University Innovation Fellows

Change agents: Students named global innovation leaders

December 11, 2020


Nine UR undergraduates have been named fellows in Stanford University’s Innovation Leaders program. The students are joining a group of nearly 200 others from 45 higher education institutions in 14 countries selected for this opportunity to become campus changemakers.

The initiative connects students and prompts them to advocate for innovation on their respective campuses. Working with campus leaders, the UR team’s project focuses on establishing broader connections between students and academic resources to boost student exposure to innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities on campus.   

The Richmond contingent includes sophomores Danny Anderson, Khushi Basnyat, Sophia Hartman, Penny Hu, Nichole Schiff, Chloe Khoshand, Sarah Schalkoff, as well as juniors Emma Johnson and Anthony Moody IV.

All fellows participated in a six-week online training about design thinking, innovation, and prototyping, led by members of Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. The Richmond group then spent time canvasing the campus, learning about all of the resources available to students, and identifying areas where the University can implement more creativity and ideas into the curriculum, said Todd Lookingbill, a geography, environmental studies, and biology professor, who serves as the UR team’s faculty advisor along with Joel Mier, a lecturer in marketing in the Robins School of Business. 

The group will pilot their ideas in the spring.

“We looked at the atmosphere of the campus and felt that a lot of students were isolated because you’re seeing your friends less, a lot of classes are online, and a lot of students are remote,” Basnyat said. “We want a tool for students to meet other students — whether it’s someone else in their major or someone who has the same interests like art or music.” They’re working on a prototype and hope to test it next semester, she said.

Another concept is to bring more innovation into the classroom by creating an innovation pop-up workshop in randomly chosen classes, Basnyat said.

The group is also looking at ways to work with professors and improve courses based on student feedback.

“The idea of the whole program is to give these students real work skills,” Lookingbill said. “There is an increasing demand from the student body to have more opportunities to learn from entrepreneurial skill sets. One very big goal is to provide unique resources on campus and provide opportunities on campus that are student-driven.”

Independent of the project, Lookingbill said the Innovation Fellows are student leaders. “These students, who are innovating new approaches, are members of the new student cabinet. They’re leading microaggression workshops and the student-driven Equity Summit and Interpoint student-led discussion series. They are taking these skills into other ventures across campus,” he said.

This is UR’s second year participating in the Innovation Leaders program.

“We’ve been really blessed both years to have amazing students,” Lookingbill said.