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NMSU engineering students named University Innovation Fellows by NSF-funded Epicenter

New Mexico State University engineering students Brendan Sullivan and Ember Krech are part of a cohort of 58 students from 26 higher education institutions across the United States recently named University Innovation Fellows by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter). The University Innovation Fellows program empowers students to become agents of change at their schools.

Head shots of woman (left) and man (right).
New Mexico State University engineering students Ember Krech (left) and Brendan Sullivan will advocate for lasting institutional change and create opportunities for students to engage with entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity, design thinking and venture creation as University Innovation Fellows named by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation. (Courtesy photo)

Brendan Sullivan, an industrial engineering graduate student, and Ember Krech, a mechanical engineering senior, recently completed an intensive six-week course under the Innovation Fellows program. Sullivan and Krech join Mauricio Garcia, an industrial engineering senior, who was named the first Innovation Fellow at NMSU in March.

The fellows are a national community of students in engineering and related fields who work to ensure that their peers gain the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to compete in the economy of the future. To accomplish this, the fellows advocate for lasting institutional change and create opportunities for students to engage with entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity, design thinking and venture creation at their schools.

This new cohort of fellows brings the total number to 168 fellows from 85 schools. The program is run by Epicenter, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Stanford University and VentureWell (formerly NCIIA).

“It is so critical for students to have an entrepreneurial mindset in today’s economy. They need more than just technical skills to solve the big problems our world is facing,” said Humera Fasihuddin, leader of the University Innovation Fellows program for Epicenter. “This mindset helps students learn to be flexible, resilient, creative and empathetic. They learn how to identify and frame problems rather than simply solving what’s put in front of them. With these skills, students will be able to leave school better prepared to tackle challenges and create new and fulfilling jobs for themselves and others.”

Individual fellows, as well as teams of fellows, are sponsored by faculty and administrators at their schools and selected through an application process twice annually. Following acceptance into the program, students complete six weeks of online training, where they connect with their new network, examine their current entrepreneurial ecosystems and formulate action plans to implement their ideas. Throughout the year, they take part in events and conferences across the country and have opportunities to learn from one another, Epicenter mentors and leaders in academia and industry.

“Fellows are having a powerful impact at their schools,” Fasihuddin said. “They are working alongside students, faculty and their university leaders to help all students learn an entrepreneurial mindset, dream big and pursue their career aspirations.”

Fellows have created student design and maker spaces, founded entrepreneurship clubs and organizations, worked with faculty to design courses, and hosted events and workshops. In the last academic year alone, fellows created 553 activities, 22 new spaces and 65 innovation and entrepreneurship resources at their schools.

“Innovation Fellows bring together students with a shared interest in impacting change at their respective institutions,” said Edward Pines, department head of industrial engineering and co-lead for the NSF-funded Pathways to Innovation cohort at NMSU.

Krech will be focusing her efforts on broadening the engineering senior capstone program to include multidisciplinary collaborative projects with industry partners utilizing cutting-edge technologies. Senior capstone is a mandatory class for engineering seniors that encompasses all material the student has learned over his or her undergraduate experience. The goal of the new multidisciplinary capstone course will be to focus the integration of students across the engineering disciplines to address real-world problems.

Sullivan’s goal as an Innovation Fellow is to bring innovation directly to the students. In doing so, Sullivan has introduced the concept of a centralized location for students to share and become engaged in innovation and entrepreneurship. Sullivan said that he would like to see Arrowhead Center consider a satellite office in NMSU’s Corbett Center Student Union to provide a more centralized location for students to explore innovation and business start-up opportunities.

“Innovation is one of the fastest growing facets in economic development here in the United States,” Sullivan said. “As Innovation Fellows, we hope to encourage students to think proactively about both entrepreneurship and innovation.”