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University Innovation Fellows


Monica Dean

Administrative Director, Conway Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center

Borjana Mikic

Co-Director, Design Thinking Initiative

Through a joint venture between the Jill Ker Conway Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center and the Design Thinking Initiative, Smith College has joined a national fellowship of colleges and universities striving to increase innovation and entrepreneurship on their campuses.

What Is It?

University Innovation Fellows is an international student innovation program run out of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design ( at Stanford University. As of Fall 2016, the program includes more than 700 fellows and 160 partner schools in the United States and abroad. Fellows act as leaders, liaisons, thinkers, creators, doers, designers, pushers of boundaries and conversation starters, among other roles.

University Innovation Fellows are working to increase student exposure to team building skills, innovation opportunities, design thinking, entrepreneurship, venture creation and funding resources.

University Innovation Fellows Logo

University Innovation Fellows receive year-round mentorship, connection with other fellows digitally, and they attend national conferences and events. This national network of like-minded students helps fellows learn from one another and foster multi-institution collaborations.

Thanks to the generous donation of Tom and Betsy Brady '68, all fees, travel and lodging expenses for conferences and meet-ups, and programming costs for each University Innovation Fellow at Smith, will be covered by the CIEC and DTI.

Examples of UIF Projects

  • Founding of student clubs that focus on solving real-world problems using an interdisciplinary approach
  • Fundraising for student-founded ventures
  • Redesign of curricular offerings to increase students' problem-solving skills

What’s Involved?

Each year, up to four students will be selected to apply for the University Innovation Fellows. These students:

  • must complete a six-week online training course offered by UIF and participate in weekly virtual meetings
  • work together to explore the existing entrepreneurial ecosystem at Smith and in the Pioneer Valley
  • meet regularly with faculty sponsors to identify the gaps that need to be solved in order to facilitate an increase in invention and innovation activity among their peers

Fellowships last for a term of one year. Selected students must plan to be on campus for the entire academic year of their appointment. University Innovation Fellows candidates should have a demonstrated passion for innovation, creativity and the entrepreneurial mindset, as well as a drive to make a lasting impact at Smith.

How to Apply

Stayed tuned for details about joining the 2019-20 cohort.

Questions? Contact: 

Monica Dean
Administrative Director, Conway Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center


Borjana Mikic
Co-Director, Design Thinking Initiative

Meet the Current Fellows


In October 2017, five Smith students were officially welcomed into the UIF network, establishing a new Leadership Circle at Smith College.

Major: Sociology; Minor: Economics

Nybria is a senior working toward her Bachelor's of Arts in Sociology. She is also minoring in Economics and studying Mandarin Chinese. Nybria gained interest in the University Innovation Fellowship (UIF) after a friend and prior fellow encouraged her to apply. One challenge she had in becoming a fellow was connecting inclusivity and diversity to innovation and entrepreneurial projects. A highlight from the University Innovation Meetup included a talk from an alum who stated, “there is no true innovation without inclusivity.” After college, Nybria aims to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities that work to alleviate issues related to racial disparities in education and economic opportunity. Nybria hopes to use UIF to encourage more social science and humanities majors to be part of spaces of innovation and entrepreneurship at Smith.

Major: Engineering Science

By majoring in engineering at a liberal arts college, Lisa was attracted to the creative aspects of the field. She has taken multiple entrepreneurship classes (even one in Israel) and was a finalist in the Draper Competition for Collegiate Women Entrepreneurs.  She is very interested in the Design Thinking approach to problem-solving, and how entrepreneurship and innovation can be utilized to inspire positive changes on campus.  Lisa was surprised how few engineering majors seemed to take advantage of the Conway Center's opportunities at Smith College, especially since the skills taught in engineering courses are valuable in an entrepreneurship setting. She saw an opportunity to solve problems like designing for inclusion through UIF. As a UIF cohort, she traveled to California to the UIF Silicon Valley Meetup, where she met Fellows from all over the world.  Lisa was pleasantly surprised to see what other Fellows have accomplished both on in-school projects as well as in their career paths.


Major: Economics

Lucy has been involved with Smith College's Investment Club, the Conway Center for Student Innovation, and the Design Thinking Initiative at Smith. These organizations have led her to becoming a University Innovation Fellow for the 2017-2018 school year. In the future, Lucy hopes to gain additional experience in seed funding and angel investing. Lucy is passionate about entrepreneurship and hopes to encourage her peers to find opportunities to get involved in the startup community at Smith.

Major: Computer Science

As a graduating senior, Van wants to make a lasting impact by leading initiatives to help fellow Smithies acquire necessary skills in a time that calls for innovation. She hopes to give back and apply her personal insights to develop the entrepreneurship ecosystem at Smith College. The greatest learning experience for Van so far is the Silicon Valley Meetup. The meetup was filled with experiential learning workshops, inspiring lightning talks, prototyping sessions and plenty of teamwork activities. She spent a day at Google to learn about the culture of innovation, what makes an effective team, the concept of moonshot thinking and Google's interesting ongoing projects. At and Stanford University, she was introduced to approaches to develop maker-space on campus and best practices in design for inclusion and engagement. Van also had a chance to participate in a music design challenge and enjoy a Grammy Award-winning artist's concert at UIF's 5-year celebration. 



Major: Engineering Science

Haven joined the University Innovation Fellows program to put her passion for design, innovation, and social justice to good use on Smith campus. Joining UIF has connected Haven with hundreds of students from across the globe who are just as passionate about change as she is. The best part of UIF has been the Stanford meet-up where Haven brainstormed a way to improve music education in grades K-12 with five other UIF fellows from across the nation.