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WKU selected for Pathways to Innovation Program

14 institutions join NSF-funded Epicenter to embed innovation, entrepreneurship into undergraduate engineering education

WKU is among 14 U.S. higher education institutions that have been selected by the NSF-funded National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter) to join the Pathways to Innovation Program.

Leaders of the 14 new Pathways Program teams gathered for their first meeting at Stanford University on Nov. 19-20.

Leaders of the 14 new Pathways Program teams gathered for their first meeting at Stanford University on Nov. 19-20.

The Pathways to Innovation Program is designed to help institutions fully incorporate innovation and entrepreneurship into undergraduate engineering education. The program is run by Epicenter, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Stanford University and the VentureWell.

WKU’s Pathways Program leaders are Julie Ellis and Joel Lenoir, Engineering. Other members of the WKU Pathways team are Stacy Wilson, Engineering; Dawn Bolton, Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation; Jeff Hook, Center for Research and Development and Kentucky Innovation Network; and Don Greulich, Kerr-Greulich Engineers of Louisville.

“WKU has great resources for entrepreneurs: the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Gordon Ford College of Business, the Kentucky Innovation Center and all its related programs at the Center for Research and Development, and the Engineering-Manufacturing-Commercialization Center in Ogden College of Science and Engineering,” Ellis said. “This project will bring all those resources into the experience of WKU engineering students in new ways. Our goal is to make entrepreneurial experiences as much a part of WKU Engineering as project experiences are now.”

Ongoing innovation is required to maintain America’s global competitiveness and address pressing problems. Engineering is the foundation of much of that innovation. Faculty and administrators participating in Epicenter’s Pathways Program are taking on this challenge and leading their universities into a new era of engineering education that prepares students to tackle big problems and thrive in this ever-changing economy.

“Today, engineering and computer science students are expected to enter industry with technical knowledge as well as a diverse set of mindsets, skillsets and attitudes that help them innovate, collaborate and create value,” said Tom Byers, director and co-principal investigator of Epicenter and professor at Stanford University. “As educators, we need to better prepare this generation of students for the workforce, position them for success in their careers, and give them more opportunities to bring their innovative ideas to life.”

In addition to WKU, the following university teams were selected for the 2016 Pathways Program:

  • Binghamton University – SUNY
  • California State University, Northridge
  • The City College of New York – CUNY
  • Florida A&M University / Florida State University
  • Grand Valley State University
  • Louisiana Tech University
  • Portland State University
  • South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
  • South Dakota State University
  • University of New Hampshire
  • University of North Alabama
  • University of South Florida
  • Western Carolina University

Participating schools assemble a team of faculty and academic leaders to assess their institution’s current offerings, design a unique strategy for change, and lead their peers in a transformation process to broaden and strengthen their campus-based innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems. Program teams receive access to models for integrating entrepreneurship into engineering curriculum, custom online resources, networking opportunities, guidance from a community of engineering and entrepreneurship faculty, and membership in a national network of schools with similar goals.

The teams in the new cohort join a community of 36 institutional teams that are currently participating in the program. The projects include innovation certificates and majors, maker and flexible learning spaces, first-year and capstone courses, faculty fellows programs, and innovation centers. Additionally, several cross-institutional collaborations have resulted from the first group of schools.

“Our two cohorts of Pathways schools have made a tremendous and lasting impact on the education of their students,” said Victoria Matthew, the Pathways program leader and senior program officer at VentureWell. “We are thrilled to welcome these 14 new teams to our national community so we can continue to work together on transforming engineering education.”

Leaders from each Pathways team met for the first time at Stanford University on Nov. 19-20. A second meeting in January 2016 will bring together an entire team of faculty and administrators from each school to analyze the needs and opportunities at their schools and develop plans for transforming the undergraduate engineering experience.

Learn more about the Pathways to Innovation Program at http://epicenter.stanford.edu/pathways-to-innovation.

About Epicenter: The National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter) is funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Stanford University and VentureWell. Epicenter’s mission is to empower U.S. undergraduate engineering students to bring their ideas to life for the benefit of our economy and society. To do this, Epicenter helps students combine their technical skills, their ability to develop innovative technologies that solve important problems, and an entrepreneurial mindset and skillset. Epicenter’s three core initiatives are the University Innovation Fellows program for undergraduate engineering students and their peers; the Pathways to Innovation Program for institutional teams of faculty and university leaders; and a research program that informs activities and contributes to national knowledge on entrepreneurship and engineering education. Learn more and get involved at epicenter.stanford.edu.

About Stanford University: At Stanford University, the Epicenter collaboration is managed by the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP), the entrepreneurship center in Stanford’s School of Engineering. STVP delivers courses and extracurricular programs to Stanford students, creates scholarly research on high-impact technology ventures, and produces a large and growing collection of online content and experiences for people around the world. Visit us online at stvp.stanford.edu.

About VentureWell: VentureWell was founded in 1995 as the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) and rebranded in 2014 to underscore its impact as an education network that cultivates revolutionary ideas and promising inventions. A not-for-profit organization reaching more than 200 universities, VentureWell is a leader in funding, training, coaching and early investment that brings student innovations to market. Inventions created by VentureWell grantees are reaching millions of people in more than 50 countries and helping to solve some of our greatest 21st century challenges. Visit www.venturewell.org to learn how we inspire students, faculty and investors to transform game-changing ideas into solutions for people and the planet.

Contact: Laurie Moore, Epicenter communications manager, (650) 561-6113; or Julie Ellis, WKU Engineering, (270) 745-2461


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