Higher Education Innovation Fellowship

Why enroll?

As a fellow, you will…

  1. Join like-minded professionals across functional areas of a variety of institutions to learn models for innovation.

  2. Learn service design and delivery models that scale in other industries and discover potential applications into higher education

  3. Understand how to build team capacity around strategic listening

  4. Develop best practices for community activation and management to drive change initiatives forward at your institution.

The fellowship includes:

  • Two days of on-site curriculum sessions and visits to leading innovators in the Portland, Oregon business and education community

  • Admission to our two-day, signature conference in Portland, Oregon: ListenUp EDU

  • 12 hours of interactive virtual sessions with leaders in design thinking, user experience, marketing and communications, and student and alumni success

  • Opportunity to learn models of service design and delivery from outside industries with direct applications to higher education

  • Books and continued access to materials, resources, and learning opportunities

  • Worksheets and templates to use personally and with your teams

  • Virtual online group discussions with other fellows and the ability to form connections with like minded change agents in higher education

  • Opportunity to hone your presentation and change management facilitation skills

Applicants interview with Switchboard before enrollment. We are currently accepting applications for our 2019 cohort. Contact Chelsea Haring, our COO, for more information: chelsea@switchboardhq.com.

Who it's for

This program is designed for ambitious emerging innovators in higher education who want to learn best practices to scale innovation at their institutions and advance themselves as a change agent on campus. 

There's no experience level requirement; however, most applicants have at least five years of work experience (in education or elswhere). These fellows are action-oriented, collaborative, outcomes-driven, innovative, and seek to learn from models and case studies across campuses and industries. The program teaches fellows to break down professional development silos that exist in higher education and fellows represent various departments and roles in their institutions, staff, faculty, doctoral students, alumni volunteers, and so on.

How it works

Each cohort consists of up to 20 fellows. Fellowship attendance costs $3,500 plus travel and lodging for onsite visits to Portland. We offer an early bird rate of $2,900 for those who register by January 15. Many fellows schedule alumni visits, engage recruiting partners, or arrange other work in tandem with their onsite trip to secure help with costs.



We are currently enrolling for our 2019 HEIF cohort, to begin in the spring of 2019.

Virtual Training 1:The future of higher education: Introduction to Design Thinking & Continuity Canvas (Tuesday, March 5, 2019, 90 minutes)

Virtual Training 2: Virtual training: How do we “do” empathy in education? Lessons from journalism and user experience in tech (Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019, 2 hours)

2 Day Intensive Onsite in Portland, OR + 2 Days at ListenUp EDU (April 15–18)

Virtual Training 3: Facilitating change in higher education (Tuesday, June 4, 2019, 2 hours)

Virtual Training 4: Social listening and data-informed listening (Tuesday, July 9th, 2019, 2 hours)

Virtual Training 5: User experience and service design in higher education: Ideation, prototyping, and implementation (Tuesday, August 6th, 2019, 2 hours)

Virtual Training 6: Fellows choose a topic they want to learn more about


Meet the HEIF Fellows


Dana Maze Ehrlich

Alumnae Volunteer, Smith College


Madeleine DelVicario

Program Coordinator, Office of Alumnae Relations, Smith College


Yuliya Dennis

Director of Alumni Career Services, Oregon State University Alumni Association


Julia Lapan

Director of Career Development, Center for Engineering, University of Virginia


Kayla McCulley

Director of Alumni Learning and Career Programs, Pomona College


Rachel Finch

Director of External Relations, Oregon State University Career Center


Brittney Paulk

Fellow and Senior Research Analyst, University Innovation Alliance


Greg Flores

Associate Director of Career Services, Portland State University


Andrew Wright

Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Concordia University


Kassie Infante

Alumni Relations Associate, Central Catholic High School


David DeMarkis

Doctoral Intern, Texas Association of School Administrators


Ellen Roof

Program Director of Young Alumni Giving, University of Notre Dame

Meet the HEIF Faculty

April Rinne

April Rinne

Founder, April Worldwide


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April Rinne is equal parts global authority, advocate, ally and adventurer. She is an independent advisor focused on the new economy, the future of work, and global citizenship. She works with startups and established companies, local and national governments, policy makers, think tanks, investors, and educational institutions, working across for-profit and non-profit models. Her areas of expertise include business model innovation, policy reform, and sustainable development. She is known for her skill in bridging the private, public and social sectors.

In addition to her advisory portfolio, April is a sought-after keynote speaker and regularly contributes to news and media about the themes highlighted above. She's also an inveterate globetrotter, having traveled to more than 100 countries, worked in more than 50, and lived overseas for ten years (including four years traveling with a backpack, shoestring budget, no permanent address, and the goal of seeing how much of the rest of the world lives—in order to understand first-hand how to develop a career of service and social impact).

April holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School, an M.A. in International Business and Finance from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, and a B.A. summa cum laude from Emory University. She is a Fulbright Scholar and has also studied at Oxford University, the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and the European University Institute.

Jerry Michalski.jpg

Jerry Michalski

Founder, REX


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During Jerry's dozen years as a tech-industry trends analyst, he helped shape the dot-com revolution, particularly helping its participants see what we now call social media. He has since worked with the Institute for the Future, the Idea Factory and other organizations focused on innovation and the future, as well as starting his own think-and-do tank around the topic of trust.

His journey to trust started in the mid-90s, when he realized that he didn't like the term "consumer." Over time, he realized that we had "consumerized" every sector of human activity, including education, and that this process had broken trust in many ways. The optimistic insights—and the reasons for his excitement to work with HEIF participants—were that groups around the world are busy rediscovering trust, fixing many of society's problems.

Jerry is a consultant, facilitator, speaker, adviser and writer; he also publishes his Brain online, openly.

 Jess Columbo

Jess Columbo

Founder and Principle Strategist, Med|Ed Digital


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Jess brings more than a decade of experience developing award-winning digital and social programs for clients in regulated industries. Her team's expertise lies at the intersection of creative brand storytelling, business strategy, and digital analytics.

Jess holds a Masters in Digital Journalism and teaches content strategy, web writing, and PR at Portland State University. In her spare time, she manages a Pro Bono Partnership Program, connecting non-profits in need with talented creative and digital professionals.


Lowell Reade

UX Researcher


 Chelsea Haring

Chelsea Haring

COO, Switchboard | Founder, HEIF


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In her role, Chelsea works with institutions to assess their technology, training and professional development goals and develop solutions to meet their needs. She specializes in bringing front facing teams together to create workflows for engaging alumni across the institution to drive alumni career education and recruiting initiatives.

Chelsea brings 14 years of experience in higher education and technology. She spent time at Johns Hopkins University, Wingate University, and Portland State University in career services and alumni career services roles. She has spent the past few years bringing her wealth of experience to ed tech startups. She has partnered with over 150 institutions as a consultant and has spent time at startups like Handshake and Switchboard.

 Mara Zepeda

Mara Zepeda

Co-founder & CEO, Switchboard


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Switchboard was born from Mara's background working in higher education administration, at places like Harvard University and University of Pennsylvania, as well as her experience in alumni leadership as a member of the alumni board at her alma mater, Reed College. Her background as an economic reporter for National Public Radio, where she reported on the impact of student debt on the nation's economy, also informed the need for the solution.

Mara graduated with honors from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism where she focused on digital media, business, and network theory.


Learn More About HEIF

Download our executive summary

Want to learn more about the HEIF curriculum? Looking for something to share with a colleague or your boss to convince them that it's worth investing in? Download our one-page PDF: