Two Kent State Students Named University Innovations Fellows
Kent State University students Caleb “Jag” Ashcraft, sophomore fashion design major, and Brad Baumeister, senior communication studies major, have been named University Innovation Fellows, making them part of a nationwide program designed to empower students to become agents of change at their schools. Participants acquire knowledge of tools, frameworks and program models that help college students develop an entrepreneurial mindset and creative confidence.
University Innovations Fellows are trained by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter), which is funded by the National Science Foundation. Students are encouraged to create innovation spaces, work with faculty to develop new courses and work to involve students in extracurricular learning experiences, design thinking and innovational projects. Ten fellows, including Ashcraft and Baumeister, have been named from the Kent Campus.
The program has trained more than 160 students at more than 140 institutions since the beginning of the funding for Epicenter grant. Ashcraft and Baumeister were part of a group of 155 students at 47 universities inducted as University Innovation Fellows in 2016.
Ashcraft and Baumeister underwent training by Epicenter before their induction into the University Fellows program.
“Overall, the training was a lot to handle; a lot of it was surveying campus,” Ashcraft says. “I had to essentially find every single resource, class and club that has ever mentioned entrepreneurship or innovation and then start contacting people. Then I surveyed students to discover their mindset toward entrepreneurship and innovation.”
Kevin Wolfgang, Kent State’s TechStyle LAB manager, helped to nominate new fellows who were able to build on projects that previous fellows had begun.
“The idea for us is to find students who are working on, or are capable of working on, larger projects that influence the community campuswide,” Wolfgang says. “One of the reasons we selected Jag was that he not only had the talents we were looking for in a fellow, but he also was involved in work that previous fellows were doing.
“The University Innovation Fellows have the opportunity to make a significant impact and walk out of college having accomplished something that was influential to all of us,” Wolfgang adds. “Jag is being challenged to think about how campuses encourage students to innovate and think beyond the classroom.”
Ashcraft and Baumeister are working on a project that will connect innovation spaces and social media.
“Right now, we are working on building a social network that is connected to the maker and innovation spaces on campus because it is currently dominated by computer science majors,” Ashcraft says. “Our job is getting people in the door. And if that works out, then the culture will develop on its own, which is our main goal.”
With two years left before graduation, Ashcraft plans to continue work as a University Innovations Fellow.
“If the culture starts developing, we won’t have to worry about it anymore, and then it’s on to the next idea,” Ashcraft says. “If not, we are just here to babysit that idea. My goal is to make sure that culture develops before I graduate.”
For more information about the University Innovation Fellows program, visit http://universityinnovation.org/wiki/Kent_State_University_Strategic_Priorities.