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Second class of TU students named University Innovation Fellows by Stanford d.school

university innovation fellows
Clockwise, from left: Cheyanne Wheat, Rachel Deeds and Sophia Zehentner

Three TU students have been named University Innovation Fellows by Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (d.school). The program empowers fellows to create opportunities that ensure their peers gain the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to compete in the economy of the future and make a positive impact on the world.

Rachel Deeds, a junior mechanical engineering major, Cheyanne Wheat, a freshman computer science major and Sophia Zehentner, a sophomore marketing major, completed a rigorous application process and six weeks of online training led by the d.school. They will travel to the University Innovation Fellows Silicon Valley Meetup in March to learn from peers at other universities as well as industry leaders.

Associate Professor of Marketing Charlie Wood serves as faculty adviser for the program. Wood previously worked with the Koch Foundation to help design TU’s NOVA Fellowship, an interdisciplinary program that equips students with the tools to implement an idea or passion before graduating. The Collins College of Business also houses Studio Blue, a facility students use as an agency-like environment to generate product innovation ideas, create business plans and work on projects for businesses and nonprofit organizations.

“The University Innovation Fellows program goes right alongside what we are doing with the NOVA Fellowship and Studio Blue,” Wood explained. “We want to expand these resources across campus to encourage design thinking, social entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity in all majors.”

As part of their training, Deeds, Wheat and Zehentner will create solutions to incorporate a culture of innovation across TU’s campus. Proposed projects include creating a makerspace in McFarlin Library, offering credit for extracurricular activities that involve innovation and connecting student groups to local companies.

“Throughout this training,” said Zehentner, “I have learned a lot about how I want to be involved with my campus and how to translate my ideas into reality. I realized I can be a changing force on campus — even as a freshman.”

“UIF training has changed the way I think about education and the future of technology within,” said Wheat. “I’ve learned so much about working in a group. Empathy is the greatest superpower any innovator can have!”

Deeds added that she’s always had a passion for innovation, and “UIF has given me the resources and ability to learn how to go about making a lasting impression on those around me.”