Western Welcomes First Group of University Innovation Fellows

The four University Innovation Fellows pose sitting in tge grass on upper campus
In partnership with the University Innovation Fellows Program and Stanford University, a group of four Western students are sparking exciting changes on campus and in the community.

Last week, Alex Modell, Josh Hirschman, Mandi Johnson and Phillip Kitt officially became Western’s first group of University Innovation Fellows (UIF).

The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (d.school) at Stanford University is the epicenter of the UIF program, which seeks to create a worldwide network of motivated students who want to improve their campuses and communities through innovative design solutions.

The Western group plans to use their shared entrepreneurial spirit to inspire change on campus and around the Gunnison Valley.

“The design approach to problem solving is super hot in entrepreneurship right now,” said Chris Green, UIF faculty advisor.

The current Western UIF team comes from Western’s Innovation, Creativity &Entrepreneurship (ICE) program within the School of Business, but they plan to include more departments in upcoming semesters.

“The more diversity the better,” Green said.

Collectively, the four fellows have majors and emphases in Recreation and Outdoor Education, Computer Science, Economics and Accounting—in addition to ICE.

“We all have different backgrounds but are united by our shared interest in innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship ,” Hirschman said.

“No matter what major you are, you can have an innovative mindset,” Modell added.

The four fellows were selected by their professors because they showed exceptional enthusiasm and creativity early on in their Western careers. To begin their work as UIF, the students were asked to takea six-week online class offered by UIF and Stanford. The course teaches skills in ecosystem mapping, startup strategy, design thinking and storytelling.

While the fellows are still early on in their venture, they have already begun researching and designing tools that will help connect students to campus clubs and organizations.

After imagining, developing and implementing their ideas throughout the year, they will travel to both the Stanford and Google campuses. There, they will network with other student agents-of-change from around the world. The trip will allow the Western group to showcase their ideas in a cutting-edge venue with some of the brightest and most creative students in the world.

Western has been and will always be on the forefront of personalized education. With developing programs such as ICE and UIF, it is proving to be an emerging leader in innovative thinking and action as well.

Follow these links to learn more about the exiting new program:

Story and Photos by Peter Noon

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016 - 2:45pm