Nicholas Hennigan, Tara Rahmani, Sabrina Stangler and Michaela Thiry are the first four MSOE students to be named University Innovation Fellows (UIF). The international program, run by Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (, empowers students to become agents of change at their universities.   A major goal of the UIF program is to inspire innovation and an entrepreneurial mindset among university students.  

“I feel this program is this perfect mix of creativity and entrepreneurship in which we can really start something amazing here at MSOE,” Hennigan said. He looks forward to collaborating and problem solving with groups and individuals throughout campus.  

MSOE’s Fellows were among 258 students from 64 universities in nine countries chosen to participate in the UIF program. With the addition of the new Fellows, the program has trained more than 1,500 students since its creation. Following acceptance into the program, students go through six weeks of online training and travel to the UIF Silicon Valley Meetup. Throughout the year, they take part in conferences, digital meet-ups, and opportunities to learn from one another, Stanford mentors, and leaders in academia and industry. The Kern Family Foundation is sponsoring MSOE’s four Fellows.  

The Fellows want to create more study areas on campus, as well as additional maker and collaboration spaces. These spaces, Stangler said, are critical to bringing interdisciplinary groups and projects together. “The maker space also provides a place for people to think creatively and have the resources to take off with an idea,” she said.  

“One of the biggest benefits the UIF program provides for MSOE is the opportunity for students to become true agents of change,” said Dr. Nadya Shalamova, UIF faculty champion, and program director for MSOE’s User Experience and Communication Design program. “What's more important is that the UIF program provides students with a framework and necessary skills to move their ideas forward. Their enthusiasm and passion for bringing change to MSOE is absolutely contagious.”  

MSOE’s Fellows have identified several strategies for expanding innovation and entrepreneurship on campus and in the community:

  1. Create a dedicated makerspace to allow students to come together, hold events and meetings, run workshops and be entrepreneurs.
  2. Improve MSOE’s policy regarding intellectual property and patents.
  3. Inspire and create a startup community, including a lecture series and nights of innovation.
  4. Offer a series of innovative and entrepreneurial events, including TED talks, faculty speakers and pop-up classes.
  5. Improve communication between faculty, staff and students through fishbowl exercises.  

“Being a Fellow is about being innovative and creative and design seeking. It’s what engineers should do and should be,” said Rahmani. As a Fellow, she hopes to give a voice to students and push for ways to better campus life. “I want to help MSOE be more inclusive and provide unity between majors, between organizations and between people in general.”  

Thiry said she would like all students to have the same sense of pride for MSOE she has. She hopes to find more ways to instill that pride through the UIF program. “I want to improve how our own organizations coordinate with each other,” said Thiry. “I’m also interested in networking with other universities to see what they do differently that maybe our campus could benefit from.”  

“We believe students can help accelerate the pace of change in higher education,” said Humera Fasihuddin, co-director of the University Innovation Fellows program. “They have creative ideas, and are very resourceful. With proper training and mentorship, they are initiating positive lasting changes at their schools and making a difference in the lives of their peers.”  

“Through this program, Fellows gain skills, mindsets and knowledge to face complex challenges at their schools and in the world,” said Leticia Britos Cavagnaro, co-director of the University Innovation Fellows program. “They learn how to analyze their campus ecosystems and identify learning opportunities related to innovation and entrepreneurship. In doing so, they identify gaps and strive to understand the needs of peers across disciplines, and the perspectives of faculty and administrators. Armed with this knowledge, they design strategies to take advantage of these opportunities for change.”  

In March 2018, students will have the opportunity to participate in the Silicon Valley Meetup, which brings together all Fellows trained in Spring 2018. During this gathering, Fellows will take part in immersive experiences at Stanford’s and Google, and work with leaders in education and industry. They will participate in experiential workshops and exercises focused on topics including movement building, innovation spaces, design of learning experiences, and new models for change in higher education.