GVSU students reflect on Stanford innovation fellows program

GVL / Courtesy - Madalyn Slubowski
The GV team and our faculty champion, Prof Lane

GVL / Courtesy - Madalyn Slubowski The GV team and our faculty champion, Prof Lane

James Kilborn

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Four Grand Valley State University students traveled to Stanford University over spring break to participate in the University Innovation Fellows (UIF) program at the Stanford design school (d.school). The four students, Dean Geschiere, Madalyn Slubowski, Meredith Filter and Haley Jennings, were selected as part of a rigorous training program leading up to the event and were among the 250 students taking part in this year’s events. 

Geschiere, a freshman majoring in finance and entrepreneurship, found the experience at Stanford rewarding in that he was able to connect with other students and forge relationships with people from all across the country. 

“I would have to say meeting new people was the part I enjoyed the most,” Geschiere said via email. “I find that there is something that is just exhilarating meeting many new people who you can call your friends and new connections allowing for an increase in opportunities.”

The event offered students a unique learning experience, as it gave them an inside look at Stanford’s prestigious d.school. Its location within Silicon Valley also allowed students to tour local corporations, such as Google, that are leaders in technology and innovation.

Slubowski, a sophomore studying biology, said that touring the Google campus was a great opportunity but that Stanford’s d.school was just as impressive. She highlighted the intermodal nature of the furniture within the school as an inspiration and hopes to see similar designs implemented on GVSU’s campuses.

“We spent some time at the Googleplex, but the majority of our time was spent at Stanford at the design school,” Slubowski said via email. “The Stanford campus was absolutely gorgeous, and all of the furniture at the design school was modular and completely mobile, which allowed the small building to serve a variety of functions and adapt to student needs. I would love to see more flexibility incorporated into our classrooms.”

The University Innovation Fellows event also featured lessons for students. Slubowski spoke about how a dance class was used as a means of offering leadership advice, emphasizing physical movement’s role in conveying information. 

“My favorite part of the trip was a dance workshop that was taught by a professor from the design school,” Slubowski said. “She related physical movements to leadership styles and allowed us to practice adapting to the pace of different situations. My explanation of the event doesn’t do it justice, but it was such a unique way to explore leadership concepts and the most memorable part of the weekend.”

Given that the students had the opportunity to view both a university and local tech companies that are on the cutting edge of design innovation, they hope to apply what they learned in California here in West Michigan. After listening to experts within the field and forging relationships with other like-minded students from other parts of the world, students who attended the event are looking to improve the future of student life through campus involvement and creative design principles. 

“During the conference I got the chance to talk to many students who were implementing different innovation projects on their campus,” Slubowski said. “Moving forward, although we do not have a specific project picked out at the moment, I think it is important to keep Grand Valley students at the heart of our design. We really want to create a project that the students truly want and will keep empathy at the center of our work.”