College of Engineering

Two Tech Students named University Innovation Fellows

University of Innovation Fellows Program ImageTwo Tennessee Tech Students, Jonathan Abbotoy and Abigail Collins, out of 123 students from 52 U.S. higher education institutions have been named University Innovation Fellows by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter).

The University Innovation Fellows program empowers students to become agents of change at their schools. The Fellows are a national community of students in engineering and related fields who work to ensure that their peers gain the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to compete in the economy of the future. To accomplish this, the Fellows advocate for lasting institutional change and create opportunities for students to engage with entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity, design thinking and venture creation at their schools.

This new cohort of Fellows brings the total number to 291 Fellows from 114 schools. The program is run by Epicenter, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Stanford University and VentureWell (formerly NCIIA).

“In today’s economy, it is imperative for all students to acquire an entrepreneurial mindset. College graduates need to enter the workforce skilled in assessing complex problems, conceiving innovative solutions and developing scalable solutions, whether they join a company or non-profit organization or start a new venture,” said Humera Fasihuddin, co-leader of the University Innovation Fellows program for Epicenter.

“Our program provides a platform for Fellows to learn to be strategic thinkers, examine the landscape of learning opportunities at their schools, and formulate action plans to implement their ideas,” said Leticia Britos Cavagnaro, co-leader of the Fellows program and Deputy Director of Epicenter. “Fellows develop a community and share strategies about what’s working at their schools. Ultimately, these students, with their drive and motivation, are leading accelerated change in higher education.”

Individual Fellows as well as teams of Fellows are sponsored by faculty and administrators at their schools 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 Annual Meetup in Silicon Valley. Throughout the year, they take part in events and conferences across the country and have opportunities to learn from one another, Epicenter mentors, and leaders in academia and industry.

Fellows have created design and maker spaces, founded entrepreneurship clubs and organizations, worked with faculty to design new courses, and hosted events and workshops. In the last academic year alone, Fellows created 553 activities, 22 new spaces and 65 innovation and entrepreneurship resources at their schools.

“Over the course of the program, we’ve seen Fellows have a powerful impact on student engagement and campus culture at a national scale,” Fasihuddin said. “Word of their success has attracted more than 50 institutions for this new cohort. We're thrilled to see the impact of the new Fellows in the year ahead."

The new Fellows gathered in Silicon Valley on February 20-22, 2015, for their annual meeting, where they took part in immersive experiences at Google and Stanford University. At the event, Fellows participated in experiential workshops and exercises focused on topics including movement building, student innovation spaces, design of learning experiences, and new models of change in higher education. They engaged with leaders in academia and industry from Google, Google for Entrepreneurs, Stanford University, and Citrix, among others. Additional information and photos from the event are available upon request.

View a list of all the University Innovation Fellows and learn more about the program at