Four Swarthmore students have been named Stanford University Innovation Fellows (UIF), an honor earned by students who have completed six weeks of intensive training designed to fuel campus leadership, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
Christopher Gaeta ’22, Emma Parker Miller ’22, Ray Sidener ’21, and Nancy Yuan ’20 learned tools to socially engage with the Swarthmore community. They will also undertake online and on-campus training sessions to identify and address potential problem areas of campus life, based on interviews with students and faculty members and in collaboration with fellowship advisers.
Gaeta, a Social Innovation Lab associate at the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, was immediately drawn to the program and described the training process as “life-changing.”
“It was incredible having the chance to interact and learn from my three teammates representing Swarthmore,” says Gaeta, of Lincroft, N.J. “Our respective experiences and backgrounds came together well for our project in the future.”
Miller, too, highlighted the collaborative aspect of the training process.
“Of course, we were excited when the official word came out that we had been accepted as fellows, but we were already so proud of all the work we had accomplished during training,” says the Wilmington, Del., native. “Regardless of whether or not we had continued under the official title of University Innovation Fellows, I think we all would have been excited to continue pursuing this mission of making innovation and entrepreneurship more accessible at Swarthmore.”
Each of the fellows expressed their gratitude to the Lang Center for its help and specifically thanked Denise Crossan, Lang Visiting Professor of Peace & Conflict Studies and adviser of University Innovation Fellows at Swarthmore. Crossan, who nominates four students each year, mentioned how pleased she was with each of the fellows this year, noting the great impact the program has had on them as people.
“They don’t need a lot from me now—they’re very self-motivated,” says Crossan, adding how she hopes that through her students’ efforts, Swarthmore might become a community of innovators and entrepreneurs that are better able to “apply knowledge to need.”
The four students are exploring ways to diminish the perceived barrier between students and resources on and off campus. They will host grant-writing workshops to help students receive funding for innovative projects during their time at Swarthmore and beyond, and, among other initiatives, support the Garnet Collaborative on campus and travel to Stanford this spring for a UIF meet-up.
The idea for grant-writing workshops came about when Yuan noticed that students had difficulty locating resources on and off campus and were often unsure about how to apply for them.
“Innovation doesn’t always mean coming up with a fancy new app,” says Yuan, a peace & conflict studies and political science major from Auckland, New Zealand. Instead, she says, innovation can be as simple as identifying a need and developing a potential solution to it, which is much easier said than done.
“There is something great about making these things available and helping students access these resources,” she says.