UT puts more emphasis on University Innovation Fellows

| Rense Kuipers

To launch a new cohort of University Innovation Fellows, they received their ceremonial pins at the DesignLab yesterday. The UT is dedicating more effort to the initiative, with now twelve new fellows being appointed, instead of the usual four.

Photo by: Enrico Bertolotti

Back in 2016, the UT was the first European university to join the Stanford University Innovation Fellows (UIF) program. Part of this program is that the students follow a six-week online course, followed by taking initiative to change your own university ecosystem for the better.

Before the pinning ceremony yesterday, the students gave an update about ongoing and finished UIF projects. Like Keeping Talent in Twente, which has become a separate entity. Or the ‘moonshot meetups’ the fellows hosted last year to brainstorm about the UT’s new vision. And the UT will also host the European Meetup for all European universities involved in UIF for the third time this year (‘We want to be the UIF hub of Europe, like Stanford is in the US’).

Bursting the campus bubble

The new cohort of twelve students also shared information about the four new projects they started working on, aimed at improving the UT’s ecosystem from within. One of these projects is called ‘bursting the bubble’, aimed at bridging the gap between the campus and the city of Enschede.

‘There are a lot of stereotypes about Enschede. People sometimes joke about it, but it’s a serious problem. Separation and misperception create a bubble’, the students explained. ‘It also showed from the results of the Keeping Talent in Twente survey: students didn’t perceive Enschede as welcoming and diverse.’

But the UIF fellow are convinced there are a lot of opportunities and activities in Enschede. ‘We want to expose colours, broaden the perception of students and unite locals and non-locals, to create a sense of belonging for everyone. The city has much more to offer than you might think, but you have to get out of your campus bubble and explore. We want to help with that.’

Innovation and sustainability in education

Two other projects of the UIF fellows are aimed at education. One of them is a UT wide online sustainability education program. ‘It’s not a complete bachelor programme, but a flexible addition to everyone’s study.’ The other education program is aimed at both redesigning the Creative Technology module Innovation & Entrepreneurship and to set up a hackathon to work on ideas about where University College ATLAS should be in 2030.

Central place for information

The new cohort of UIF fellows also wants to tackle the information flow at the UT, which is flawed according to them. ‘I play basketball here at Arriba and we can usually count on two die-hard supporters. Compare that to college basketball in the United States and thousands of students came out to see Zion Williamson play for Duke University. One of our problems here is that we have so many different websites and apps to work with, like Canvas, Osiris, Resource Booker. We don’t want to reinvent all of these, but have one central place where people can find all the information they need, the UT application.’

Driving force

Nearing the end of the meeting, UT chairman Victor van der Chijs took the floor and shared his enthusiasm about the projects. ‘I haven’t had a second of regret that we decided to participate in the UIF program. We can be the fortress within Europe. One of the ideas of this program is that students are brought closer to management. I invite you to challenge us. You can be the driving force from within to make change.’