Student Robin Bonatesta Becomes First University Innovation Fellow for Kent State

NSF-funded program empowers student leaders to increase campus engagement with entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity, design thinking and venture creation

Kent State University student Robin Bonatesta, a junior computer science and fashion merchandising major from Branchburg, N.J., has been named a University Innovation Fellow by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter). The program is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and directed by Stanford University and VentureWell (formerly NCIIA). 

Photo of Robin BonatestaThe University Innovation Fellows program empowers students to become agents of change at their schools. The Fellows are a national community of students in engineering and related fields who work to ensure that their peers gain the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to compete in the economy of the future. To accomplish this, the Fellows advocate for lasting institutional change and create opportunities for students to engage with entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity, design thinking and venture creation at their schools.

Bonatesta is one of 58 students from 26 higher education institutions across the United States to receive this honor. She also becomes the first University Innovation Fellow for Kent State.

“The fellowship training was an intense, six-week program that connects me to student leaders from around the country while challenging myself to grow through extensive research and design thinking,” Bonatesta said. “Already being so involved on campus and in the innovation scene, this fellowship is giving me a platform to make a bigger difference at Kent State University. I feel empowered and inspired to continue on this journey of spreading creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship to the community.” 

Bonatesta is an active student leader in the Kent State community. In addition to having a double major, she is a Kent State Google Student Ambassador, co-leader of the student organization Hacksu and a co-organizer of Kent Hack Enough, the largest hackathon in the state of Ohio that will be held Oct. 24-26 at Kent State. She works on campus at the Fashion School’s TechStyleLAB and serves as web editor for Brainchild Magazine, an annual literary and arts publication housed at Kent State that provides creative students in undergraduate Honors programs and colleges with an outlet for publishing their work and sharing it with the world.

Bonatesta is supported by faculty sponsors J.R. Campbell, director of Kent State’s Fashion School, and Julie Messing, executive director of entrepreneurship initiatives, Blackstone LaunchPad at Kent State.

“Robin has been a very active student in the Fashion School since the moment she arrived at Kent State,” Campbell said. “She has worked in our Fashion School Store, been an active participant/leader in student organizations, created great connections with the BlackStone LaunchPad on the Kent Campus, and become a strong student leader in our TechStyleLAB in the Fashion School. She was an ideal choice as Kent State’s first University Innovation Fellow through VentureWell.”

“The University Innovation Fellow program is a terrific tool to help create student engagement and leadership in accelerating our innovation and entrepreneurial culture at Kent State,” Messing said. “Robin is a fantastic starting point for us. As a double major in computer science and fashion merchandising, as well as an active Blackstone LaunchPad client and student leader, Robin is highly involved at multiple points on our campus. Robin completed her training program and is ready to begin leading her innovation project for Kent State. We look to build a leadership team of University Innovation Fellows, with up to five additional Fellows to join Robin as part of a team.”

Fellows are selected through an application process twice annually. Following acceptance into the program, students complete six weeks of online training, where they connect with their new network, examine their current entrepreneurial ecosystems and formulate action plans to implement their ideas. Throughout the year, they take part in events and conferences across the country and have opportunities to learn from one another, Epicenter mentors, and leaders in academia and industry.

“It is so critical for students to have an entrepreneurial mindset in today’s economy,” said Humera Fasihuddin, leader of the University Innovation Fellows program for Epicenter. “They need more than just technical skills to solve the big problems our world is facing.”

This new cohort of Fellows brings the total number to 168 Fellows from 85 schools. 

Learn more about the University Innovation Fellows at

For more information about Kent State, visit

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Media Contacts:
Robin Bonatesta,, 908-698-2576
Emily Vincent,, 330-672-8595

POSTED: Saturday, October 25, 2014 04:32 PM
Updated: Saturday, December 3, 2022 01:02 AM
Emily Vincent