The Problem

Higher education is facing a crisis of trust, the public is questioning the value of a degree, there is significant growth in the credentialing market, and outcomes for students and alumni are grim. Higher education needs to mobilize systemic change quickly, and that takes an investment in human capital and leadership development to innovate and lead service design from within the walls of the institution itself.

The Challenge 

Emerging innovators in higher education rarely have enough time, resources, and training to move change initiatives forward. Professional development organizations in higher education are siloed, and there are clear barriers to collaboration between these communities of practice. Teams are struggling to better meet the needs of students and alumni at scale.

The Solution

The Higher Education Innovation Fellowship

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 elsewhere. Fellows are action-oriented, outcomes-driven, collaborative, 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. 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. Applications are due February 15.

Virtual Training 1: The Future of Higher Education Innovation
(Tuesday, March 5, 2019, 90 minutes)
Chelsea Haring, Switchboard | Brittany Paulk, Arizona State University

Virtual Training 2: How Do We “Do” Empathy in Education? Lessons From Journalism and User Experience in Tech (Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019, 2 hours)
Mara Zepeda, Switchboard | Lowell Reade

2 Day Intensive Onsite in Portland, OR + 2 Days at ListenUp EDU (April 15–18, 2019)

The Hero’s Journey in Higher Education, Mara Zepeda
Workplace Innovation Tour and Q&A, Stephen Green @ WeWork Labs
What If I Trusted You? Jerry Michalski
The Future of Work, April Rinne
How to Build Team Capacity for Listening, Chelsea Haring
Designing for the End User, Terrazign
‘Continuity Canvas’ and Innovation Lab Tour, Uncorked Studios
Tour of MilkRun, Canby, OR and farm-to-table dinner

Virtual Training 3: Facilitating Change in Higher Education
(Tuesday, June 4, 2019, 2 hours)
Chelsea Haring, Switchboard | Brittany Paulk, Arizona State University

Virtual Training 4: Using Social Listening to Define End User Needs and Brand Health
(Tuesday, July 9th, 2019, 2 hours)
Liz Gross, Campus Sonar

Virtual Training 5: User Experience and Service Design in Higher Ed: Part 1
(Tuesday, August 6th, 2019, 2 hours)
Joe Catrino, Trinity College | Chelsea Haring, Switchboard

Virtual Training 6: User Experience and Service Design in Higher Ed: Part 2
(Tuesday, September 10, 2019, 2 hours)
Joe Catrino, Trinity College | Chelsea Haring, Switchboard


Learn how to make change that lasts happen on your campus


Do guided, hands-on work with design thinking at your institution


Attend Switchboard’s signature conference, ListenUp EDU


Connect with a network of likeminded professionals across higher education


Hone skills that help you help increase your entire team’s capacity


Gain access to a library of templates, exercises, and other resources

As a participant in the HEIF program, I am gaining not only a better intellectual understanding of the challenges facing higher ed, but also a practical skillset grounded in design thinking. It is an action-oriented curriculum that will benefit my institution and my career.

Kayla McCulley
Director of Alumni Learning and Career Programs
Pomona College

Meet the Fellows 


Dana Maze Ehrlich

Alumnae Volunteer, Smith College | Alumnae/i Engagement Consultant, AlumFocus


Madeleine DelVicario

Program Coordinator at the 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

Greg Flores

Associate Director of Career Services, Portland State University


Andrew Wright

Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Concordia University


Kassie Infante

Assistant Director of Alumni, Phillips Academy Andover


Ellen Roof

Program Director of Young Alumni Giving, University of Notre Dame


David DeMarkis

Doctoral Intern, Texas Association of School Administrators


Amber Graham

Strategic Initiatives Program Director, University of Rochester


Allison Young

Director of Annual Giving, Renbrook School


Dr. LaToya Owens

Director of Learning and Evaluation, Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute


Reginald Leonard II

Associate Director for Career Connections and Community Engagement, University of Virginia


Linda Pantale

Associate Director of Career Development, University of Chicago


Kyle Brown

Assistant Director of Engagement and Events, Seattle Pacific University


Dr. Kim Middleton

Director of the Center for Academic Innovation and Creativity, Mount Saint Mary’s University


Melissa Yazzie

Career Advising, Eastern New Mexico University


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: