University Innovation Fellows (UIF)

Empowering students and faculty to become leaders of change in higher education.



Matthew Lim, Eric Kim, 


UX Researcher

Tools Used

Semi-structured interviews, Change Model Canvas, Storyboard, Idea Map

User Group

Freshman students at Georgia Tech


Problem Statement

How might we expose freshman Georgia Tech Students to innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E) programs?


The solution

Class Pitch Night

Our plan is to host a social pitch night for Design Bloc class offerings. This means, students can come to listen to short presentations from faculty and TAs and get an introduction to topics and themes. In the second phase of the Class Pitch Night, tables are set up for each class. Students can walk around and “prototype” the class, engaging in an activity that is representative of the coursework.


The Process

1. Exploring the problem space

Guiding members of the target population through semi-structured interviews and finding potential problems with the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem at Georgia Tech.

2. Ideation and Filtering

Coming up with ideas, evaluating them with the user population, and filtering. Using an adapted version of the Business Model Canvas called the Change Model Canvas, we mapped out our ideas to evaluate them. We then asked stakeholders to evaluate the canvases and iterated upon them to improve them.

3. Storytelling

After picking an idea to focus on, we created storyboards and answered critical requirements our idea supported.

4. Stakeholder Presentation

Receiving feedback from the results of our process by faculty via Pecha Kucha.

5. Training at Stanford

Attending a week of training with other University Innovation Fellows across the world.


1. Exploring the Problem Space

We asked the following of four freshman students in hour long semi-structured interviews. We let the participants talk most of the time, simply guiding the conversation.


  • Why did you choose to attend this school?

  • If you had to declare a mission instead of a major, what would that mission be?


  • What skills do you feel are important for you to acquire? Why?

  • How would you define a successful first year? 


  • What classes will you be taking (or did you take) in the first semester?

  • Which classes would you take if you could create your "dream curriculum"?


  • What is your favorite classroom or learning space in the school? Why?

  • Where do you spend most of your time?

Learning Outside the Classroom

  • What are the things you are interested in outside of school?

  • Do you try to take classes outside your major's topic area? What kind of classes? 



Our UIF team gathered transcripts of the interviews and had a discussion instilling insights. Here are some of the insights we gathered in interviews.

Georgia Tech has a wealth of I&E resources. See them here.

Info about I&E resources is located inconsistently on several websites.

Orgs are rarely multidisciplinary and struggle to collaborate.

Class requirements do not support well-rounded students.


2. Ideation and Filtering

We originally came up with four ideas. These were: "Yelp for I&E Resources at Georgia Tech", "Class Pitch Night", Partnering with a campus UROP program, and a freshman capstone project program hosted by a makerspace. We then pitched the ideas to a group of freshmen and received feedback.


Idea Map

This idea map helps us see how this idea meets our found insights.

Idea Map.jpg

Idea Sketches

These sketches were presented to students for their feedback.


Class Pitch Night

A I&E class “pitch” night for faculty and educators to demo their classes to students so that students can choose I&E courses that they are interested in by experience a short session of the class.


Yelp for I&E resources

Yelp for I&E initiative, where pathways and icons appear based on where partnerships and collaborations exist. This orients students to I&E campus landscape and lets them know how to find resources. The sketches for the idea are shown below.


Change Model Canvas

An adaption of the Business Model Canvas called the Change Model Canvas was used to map out our stakeholders, value propositions, user characteristics, sustainability, and pathways to feasibility. These helped us ground our filtering of ideas with evidence. We also iterated on the ideas several times with faculty stakeholders using these Change Model Canvases.


3. Storytelling

Based on student feedback and evidence of feasibility given by the Change Model Canvases, we decided to continue with the "Class Pitch Night" idea. In order to present this idea we produced some low-fidelity materials to quickly pitch the idea to our faculty advisor.


4. Stakeholder Presentation

We presented our results to a faculty roundtable via pecha kucha. Because the idea was an event not a product, we presented our research and some short storyboards to professors who taught design thinking classes through Design Bloc (a design thinking initiative at Georgia Tech), including Wayne Li

Professors liked the idea and likened it to a similar concept done at Stanford's Design School at the beginning of each year. The event has worked for their school and proved to be useful for Stanford students.


5. Training at d.School

Our training involved trips to Google, Stanford's Design School, speakers from every corner of innovation, and even a design challenge held by Pandora.


Lessons Learned

See some of the speaker highlights here.

Check out my recap video below.

Designing Spaces

Making a space for making

A critical part of our journey was taking lessons from Stanford's Design School, especially what they had done to encourage innovation in the space. Their space takes from its own research and even some ideas from IDEO. We wanted to take these lessons and apply them to our space, which would eventually be hosted in a former food court.

Designing for Engagement

Making sure stakeholders stay interested

Whether you are designing a workshop, a meeting, or space, keep in mind the needs and motivations of the stakeholders, and intentionally design the flow of activities and the environment. We learned to make sure to take stakeholder motivations, communications, personas are considered and that we should test research before applying it.

Designing for Collaboration

Building psychological safety

At Google, we were hosted by Chief Innovation Evangelist Frederik Pferdt. We looked at what makes effective teams and how psychological safety allows for better innovation and curiosity. We also explored case studies and strategies to improve a culture of innovation in large organizations, like companies or campus initiatives.


Conducting Research for Makerspace Advocacy

In addition to our research process, I was part of a team that developed a best practice for researching users makerspaces. The team was compromised of students from University of Puerto Rico, Universidad de los Andes, Koc University, Universidad de los Andes, University of Delaware, and the University of St. Thomas.


1. Start Early

Don’t wait to start your plan and find out you missed out on potential opportunities. 

2. Have a goal.

Concisely plan about what you want to discover.

3. Conduct a pilot interview.

Start by practicing your interview questions on people that you know and are comfortable with. Note which questions are drawing bigger insight and interesting responses. Which questions are creating organic and interesting responses? Those are the questions you want to ask.

4. Be the ‘Connecting Element’.

The core idea of a makerspace is probably being discussed by students with different backgrounds, academic staff, and university management. Bring those people who are interested together to find what they have to say.

5. Talk to people who talk to people.

Get tips from people who are comfortable with talking to people and learn how to be comfortable talking to people.

6. Clearly define your research question.

Do you want to know how, what, or why? Make sure you have a clear focus.

7. Start basic.

Start by asking simple survey-like interview questions and then dive into the more provocative questions.

8. Define challenges and bypass them.

If your challenge is to find a space for your event, don’t let anyone stop you. If you have to, steal closets.

9. Interview for empathy.

Design for people. In order to make meaningful designs for people, understand what need not want. Understand what is driving their need. What is the root cause? Can you solve it in a way different or in a way that no one else has tried before?

10. Be humble.

Make a meaningful connection. Humble yourself. Let the interviewee talk, the conversation will go somewhere organic that allows you to learn more about them.

11. Ask follow up questions about feelings.

If someone brings up their emotions, ask them to explain. If someone is angry, ask them why. If someone is happy, delve deeper.

12. Discover the real why’s.

Ask ‘Why?’ 5 times to find the core reason behind the problem. Sometimes people change up their answer and you can get more insight to the real why.