Five Wichita State students join prestigious national program, University Innovation Fellows


Five Wichita State students were recently chosen to become University Innovation Fellows, a prestigious national program that empowers student leaders and challenges them to be innovative.

Jessica Aldrich, Kyle Kopecky, Spencer Lueckenotto, Austin Nordyke and William Valentine will use innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity and design thinking to plan strategic priorities to increase campus engagement and to create new experiences for WSU.

The five students have recently completed training, and will begin to work on their own projects to address the issues they see in their community.

Jessica Aldrich is a senior studying biomedical engineering. She decided to join UIF to have an impact on the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem on campus. Aldrich has already helped host a regional meetup and design competition, and has presented as a guest lecturer in a class. She hopes to continue teaching design thinking to students through pop-up classes and workshops, and to introduce design thinking and growth mindset to new students on campus.

“I am close friends with some of the previous UIFs on campus and loved seeing what they had been able to do,” says Aldrich. “They encouraged me to pursue becoming a fellow and have already helped me find opportunities to make an impact.”

William Valentine is a freshman majoring in aerospace engineering. He joined UIF to use connections and resources to further his own passions and to have an impact on campus. He plans on using his time as a fellow to meet driven people and work with others to create projects and invoke a positive change at WSU.

Spencer Lueckenotto is also a freshman studying aerospace engineering. He saw what the previous fellows had done in their projects and aspired to have that type of success on campus. He also connected with fellows during the Wu-Invent: Mars or Bust. They mentored teams during the design process while searching for student leaders amongst the competitors.

“About a week after the competition, they actually reached out to me and asked me to consider joining the program,” says Lueckenotto. “That personal interaction was the biggest deciding factor for me.”

Kyle Kopecky, a junior triple majoring in accounting, finance and economics, joined UIF for the opportunity to network on a global scale and to drive positive improvements across WSU’s campus. He plans to enhance the Barton School of Business’ finance program by developing strategic partnerships locally and nationally. He and his team of innovators are working to bring a Maker Faire to campus as a way to allow students and community members to showcase their personal designs.

Sophomore Austin Nordyke, an engineering technology management major, was encouraged by a current UIF to join the organization. After hearing about all the opportunities available, Nordyke decided he wanted to help better his fellow student’s experiences at WSU. He hopes to fix what he perceives as a disconnection between the students and faculties’ vision for innovation.

“Innovation happens in every discipline that WSU offers, and I want to help highlight those advancements,” says Nordyke.

This year’s UIF program was made possible by financial support from Dorothy and Bill Cohen Honors College Enhancement Scholarships, as well as from KEEN Education Foundation. Gary Brooking, Leticia Britos Cavagnaro, Humera Fasihuddin, Katie Dzugan, Ghanashyam S and Atul Rai have also given tremendous support to each student.

The mission of Wichita State University  is to be an essential educational, cultural and economic driver for Kansas and the greater public good. Wichita State is a doctoral research university enrolling nearly 15,000 students and offering 59 undergraduate degree programs in more than 150 areas of study in seven undergraduate colleges. The Graduate School offers 45 master’s and 12 doctoral degrees that offer study in more than 100 areas. Wichita State’s Innovation Campus is an interconnected community of partnership buildings, laboratories and mixed-use areas where students, faculty, staff, entrepreneurs and businesses have access to the university’s vast resources and technology. For more information, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.