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Agents of change

10 April 2017

FEIT UIFs  visit to Silicon Valley
FEIT UIFs  visit to Silicon Valley.  Image: UTS/dv>
Four FEIT students are the first Australians to join Stanford University’s University Innovation Fellows program, which empowers students to become agents of change at their own universities.

Irene Hsieh, Matthew Childs, Corey Stewart and Peter Cole joined 220 students from 58 higher education institutions in seven countries at the March 2017, visiting Silicon Valley organisations and joining in immersive experiences at Stanford’s d.school. They participated in experiential workshops and exercises to look at movement building, innovation spaces, design of learning experiences, and new models for higher education.

Now back at UTS, they are creating activities to share the knowledge, skills and attitudes to compete in the economy of the future, and make a positive impact on the world.

“Our Fellows will be contributing through ideas for a maker’s space in the Faculty Learning precinct, a Design Thinking workshop in April, a hackathon in July, and a Shadow a student challenge for later in the year,” said Dr Daniel Chandran, Program Leader and Mentor, Stanford University Innovation Fellows, School of Systems, Management and Leadership, FEIT.

UIF students with Dr Daniel Chandran (l) and Associate Prof Rob Jarman (r)
2017 UIF students with Dr Daniel Chandran (l) and Associate Prof Rob Jarman (r) at a pinning ceremony in the FEIT Wintergarden 

UTS fellows are selected and sponsored by the Faculty.  Six weeks of online training includes identifying their own campus innovation and entrepreneurship environment, to understand the needs of different stakeholders, and develop ideas to improve educational opportunities and experiences.  This is followed by travel to the annual University Innovation Fellows Silicon Valley Meetup.

 “We had a visit to Google, which was very inspiring and a chance to check out the ‘Google vibe’!  Innovation is really encouraged – staff are given up to 25% time off to spend time developing on personal projects,” said Corey

“Microsoft was a very different type of organisation with a different approach to innovation; it has a Garage – which is a little like the UTS: Hatchery – where creative ideas are developed.”

Workshops in Design Thinking and Lean Start-up helped bring their ideas to life, and working with peers from different backgrounds and disciplines allows for different perspectives to be considered.

Stanford has a history of developing the principles and application for solutions-based outcomes. Its’ leading design thinking method relates to empathy, definition, ideation, prototyping and testing. “It’s not about ‘selling’ an idea, but encouraging a process of exploration,” said Corey.

Irene will be leading a design workshop at the UTS BiG & EngSoc Camp 21 – 23 April, an example of mentoring other FEIT student to develop skills in innovation. (This video has more about the Camp!)

“The Fellowship program is absolutely amazing and eye opening. We took design thinking and entrepreneurship principles, applied them to UTS, and effectively came up with ways to ‘hack’ education around UTS,” said Peter.

“We networked with over 300 peers from around the world, all implementing similar design thinking programs at their universities. This network puts UTS up there with other state-of-the-art universities like Stanford, and gives us access to a ‘brains trust’ of innovative/ entrepreneurial students trying to change the world.”

The network includes thousands of students with demonstrable interest in entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity, and genuine desire to inspire fellow students and make a positive impact on campus. To do this, Fellows create opportunities for students to engage with innovation, entrepreneurship and design thinking, gain ‘creative confidence’, and work with Faculty to develop new course content.

 “At Stanford, I was able to connect with a diverse and talented global cohort. We each have our own culture, upbringing and worldview, yet we congregated at there with similar passion to drive positive change,” said Irene.

“I will always remember the conversations and moments of feeling empowered and inspired. We came away with tools and a thinking mindset to examine leadership, team dynamics, nurturing culture, innovation and entrepreneurship and the current higher education system.

“It is thought provoking and encouraging to know there is a wider community out there supporting and appreciating the same things I do. This experience has been unforgettable."