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Students as Change Agents: Leveraging Students to Infuse Innovation & Entrepreneurship into the Campus Ecosystem

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 5

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

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Paper Authors


Rebecca Zarch SageFox Consulting Group

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Rebecca Zarch is an evaluator and a director of SageFox Consulting Group. She has spent the last 10 years evaluating projects supporting young adults moving through the STEM pipeline and workforce development projects. Rebecca’s work often involves evaluations of innovative approaches to STEM education, typically at community colleges and graduate school programs. Rebecca received her MBA in non-profit management at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management and her M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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Alan R. Peterfreund SageFox Consulting Group

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Alan Peterfreund is Executive Director of SageFox Consulting Group, an education research, evaluation located in Amherst Massachusetts. Alan has a Ph.D. in Geology from Arizona State University, and has been a research faculty member at Brown University. A career-shift in 1984 led to 16 years of consulting in the private and public sector with primarily emphasis on organizational change, quality management, and employee participation. Starting in 2000, Alan began to focus on supporting higher education partners in projects that address broadening participation in the sciences, graduate student development, curriculum innovation, instructional technology, teacher professional development and other education reforms. For the past five years, Alan has been the lead evaluator for Epicenter, an NSF-funded STEP Center focused on infusing entrepreneurship and innovation into undergraduate engineering education.

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Leticia C. Britos Cavagnaro Stanford University

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Leticia Britos Cavagnaro, Ph.D., is Deputy Director of the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter), co-Director of the University Innovation Fellows (UIF) program, and is a lecturer in design thinking, creativity and innovation at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design ( at Stanford University.

Find out more about Leticia's work at:

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Humera Fasihuddin Stanford University

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Humera co-leads the University Innovation Fellows (UIF) Program, a key initiative of the NSF-funded National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter) and a joint-venture between Stanford University and VentureWell. In it, she prepares and supports students to create lasting institutional impact that enhances the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem in higher education. After three years of spearheading the design and scale of UIF, in July 2016 she will transition the program to its new home at the Stanford Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, also known as the Serving in her role as Senior Program Officer at VentureWell for over a decade, she led the creation of numerous programs including the organization’s first foray in venture accelerators, which today account for over half of the 501c(3)’s income.

Prior to VentureWell, Humera created innovation networks between industry and the University of Massachusetts Amherst under an NSF Partnership for Innovation grant. Humera began her career at the publicly-traded UK firm Rexam, serving as product manager in their precision-coated materials subsidiary. Humera holds an M.B.A. from UMass Amherst and a B.S. from Smith College. Humera can be reached at, on twitter @ihumera and on LinkedIn at

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Students as change agents: Leveraging students to infuse innovation and entrepreneurship into the campus ecosystem

Engineering students have many opportunities to engage in existing co-curricular activities such as robotics clubs and Engineers Without Borders. However, students have fewer opportunities to be exposed to innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E) learning opportunities, which provide them with essential skills that are valued by employers and necessary to help them identify and tackle big problems in an increasingly complex world. Changing the culture and structures of a campus to provide curricular, co-curricular and informal opportunities to engage in I&E requires a systemic approach. Engineering students are often an untapped resource for making this campus-based change. Epicenter, an NSF STEP center, is driven by the mission of empowering US undergraduate engineering students to bring their ideas to life for the benefit of our economy and society. Epicenter conducts research, works with faculty and, through the University Innovation Fellows (UIF) program, has spawned a student-led grassroots movement for infusing I&E into the higher education ecosystem. Nearly 300 Fellows from 115 institutions in seven cohorts have gone through the UIF training. Student participants, known as “Fellows,” acquire knowledge of tools, frameworks and program models that help college students develop their creative confidence and an entrepreneurial mindset. The Fellows work with other students as well as faculty, administrators and other stakeholders in their communities to systematically expand the campus ecosystem for I&E. Fellows organize events, secure and transform physical spaces for student collaboration, contribute to course development, and engage administrators. Many of the Fellows go on to influence the national conversation on I&E by organizing regional events and participating in forums that present at national conferences, such as ASEE and University Economic Development Association (UEDA) Annual Meeting, among others. They also actively contribute to White House STEM initiatives, launching campaigns such as #uifresh, which aims at curbing attrition from STEM majors by engaging incoming university students in I&E activities early on.

Annual and alumni surveys suggest both Fellows and their faculty sponsors find students to be an effective resource for making campus-based change. Questions this paper will explore include: How can we define success at the individual and institutional level? What personal, programmatic and contextual factors correlate with success? Drawing from a database of program participants’ experiences and institutional characteristics, we aim at providing a deeper understanding of how students can best be engaged as change agents in higher education in general, and engineering education in particular.

Zarch, R., & Peterfreund, A. R., & Britos Cavagnaro, L. C., & Fasihuddin, H. (2016, June), Students as Change Agents: Leveraging Students to Infuse Innovation & Entrepreneurship into the Campus Ecosystem Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25939

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