Rensselaer students Jacqueline Curtsinger ’18, M.S. in technology commercialization and entrepreneurship; Jacquelyn Demshick ’19, biomedical engineering and design, innovation, and society; and Ria Shroff ’19, biomedical engineering and design, innovation, and society, have been named University Innovation Fellows by the Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (d.school).
The Rensselaer students were nominated by the Paul J. ’69 and Kathleen M. Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship at the Rensselaer Lally School of Management as well as the Emerging Ventures Ecosystem (EVE) at Rensselaer. This year, 229 students from 62 higher education institutions in 10 countries have been named University Innovation Fellows. With the addition of the new fellows this year, the program has trained more than 1,200 students since its creation in 2014.
“The University Innovation Fellows program brings together talented student leaders and gives them the training and opportunities to create real change on their campuses,” said Jason Kuruzovich, academic director of the Severino Center. “Fellows bring strong encouragement to their peers and show how entrepreneurship- and innovation-related education can be a critical component of preparing for a changing world.”
In November, the students had the opportunity to participate in the Silicon Valley Meetup. During this gathering, fellows took part in immersive experiences at Stanford’s d.school and Google, and worked with leaders in education and industry. They participated 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.
To accomplish their goals, fellows advocate for lasting institutional change and create opportunities for students to engage with innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking, and creativity at their schools. Fellows have designed innovation spaces, started entrepreneurship organizations, hosted experiential learning events, and worked with faculty to develop new courses.
“These students reflect the passion and strong participation in our vibrant innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem at Rensselaer,” said Esther Vargas, director of EVE. “The training, experiences, and networking they receive as University Innovation Fellows benefits not only their career aspirations, but also those of their student colleagues and the Institute as a whole.”
Curtsinger, Demshick, and Shroff want to increase and enhance the communication and understanding around the large variety of Rensselaer entrepreneurship curriculum, resources, and culture on campus to connect students with these opportunities in a clear and helpful way. They are working on an entrepreneurial project class, centralized information on campus workspaces, and a website that can connect students who want to be part of a project and those who need a team.
“Students don’t really know what a career as an entrepreneur looks like, or working on a startup,” said Curtsinger. “It’s great to be able to use the training and information we learn from the University Innovation Fellows program to help our peers identify the resources and build the skills required while at Rensselaer to make their great ideas and innovations a reality.”
These fellows at Rensselaer have learned that it is important for students to understand intellectual property policies, form great interdisciplinary teams, know the process to start a business, have good faculty and student mentors, build confidence in their entrepreneurial skills, take risks to try something new, and not be afraid to make mistakes. They are excited to help their peers get connected to these resources on campus for this great knowledge and support.
To date, 10 Rensselaer students have been named University Innovation Fellows. In addition to Curtsinger, Demshick, and Shroff, this list includes Meghan Olson ’14, M.S.’15, Jordan Dunne ’17, Ray Parker ’17, Jim Boulter ’17, Vincent Arena ’17, Zaire Johnson ’18, and Hayley Roy Gill ’19.