Igniting Innovation: Meet Kent State Stark's First Innovation Fellow

Samantha Glass, sophomore computer science major, became Kent State University at Stark’s first University Innovation Fellow, which makes her part of a national program designed to train student leaders to create entrepreneurial opportunities at their schools. Her efforts will spark new opportunities for student innovation, entrepreneurship, design and creativity on campus.

Glass had forgotten how much she loved coding. She had gotten lost in larger classes on a larger campus, was not doing well academically and was just about ready to give up when she transferred to Kent State Stark. 

“I retook a computer science course here, with Professor [Angela] Guercio and remembered why I had chosen my major,” says Glass, crediting the smaller class size and personal attention from faculty. “I rediscovered my passion for technology and innovation, and now I’m also passionate about Kent State Stark.”

Today, Glass spends weekends at hackathons (computer programming competitions) around Ohio and surrounding states. A Computer Club member, she helped plan and judge Kent Hack Enough, Ohio’s largest collegiate hackathon, at the Kent Campus last October. She designs Android apps for fun. And she is working to spread her enthusiasm for all things creative and entrepreneurial as Kent State Stark’s first-ever member of the University Innovation Fellowship.

Students Inspiring Students

This national fellowship program trains student leaders to create new opportunities for innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking and creativity at their schools. Operated by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter), which is funded by the National Science Foundation, the program inspires fellows to design innovation spaces, start entrepreneurship organizations, host experiential learning events and work with faculty to develop new courses. 

University Innovation Fellowship has trained nearly 500 fellows at more than 130 schools. Fellows range from undergraduate to Ph.D. students, who major in a variety of fields, from engineering to architecture. 

“One of the fellows at the Kent Campus invited me to come to a meeting about the program,” Glass says. “She wanted me to apply and offered to help me find funding. Weeks later, I sent a proposal to the Stark Campus deans, telling them who I was and what I wanted to do for Stark. We talked more about it, and they agreed to sponsor the cost of my fellowship.”

Glass became a fellow after completing six weeks of training in fall 2015. She joins other Kent State student fellows from the Kent Campus and Kent State University at Tuscarawas.

New Ideas for Kent State Stark

As part of her training, Glass analyzed Kent State Stark’s innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities – everything from labs and competitions to business development resources, such as the Small Business Development Center and SCORE. Now, she will begin planning ways to leverage or supplement them.

Kent State’s fellows meet every two weeks and attend occasional regional meetings to learn from other schools and discuss best practices. Each spring, they attend a national meeting at Stanford University in California, where University Innovation Fellowship began.

“I’d like to get more Stark Campus students into the program so we can build a team and tackle things together,” Glass says. “I have a lot of ideas – maybe creating a new lab or innovation space. I’m just getting started.”

Angela Guercio, Ph.D., associate professor of computer science at Kent State Stark, is Glass’ faculty sponsor. She helps Glass carry out projects.

“Sami is an exceptional student,” Guercio says. “She’s full of ideas, committed and passionate about what she does. When she came to me about the fellowship, I immediately agreed to help. She’s perfect for this opportunity.”

Grassroots Change for Universities 

The University Innovation Fellowship empowers students and prepares them with creative, problem-solving skills they will need for next-generation careers, Guercio says. 

“Students make a university, so getting their input and allowing them to participate in changing and growing the university only makes sense,” Guercio adds.

That is especially true for students who love their campus as much as Glass loves Kent State Stark. 

“It’s important to take classes, but education also happens outside the classroom,” Glass says. “That’s where my fellowship will have the biggest impact – finding ways to provide more learning opportunities and resources for Stark Campus students.”

Learn more about Kent State University at Stark