Marshall Students First-Ever W. Va. Cohort of Stanford University Innovation Fellows

Updated 2 years ago

Three Marshall University business students have been named University Innovation Fellows by Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design.

 These students are the first-ever UIF cohort from a West Virginia university and are among 360 students from 90 higher education institutions in 13 countries. The 2019 UIF Fellows from Marshall are Annika Behnke, a sophomore accounting major from Export, Pennsylvania; Kelly Leonard, a junior marketing major from Huntington; and McKenna Sunderland, a sophomore entrepreneurship major from Charleston, West Virginia.

Humera Fasihuddin, co-director of the UIF, said this global program trains student leaders to create new opportunities for their peers to engage with innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking and creativity.

"These Marshall students worked tirelessly over the last six weeks to understand their campus ecosystem and spot real opportunities to stimulate the entrepreneurial ecosystem on and off-campus. They set a bold vision in their video of what the campus could look like in five years if some of these projects came to fruition. By completing the fellowship, they became not only Marshall’s first-ever cohort of University Innovation Fellows, they also became the first ever from the entire state of West Virginia. We know the power that students have in making things happen on campus and we're excited to see this cohort join forces with their faculty champions to realize this vision,” Fasihuddin said.

iCenter executives Dr. Ben Eng, Olen York, and Tricia Ball served as the fellows’ UIF Faculty Champions during their training. Eng said, “The UIF Fellows presented their ideas to grow an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Tri-State area on Oct. 11 to University President Dr. Jerry Gilbert, Lewis College of Business Dean Dr. Avi Mukherjee and the iCenter Board of Advisors. The fellows will next virtually present their ideas to Brad Smith, who will provide them coaching on next steps. They will then further their ideas at Marshall’s iCenter until the end of the school year. If they make enough progress, the fellows will be invited to the UIF Silicon Valley Meet-Up in March where they'll meet other UIF teams from around the world.”


Mukerjee said, “We want to thank a member of our alumni, Mr. Richard Jackson, who established the Dick Jackson COB Student Success Fund to help our fellows with funding for the program. This wouldn’t have been possible without his support and generosity.”

Sunderland is one of the three UIF Fellows recommended by Eng and York, who are members of Marshall’s business faculty. She said she is grateful for the opportunity to learn more about innovative business practices and work with leaders in education and industry.

“I’d say the most important thing I will take from it is that I can use entrepreneurship and innovation to help others,” Sunderland said. “This program will impact my future because I have the tools and resources to help me make a difference on my campus and in my community.”

With the addition of the new fellows, the UIF program has trained nearly 2,200 students since its creation. 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 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.