Reflections of a University Innovation Fellow

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When I came out to Arizona State University to serve as a UI Fellow, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I had never even been to the university when I accepted my offer and wasn’t even sure what my day to day would look like. Yet, after 13 months of a roller coaster experience, I can definitively say that this has been the most gratifying professional experiences of my life. I've grown more during this short period of time than I ever thought possible. 

Lukas Wenrick, Jed Greenberg, Michelle Villegas-Gold, University Innovation Fellows

I had the fortunate experience of having two bosses this year. I reported directly to Luke Tate, Executive Director and Associate Vice President of Opportunity Initiatives, while also serving underneath Jacqueline Smith, Executive Director and Associate Vice President of University Initiatives. This dual-reporting structure gave me flexibility to pursue projects in ways that might have been difficult otherwise. I supported nearly every project that Luke undertook (a portfolio consisting of everything from educational data collection to autonomous vehicles) while also working on projects with my colleagues within the Office of University Initiatives. Because Luke and Jacqueline were both tasked with moving the Universal Learning initiative forward, a project that became my primary initiative throughout the year, the reporting structure worked extremely well.  

Lukas Wenrick and Jed Greenberg

As mentioned, much of my time was spent moving the Universal Learning initiative forward. Throughout the year I’ve learned more about emerging educational concepts than I ever thought possible. I researched badges, digital credentials, income share agreements, bootcamps, prior learning assessments, alternative admissions pathways, blockchain, competency based education, and dozens of other topics. Horizon scanning, as we like to call it, allowed me to stay up to date on the most innovative concepts emerging around the world and assist ASU leadership in incorporating these concepts into the multiple iterations of universal learning. Over the course of a year, I prepared 3 major presentations, produced over 50 deep dives, convened 40 university leaders, and prepared a catalog of universal learning initiatives with information from each of the academic units.

UI Office Pregnancies and Lukas Wenrick

In addition to my work with Universal Learning, I was able to work closely with the Decision Center for Educational Excellence this year. In September I launched a student research team that ultimately prepared the Center’s first white paper on interventions to increase high school graduation rates. I’ve been able to iterate around this group to prepare a comprehensive internship structure that should be sustainable far after I leave. I have also had the unique opportunity of trying to secure additional funding for the Center. I’ve written numerous LOIs and successfully secured funding through a grant extension. Over the course of a few months, I went from not understanding how the grant process worked, to writing successful applications.

Lukas Wenrick and Jed Greenberg on Palm Walk

Lastly, my favorite part of being a University Innovation Fellow has been the opportunity to put together proposals on initiatives that interest me. I’ve worked on everything from Opportunity Zones, to Prison Education, to Alternative Teacher Preparation. My supervisors have empowered me to curate projects that can make the world a better place. What more could you ask for in a role?

University Innovation Fellows at West Campus

I’ve loved every second of being a fellow and, luckily for me, I have the rare privilege of staying on for another year. The next few weeks will be spent transitioning our next group of Fellows into this role and saying goodbye to a few respected colleagues. As this first leg of my journey starts to wind down, I’m excited for another year of personal and professional growth at Arizona State University.


Lukas Wenrick UI Fellow Reflection