trained 607 students at 143 institutions since the beginning of the Epicenter grant.

“We believe that students can be so much more than just the customers of higher education,” said Humera Fasihuddin, co-leader of the University Innovation Fellows program. “Fellows are acting as codesigners of the higher education experience, and they are actively collaborating with faculty and administrators to make lasting changes at their schools. They utilize their resourcefulness, creativity and national network to make measurable gains, both in the number of resources and the students served by the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.”

Individual Fellows as well as institutional teams of Fellows are sponsored by faculty and administrators and selected through an application process twice annually. Following acceptance into the program, schools fund the students to go through six weeks of online training and travel to the University Innovation Fellows Annual Meetup in Silicon Valley. 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.

“Through this program, Fellows learn how to analyze their campus ecosystems for new opportunities, understand the needs of stakeholders at their schools, collaborate with peers from different disciplines, and solve problems that have no clear answers,” said Leticia Britos Cavagnaro, co-leader of the University Innovation Fellows program. “All of these mindsets and skills will help Fellows make a difference in higher education as well as in the increasingly complex world that awaits them after graduation.”

In late March, students will have the opportunity to participate in the Silicon Valley Meetup, which brings together all Fellows trained in Fall 2015 and Spring 2016. During this meeting, March 17-22, Fellows will take part in immersive experiences at Google and Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (d.school). They will participate in experiential workshops and exercises focused on topics including movement building, student innovation spaces, design of learning experiences, and new models of change in higher education.

This event will be the first of many times that the Fellows have the opportunity to engage with the d.school at Stanford. After Epicenter’s National Science Foundation grant ends on June 30, 2016, the University Innovation Fellows program will become part of the d.school. Visit bit.ly/UIF-future to read more about the transition.

Applications for the Fall 2016 cohort are due on May 2, 2016. Learn more about the University Innovation Fellows and find out how to apply at universityinnovationfellows.org.

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. 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. 

3/7/2016

Contact: Paul Kovach