2017 UIF Fellows at Stanford with Trustee Keith Granet '79

Hartwick Students Excel at Stanford Innovation Conference

December 11, 2017

A team from Hartwick College found great success at the 2017 University Innovation Fellows (UIF) Silicon Valley Fall Meetup, which took place at Stanford University in California last month.

Four students — Diana Bechdol ’20, Farheen Fatima ’19, Allison Schroeder ’20, and Robert Shepard ’18 — were accompanied by student mentor Stephanie Sacco ’18 and faculty coach Assistant Professor of Business Administration Pauline Stamp. They joined more than 300 students and faculty coaches from 77 higher education institutions around the world for the five-day event.

The Meetup featured workshops, seminars, and events covering design thinking and creativity, moonshot thinking, and disruptive innovation. Attendees also visited the Google campus in Mountain View to meet with Google COO of Innovation Dr. Frederik Pferdt and Ray Kurzweil, author, computer scientist, inventor, and futurist, for a series of discussions and pop-up talks.

The entire Hartwick contingent was an active participant throughout the week, and was a particular standout during the event’s Design Challenge, where the group helped address a critical problem for one of four visiting entrepreneurs.

During the Design Challenge, UIF students and faculty were split into four groups to work with one of four guest entrepreneurs to solve a unique problem. The Hartwick group worked with GRAMMY Award-winning recording artist Grace Weber to help her non-profit ensure music remains in the curriculum at public schools facing budget cuts.

The Hartwick cohort worked in collaboration and competition with students from schools including the Stanford Design School, Georgia Institute of Technology, Clemson University, the University of Minnesota, Susquehanna University, The City College of New York, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Groups of five came up with different solutions for Weber’s problem, then faced off over three head-to-head rounds to determine which idea was ultimately best.

Teams spent more than six hours designing their solutions, and only had access to each other, a white board, Post-It Notes, and the entrepreneur who was facing the problem. Two teams then faced off, picked the better idea, and enhanced it if possible. They then joined forces and took their collective idea to the next faceoff.

Ultimately, the idea initially posed by “The Harmonious Hawks” became the foundation of the collective project that was designed and selected by Weber’s non-profit.

“In the end, the 60 students and faculty coaches competing in the Design Challenge embraced collaborative energy, and together created a YouTube video to pitch the idea in the final round,” Stamp said. “The students learned that synergy is much more productive and creative than competition.”

“The Design Challenge was an unforgettable experience,” Shepard said. “It was extremely stressful at first, due to the amount of information and tasks we were given in a short period of time. The challenge requires thinking abstractly, while also applying innovation and entrepreneurship principles. But coming together as a group, and working through thousands of possible solutions to find one useable product was an extremely rewarding process.”

Perhaps bringing the Hawks some good luck, Hartwick College Trustee Keith Granet ’79, founder of Granet & Associates and author of The Business of Design, even flew up from Los Angeles to support the Hartwick Fellows and observe the Design Challenge.

“While he didn’t get to actually assist the students, he interacted closely with group throughout the day and his presence was definitely felt,” said Stamp.

Also during the Meetup, Stamp delivered a presentation on “The Importance of Design Thinking and Innovation on a Liberal Arts Campus,” and Student Mentor Sacco facilitated a workshop on “Creating a Makerspace on a Liberal Arts Campus.”

“Our UIF team demonstrated facilitation and leadership skills that will help them lead and empower other Hartwick students to increase their engagement with innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity, and design thinking,” Stamp said.

For more information on the UIF program, contact Stamp at stampp@hartwick.edu or (607) 431-4285.