"Imagine a course in which students are inspired by design thinking, carried by their passions that proceed the prototype and pursue their ideas in an innovative space, surrounded by like-minded change makers,” said George Valcarcel, one of The Ohio State’s University Innovation Fellows.
Valcarcel, along with Liyang Feng, Juan Tramontin, and Kai Volger, are all part of the Integrated Business and Engineering Honors Program at Ohio State. Through this program, they are building the framework of the University Innovation Fellows as a whole.
This fellowship is a highly selective program consisting of 9 countries, 64 schools, and 258 students. These fellows work to better campus engagement with innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity, and design thinking.
Launched in the spring of 2018, The Innovation Fellows have since played a pivotal role in increasing creative problemsolving at Ohio State. After speaking with his fellow peers, Valcarcel and his team pitched the idea of bringing this fellowship to campus in front of faculty members at the University.
As of today, the program has grown to eight University Innovation
Fellows, including two business students. They have worked to redesign the first-year experience and renovated a room in Smith Lab consisting of moving whiteboards that allow for more innovative thinking and learning within a design engineering class.
Upon starting this program, the University Innovation Fellows went through six weeks of training focused on Ohio State’s current opportunities and ecosystem and how to improve them. By building curriculum that is entrepreneurially focused, hands on, and creative in terms of a problem-solving process, they have already begun to develop the best experience possible for Ohio State students. Most recently, Ohio State has joined with 40 other schools and received a grant that brings entrepreneurial learning to engineering.
Another idea that the fellows are working on is the Summer Accelerator Program. Feng has worked closely on developing a 10-12 week program that would allow students to focus on starting a company, talking to customers and product development.
Last year, Ohio State held a showcase event of startup companies. Given that Columbus is one of the top cities in the country for entrepreneurship, the topic is gaining increasing importance here. At this event, startup companies like Wiretap and SafeChain served as a valuable resource, allowing students to ask questions of startups to see if it was the right fit for them.
In addition to the work being done by University Innovation Fellows, one club recently founded at Ohio State is the Interdisciplinary Resource for Innovative Students (IRIS). IRIS empowers students of all disciplines to learn and practice human-centered design as a means of creative problem solving.
Valcarcel, founder of IRIS, explained how “The logo [of IRIS] looks like the iris of an eye,” because different majors overlap to create different colors.
Outside of University Innovation Fellows and IRIS, other organizations within Fisher are embracing the entrepreneurial mindset that drives so many students on campus. The Business Builders Club (BBC) is an entrepreneurial focused organization comprised of student innovators. Each week, they highlight a different guest speaker who shares their entrepreneurial experiences, focusing on both successes and failures.
Additionally, BBC holds monthly workshops allowing members to gain new skills which are applicable to both their resume and helpful within their career. Most recently, Jack Hutchinson, President of BBC, explained how the organization held a startup career fair with over 30 startup companies attending. This fair provided employment opportunities for students across the university and was the first time a fair like this was held on campus.
As this innovative initiative continues to expand within the Fisher College of Business and in other majors like nursing and public policy, students can find their passion, allowing this entrepreneurial spirit to continue to flourish for years to come.
“You can’t start a company because you want to start a company,” said Feng. “You start a company because you are passionate about something.”