University Innovation Fellows Encourage Collaboration for Problem-Solving


UIF Group Picture4-VA, an inter-university collaborative partnership that combines the strengths from four universities in order to “[improve] all Virginians’ access to higher education,” has created the University Innovation Fellows (UIF). The UIF consists of a team of students that strives to assess James Madison University (JMU) for its strengths and weaknesses and then attempts to collaboratively make positive changes on campus.

The team members, who are sponsored by 4-VA director Nick Swayne, come from all different departments on campus. The members include economics major Chris Ashley, finance major Emily Platt, industrial design major Timothy Moore, international business major Andrew Carlone, and computer information systems major Jack O’Neill.

We are trying to find new ways to bring students together from across campus because we have that the found that the best way to innovate is through a diverse group of individuals,” said Platt.

In order to become official fellows, the students had to complete a six-week program. The students were given one project per week that they had to complete. At the end of the week, they were able to listened to presentations from speakers and communicated with teams from other schools on the projects. Each project introduced the students to new issues on campus and allowed them to collaboratively and innovatively discuss how they could solve the issues.

UIF’s main objectives are is to ask and hopefully answer two questions: What does our campus have? And what does our campus need?

On the theme of innovation and collaboration, the team visited California for a few days in February where they had the opportunity to visit the Google Headquarters and the Stanford University D-School. Accompanied by the students from the other three 4-VA universities, the students were able to learn more about innovative and collaborative techniques that they can apply to issues that they face at JMU.

UIF also teamed up with JMU X-Labs to host the first student-run 24-hour hackathon, Bluestone Hacks. The competition was held in mid-April and included 14 student teams that were required to define a problem, solve the problem, and then pitch their idea to a panel of nine judges. The judges came from companies that sponsored the event like Target, Capital One, and Cisco. Students from all majors were welcome to compete.

“I think so many people are pushed away from it because they’re like ‘I’m not a business major, I can’t be an entrepreneur,’” said Ashley, who along with his fellow UIF members welcomed students from all majors to the hackathon.

The winner of the hackathon was team Volterre, which was awarded $1,000. The team created the Volterre application that was designed to predict epidemics.

Our biggest goal is to help everyone on campus, recognize their potential to be entrepreneurs and to change the world through entrepreneurship,” said Ashley. 

Look for more events hosted by the JMU University Innovations Fellows in fall 2015 and to learn more about UIF, please visit their website.

Published: Thursday, April 30, 2015

Last Updated: Thursday, October 20, 2016

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