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Eight York College students named University Innovation Fellows

October 25, 2017
University Innovation Fellows

Eight York College students have been named University Innovation Fellows, a program that empowers students to become agents of change at their schools. They join 221 others from 62 higher education institutions in 10 countries named to the program run by Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (d.school).

 York College’s Fellows are Ben Hinkel, a junior international relations major from Ashland; Benjamin O'Connor, a junior with a self-designed major in interdisciplinary programs from Cleona; William Amtmann, a junior mechanical engineering major from Langhorne; Victoria Cox, a sophomore mass communications and public relations major from Vineland, N.J.; Vivian Ferris, a junior mass communications and theatre major from Chester Springs; Miranda Gajda, a junior nursing major from Lewisburg; John Kershner, a junior mechanical engineering major from Reading; and Robert Vandemark, a senior computer engineering and computer science major from West Chester.

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, they 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.

 York College’s team has created a three-phased plan to bring change to their College. It includes creating design thinking courses that are available to all students; creating the Graham Innovation Zone, dedicated campus space for the design thinking classes and other groups to utilize to boost an innovative culture at the College; and creation of the Center for Collaborative Engagement, an organization focused on collaboration between disciplines of study at the College.

With the addition of the new Fellows, the program has trained more than 1,200 students since its creation. Fellows are sponsored by faculty and administrators as individuals or teams of students, 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 Silicon Valley Meetup in November. During this gathering, Fellows will take part in immersive experiences at Stanford’s d.school and Google, and work with leaders in education and industry. Throughout the year, they take part in events and conferences and have opportunities to learn from one another, Stanford mentors, and leaders in academia and industry.

 “During training, Fellows gain skills, mindsets and knowledge to face ever-more complex challenges at their schools and in the world,” said Humera Fasihuddin, co-director of the University Innovation Fellows program. “They learn frameworks like design thinking and lean startup, which help them analyze their campus ecosystems, understand the needs of others, and uncover opportunities for change. As a result, Fellows design learning experiences that better prepare peers for their careers.”

 “In traditional education systems, students have to wait until they graduate to make a difference. We don’t believe that,” said Leticia Britos Cavagnaro, co-director of the University Innovation Fellows program. “Students are uniquely equipped to make a difference while they’re in school; they know best what other students want and need. Our Fellows are working with their peers, faculty and administrators to co-design a different educational experience and bring about change where it’s needed most.”

Sponsored by York College's Graham Innovation Scholars program, which has been supporting innovative thinking on campus for 3 years now.

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