Four Elon students named Stanford University Innovation Fellows

The students join a global community of Fellows charged with increasing campus engagement with innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking and creativity.

Four Elon University students have been accepted into the University Innovation Fellows program run by Stanford University’s Hasso Plattnew Institute of Design (

Samuel Gans ’22, a finance major from Richmond, Virginia; Julia Perline ’22, an applied mathematics and computer engineering double major from Glenwood, Maryland; Lilly Rothschild ’22, a finance and international business double major from Cleveland, Ohio; and Alaa Suleiman ’22, a computer science and computer engineering double major from Eden, North Carolina; are among 330 Fellows selected from 90 higher education institutions in 13 countries.

university innovation fellows wordsAs Fellows, the students work to create opportunities to help their peers build the creative confidence, agency and entrepreneurial mindset needed to address global challenges. Fellows serve as advocates for lasting institutional change with academic leaders, lending the much-needed student voice to the conversations about the future of higher education.

“I joined the University Innovation Fellows to be surrounded by like-minded people who want to better the world around them in both big and small way alike,” Gans said. “Through the program, I hope to gain the tools to affect change in our world.”

“Higher education needs to change faster to meet the needs of students and industry today,” said Humera Fasihuddin, co-director of the University Innovation Fellows program. “In traditional education systems, students have to wait until they graduate to make a difference. We don’t believe that. As the key stakeholders of higher education, students should be active participants in a change process that helps them learn the skills and mindsets necessary to create the future. The students who participate in our program are ideally poised to help accelerate the pace of change at their schools.”

Following acceptance into the program, students participate in a six-week online training experience that requires them to learn from and work with stakeholders on campus. After training, Fellows have many opportunities to learn from one another, Stanford and peer mentors, and leaders in academia and industry. They also present their work and facilitate workshops at events and conferences around the world.

“Through this program, Fellows gain skills, mindsets and knowledge to face ever-more complex challenges at their schools and in the world,” said Leticia Britos Cavagnaro, co-director of the University Innovation Fellows program. “During training, Fellows learn to analyze their campus ecosystems and identify opportunities for change related to innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking, and creativity. They work to understand the needs of peers across disciplines and the perspectives of faculty and administrators. They apply this new knowledge and perspective to design new educational opportunities for their peers.”

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In Spring 2020, Fellows will have the opportunity to participate in the program’s signature Silicon Valley Meetup in California. During this gathering, Fellows take part in immersive experiences at Stanford University and Google, and work with leaders in education and industry. They participate in experiential workshops and exercises focused on topics including movement building, spaces for innovation, design of learning experiences, and new models for change in higher education.

“At Elon University, students are encouraged and expected to represent the qualities of sustaining innovation on campus,” Suleiman said. “Having the opportunity to work with a program that allows me to become an agent of change on Elon’s campus is an experience that I truly cherish.”

The Doherty Center for Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship supports the students in their work as University Innovation Fellows. Alyssa Martina, director of the Doherty Center for Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, serves as Elon’s UIF faculty champion.

“I’m so proud of the hard work and focus of this year’s cohort,” Martina said. “The group is identifying important opportunities to infuse Elon’s campus with a spirit of innovation.”