University Innovation Fellows

The University Innovation Fellows program empowers students to become agents of change at their schools. The Fellows are a national community of students leading a movement to ensure that all students gain the necessary attitudes, skills and knowledge required to compete in the economy of the future. These student leaders from schools around the country create new opportunities that help their peers develop an entrepreneurial mindset, build creative confidence, seize opportunities, define problems
and address global challenges.

Fellows are creating student innovation spaces, founding entrepreneurship organizations, hosting experiential events, and working with faculty and administrators to develop courses. They serve as advocates for lasting institutional change with academic leaders and represent their schools at national events.

The program was created by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter), a five-year National Science Foundation grant. The University Innovation Fellows is now a program of Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (

About the Fellows

The program has trained 607 Fellows at 143 schools. They range from undergraduates to PhD students and engineering majors to architecture majors. All of them demonstrate a passion for innovation, creativity and the entrepreneurial mindset as well as a drive to make a lasting impact at their schools.

Some Fellows work independently on their campuses and collaborate with their faculty and peers, while others work in a team of up to five Fellows at a campus called a “Leadership Circle.”

What the Fellows Do

During the 2012-13 academic year, the Fellows hosted 124 events and activities, reaching 9,000 students and faculty. In the 2013-14 academic year, Fellows held more than 553 activities and created 22 spaces and 65 new campus resources.

Fellows build resources that will last beyond their time on campus. They:

  • create innovation, collaboration or maker spaces
  • found clubs
  • raise funding
  • host speakers
  • organize competitions
  • work with faculty to create courses
  • engage incoming students during orientation
  • lead workshops that expose students to creativity, innovation, design thinking and tools to hone their entrepreneurial mindset

Fellows collaborate with their faculty, deans, trustees and other institutional leaders. They:

    • discuss ways to enhance the educational experience by engaging other students in hands-on, applied and self-directed learning opportunities
    • advocate and lead cross-departmental and cross-institutional partnerships
    • collaborate to hold new course offerings that incorporate creativity, innovation, design thinking and entrepreneurship within and alongside traditional coursework

Fellows contribute to the national dialogue on their needs in higher education. They:

  • speak at national conferences about their work
  • collaborate with other fellows regionally and by discipline
  • advocate for changes in policy that can help support a nation of young people who possess an entrepreneurial mindset, a passion for solving society’s most pressing problems and the necessary attitudes, skills and abilities to make a difference in the world

Training Support

University Innovation Fellows program leaders train candidate Fellows during an intensive 6-week period to conduct in-depth analyses of their campus ecosystems and provide them with tools and resources. Read more in depth about our online training on our apply page.

After training, the Fellows receive year-round mentorship, connect with one another digitally, and attend national conferences and events. This global network of like-minded students helps our Fellows learn from one another and create multi-institution collaborations.


Fellows and their efforts on campus have been celebrated by their schools, regional publications and national organizations such as the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Visit our Fellows in the News page to read the articles.


Interested students should begin the application process here. In order to submit the application, each student needs to provide at least one faculty letter of support, find a faculty sponsor (does not need to be the same as the letter of support) and create a supplemental YouTube clip. It is the responsibility of the faculty sponsor to apply the students for the Leadership Circle; the faculty sponsor must supply a letter of support from the president of the university or any vice president-level administrator. Once submitted, the applications will be reviewed with the possibility of moving forward into the interview round. The interview round consists of group interviews in which we encourage students to share their BHAG (big hairy audacious goals) with us and their potential peers. Competition is strongly discouraged as we promote a safe environment of information sharing. After the interview round, students are invited to join us in this national endeavor.

If you are a faculty member interested in hosting a University Innovation Fellow at your institution, please click here for more information.