This fall, five George Mason University student entrepreneurs were named University Innovation Fellows (UIF) by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter). The UIF program is funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Stanford University and VentureWell.
This prestigious program trains selected student leaders on how to create new opportunities for their peers to engage with innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking, and creativity. While the program yields numerous applicants from across the country, the final 2015 UIF Fall Cohort consists of only 151 students from 52 higher education institutions.
The five Mason students selected as fellows include:
- Tetis Chang, an applied information technology graduate student
- Ethan Ellert, a senior global affairs major
- Jason Force, an electrical engineering graduate student
- Jade Garrett, an applied information technology graduate student
- Nicole Parker, a social entrepreneurship graduate student
This mix of graduate and undergraduate students is the first group of fellows at George Mason University. Inspired by a passion for innovation and creating a community of entrepreneurs at Mason, Force, founder and CEO of Iron Goat Technology, was the driving force behind the program pursuit and sought out others at Mason to join him in applying.
"I immediately thought that this opportunity looked so exciting and fun,” she says. “There's a lot that you can do as a student, and being a part of UIF is really an entrepreneurial activity in itself."
And these innovators are up for the entrepreneurial challenge. As part of their application, the Mason Fellows had to describe their goals to support innovation on campus and to create a model that would be sustainable and long lasting at the university. Some of their priorities include increasing awareness of current innovation resources at Mason, introducing a new interdisciplinary entrepreneurial course for underclassmen, creating a living and learning community for those interested in entrepreneurship, and getting underclassman involved in an innovation and entrepreneurship cohort.
To aid the fellows in achieving their campus goals, the UIF program holds six-weeks of online training and meetups to allow fellows to learn from one another, Epicenter mentors, and leaders in academia and industry.
“One of the most refreshing takeaways for us in meeting the other fellows was realizing that issues that we have encountered were not uncommon elsewhere,” explains Garrett.
After meeting fellows from other universities, the Mason fellows came away with new ideas in how to overcome obstacles in pursuing their campus goals.
"While each of us are working on our own projects and parts of our campus goals, each project is a larger commitment to the community," tells Ellert. "Other schools already have larger entrepreneurship programs, but we're trailblazers here at Mason. It's exciting and truly entrepreneurial."
Community is a key theme for all of the Mason fellows and essential in achieving their campus goals.
“We have found community amongst the Mason fellows as we learn about our interests and utilize our unique strengths to support each other and the campus as a whole,” explains Parker. “We are striving to create greater community, access and impact at Mason.”
The Mason fellows are sponsored by the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
"We are proud of our students for completing the Epicenter University Innovation Fellows program and representing Mason to a national network of innovators at leading universities and colleges,” says David J. Miller, director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “We are excited to support and watch as our innovation fellows realize their visions for Mason, the region and beyond, and continue to work with their UIF peers nationally."