December 19, 2016

Two students named University Innovation Fellows

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Two Southern Illinois University Carbondale students are participating in a national leadership program that provides essential information, tools and training that will enable them to help foster innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship and design thinking among their fellow students.

The Salukis named as the newest University Innovation Fellows (UIF) are:

  • Mary McGee, a sophomore English literature and psychology major from Naperville
  • Robert Caswelch, a junior industrial design major from Indianapolis

They participated in six weeks of online training and will attend the University Innovation Fellows Silicon Valley Meetup, an intense training experience set for March 2017. The fall 2016 selectees will also take part in business and innovation immersion experiences at Google and at Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (

Throughout the year, the fellows will join in events and conferences designed to help them learn, grow and share. They will explore topics such as innovation spaces, movement building and learning experience designs as well as innovative models for change in higher education.

“Mary, Robert and the other SIU University Innovation Fellows exemplify the problem-solving skills and innovative solution implementation of so many Salukis,” Lynn Andersen Lindberg, managing director of SIU’s Center for Innovation, said. “As each fellow works on his or her project, they have the opportunity to not only have an impact on a campus or regional challenge, but also to interact with so many other students, faculty, staff and community members who have similar interests, thus being able to immediately put their training to use in real-world situations.”

McGee and Caswelch are among a group of 169 students from 49 institutions of higher learning in four countries named University Innovation Fellows this fall. Faculty and administrators sponsor the fellows and applications are accepted twice annually. The fellows in turn work with administrators, faculty, staff and their fellow students to create and foster research, innovation and creative opportunities and to seek solutions to real-world problems. 

McGee and Caswelch have identified social change as their priority. They propose creating a social justice training program on campus to increase understanding and inclusivity and address any prejudices or oppression. The goal is to help students become more culturally aware, more understanding and supportive of diversity, and to foster leadership. They also want to address the issue of homelessness in the region, suggesting that the campus community and its resources can play a role in addressing the problem.

During the coming months, they will focus on their concerns, working with other students, faculty and staff to study the problems, formulate plans for action, and move forward to implement their concepts. Find out more about their innovation fellowship “pitch” by watching their video at

The fellows program was created by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter) in conjunction with a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation. Previously directed by Stanford University and VentureWell and now still affiliated with Stanford University, the program has provided specialized entrepreneurship training to a total of 776 students from 164 institutions since its inception. That includes 11 students from SIU.

The innovation fellows program provides guidance, information and support to help students analyze their campus environments and seek ways to develop technology and innovation that will meet needs and solve problems, benefitting their schools, the economy and other people and involving their fellow students in their efforts. 

Learn more about the University Innovation Fellows program at

McGee, Caswelch and other SIU students with an interest in entrepreneurship and innovation network and exchange information during activities held at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center, located at 1740 Innovation Drive in Carbondale. Undergraduate and graduate students are welcome to participate in all activities.

For additional information about the University Innovation Fellows or other innovation and entrepreneurship activities and initiatives at SIU, email, call 618/453-2083 or visit