“If we have an idea for improving or changing something, we dive right in. It would feel stranger having to look back and say you did nothing than to say you tried but didn’t succeed.”
These are the words of Edo de Wolf, one of the current cohort of University Innovation Fellows. Since 2016, the University of Twente has been participating in the prestigious UIF programme at Stanford University in the US. Its aim is to train talented entrepreneurial students from around the world to become agents of change at their own university. This academic year, Stanford offered no less than twelve UIF places to students from the University of Twente. They come from a diverse range of backgrounds.
Some of the fellows took part in a UIF meet-up in Salzburg in February, and later this year they will head to Stanford for another get-together. In addition, the Twente fellows were planning to host their own European UIF meet-up on campus this summer. An (online) alternative is now being explored. Simon de Schaetzen shares his impressions from Salzburg: “There we were, in a room full of creative people, all of them bursting with ideas. Teaming up to brainstorm new solutions sparked so many new insights: I came away with enough inspiration to fuel at least four new projects.”
Despite their diverse backgrounds, everyone found it easy to identify with one another and there was plenty of common ground. “What we share is a deep sense of dedication and tons of energy,” Jessica Haak explains. “Above all, we want to get to work and make things happen. It became much clearer to me how I can make a difference as a fellow here in Twente. At first, I felt a little hesitant, but now I’m confident enough to take the plunge and make things happen.”
Making things happen is what UIF is all about, globally and locally. One project the Twente fellows are working on is called ‘Bursting the bubble’. “The university has a wonderful green campus with a great ecosystem, but we also want students to get more involved in the life of the city,” Edo continues. “They don’t integrate enough. We want to break through that barrier by organising a whole range of activities.”
Lisa Veldman fills in the details: “Take our ‘city dates’ for example. We shine a spotlight on an interesting place, such as a museum or restaurant, and organise a tailor-made activity that really taps into the essence of the place. We want to connect people by showing them that all kinds of things are possible. We know we can’t solve the whole problem in one go, but we are convinced that we have a genuine contribution to make.”
The current cohort of University Innovation Fellows consists of Alejandro García Navarrete, Can Erel, Edo de Wolf, Gleb Podorozhnyy, Jessica Haak, Lena Marie Assink, Lisa Veldman, Rick Akkerman, Satwik Kritika Krishna, Simon de Schaetzen, Thyne Scholte and Tra My Nguyen.