Higher Education Innovation Fellowship

What it is

Join us for a year-long fellowship where you will learn from leaders across disciplines (technology, startups, behavioral economics, user experience design, non-profits, foundations) about how to innovate in higher education.

The program includes six months of curriculum, nine days of innovation workshops in Portland, Oregon, and a six month applied campus innovation project where fellows will put one of their ideas into action with constituents.  

Who it's for

This program is designed for ambitious emerging leaders in higher education who want to learn best practices to scale innovation at their institutions.  There's no experience level requirement. These fellows are action oriented, collaborative, outcomes driven,  innovative, and seek to learn from models and case studies across campuses and industries. With a focus on constituent-facing leaders the fellowship is designed for professionals serving  current students, alumni, donors, parents, and friends of their institution. 


Meet the current HEIF cohort


Dana Maze Ehrlich

Alumnae Volunteer, Smith College


Madeleine DelVicario

Program Coordinator, Office of Alumnae Relations, Smith College


Yulia 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


Brittney Paulk

Fellow and Senior Research Analyst, University Innovation Alliance


Andrew Wright

Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Concordia University


How it works

We offer two cohorts with up to 12 fellows per session. Fellowship attendance costs $3,500 plus travel and lodging for three visits to Portland. Applicants will interview with Switchboard before enrollment. HEIF has a rolling admissions process. Contact Chelsea Haring, our Director of Partnerships for more information: chelsea@switchboardhq.com.


Winter cohort: January through December, 2018
Summer cohort: June 2018 through May 2019

Month 1: Virtual Training, Welcome and Program Overview
Month 2: Innovation Workshop (Switchboard HQ, Portland, OR, 3 days)
Month 3: Virtual Training
Month 4: Virtual Training
Month 5: Virtual Training
Month 6: Innovation Workshop (Switchboard HQ, Portland, OR, 3 days)
Month  7: Virtual Training/Project Kickoff
Month 8: Project Implementation—begin monthly project coaching sessions
Month  9: Virtual Group Project Check In
Month 10: Project Individual Coaching Session
Month 11: Project Individual Coaching Session
Month 12: Final Innovation Workshop/Project Presentations (Switchboard HQ, Portland, OR, 3 days)

Need approval to attend? Want to learn more?
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Meet the HEIF Faculty

April Rinne

April Rinne

Founder, April Worldwide


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.

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Amy Sample Ward



Amy is dedicated to educating and supporting organizations in using technology to create meaningful community engagement and make lasting change. Whether it is by connecting individuals, organizations, campaigns, or possibilities, Amy hopes to facilitate the nonprofit technology sector transitioning into a movement-based force for positive change.

In addition to serving as NTEN’s CEO, she is a speaker, author, and trainer having worked with groups and spoken at events around the world. In 2013, she co-authored Social Change Anytime Everywhere: How to implement online multichannel strategies to spark advocacy, raise money, and engage your community with Allyson Kapin. She previously co-authored Social by Social, a handbook in using social technologies for social impact, and has contributed to various other publications about social change and technology.

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Julie Neill

Assistant Director of Career Services, University of Maryland Smith School of Business

Julie is an award-winning career services professional with a diverse background including over 17 years of experience working in higher education, government, and the nonprofit sector in the US and overseas. For the past decade, Julie has worked in the career services field at a wide range of institutions, both public and private including a Big 10 university and one of the world’s leading graduate schools in international affairs. She has a proven track record of developing innovative programs and was previously recognized as a NACE Chevron Award finalist.

A design thinking enthusiast, Julie also designed and taught a MBA elective called "Fearless Impact: Innovative Strategies to Disrupt, Pivot, or Accelerate Your Career." 

Julie graduated cum laude from Barnard College, Columbia University in New York City and earned a master's degree in international development from the University of London's School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS).

Michael Gursha

Michael Gursha

CEO, Rookie Road, Inc.


Mike Gursha is an entrepreneur, executive, board member & startup advisor. Gursha is currently the Chairman & CEO of Rookie Road Inc., a digital media technology company focused on creating unique and engaging educational content. He became CEO in 2016 after serving as a special advisor to the founder.

Previously, Gursha was appointed as the inaugural entrepreneur-in-residence at the
S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, one of the nation’s top schools of communications. At Newhouse, he worked with students, faculty & staff on entrepreneurship & innovation, lectured at Newhouse and other schools on Syracuse University's campus and helped administration/senior leadership with new strategic ideas around innovation. He also co-taught a class called New Ventures.

In addition, Gursha has been a founder and early team member at several startups
and has extensive experience in technology, media, education, biotechnology and healthcare. He currently serves on the board of directors of New York On Tech and the dean's advisory council of the Whitman School of Management. 

Gursha graduated magna cum laude from Syracuse University with a dual degree in both the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications & the Martin J. Whitman School of Management.

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Colleen DelVecchio

Director for Alumnae Engagement, Smith College


Colleen DelVecchio is the Director for Alumnae Engagement at Smith College, focusing on strategically engaging alumnae with the college through professional development, volunteerism, advancing women’s leadership and connecting with current Smith students.

With over twenty years of experience in organizational change, strategic management, career counseling, women’s leadership, training and staff development, she uses a strengths-based leadership model to guide her work. Her background includes extensive development of curricula for in-person and e-learning experiences around strategic thinking, career choice, board development, volunteer management, public speaking, and developing innovative alumni programming.

Colleen has provided technical assistance to non-profits nationwide on organizational change and start-up program development. She has also taught public speaking at UMass Amherst and volunteer & board management at Bay Path University. Colleen has a BA in psychology from Boston University, a MA in nonprofit management from Bay Path University, and is a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.

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Heather Tranen

Founder, Schtick


Heather is the founder of career consulting, professional development, and content strategy company, Schtick. She comes with over a decade of experience in higher education, professional development, and content management. Her diverse experience provides her with a deep understanding of what organizations want from employees, the roadblocks that prevent people from achieving their goals, and the strategic steps needed for companies and people to find their value and reach their potential

 Jess Columbo

Jess Columbo

Founder and Principle Strategist, Med|Ed Digital


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.

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Jerry Michalski

Founder, REX


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.

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Iyad Uakoub

Manager, University Recruiting, ThousandEyes


Iyad works at the nexus of research and practice. He is a Manager of HR & University Recruiting at ThousandEyes, a startup based in San Francisco funded by Sequoia and Google Ventures that provides network intelligence to hundreds of companies including 50 of the Fortune 500.

Before that, Iyad served as a Career Educator and Manager of Branding & Digital Communities at Stanford University where he led large data and technology initiatives. He also led the operations and communications team at Purdue University’s Center for Career Opportunities. Iyad worked as an expert/consultant for the United Nations for five years, and has 14+ years of experience with global organizations. His doctoral research focuses on identity, meaningful work, and social justice in higher education and early stage startups.

 Chelsea Haring

Chelsea Haring

Director of Partnerships, Switchboard


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


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. 

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Andy Shaindlin

Vice President, Switchboard


Andy Shaindlin is Vice President at Switchboard, providing guidance and leadership development to partner institutions. Andy has worked in and around education since 1986, when he received his bachelor's degree in International Relations from Brown University. Since 1989 he has focused on alumni communities of all kinds, with a special interest in the role of technology. He has served as an alumni professional at Brown, the University of Michigan, the California Institute of Technology, and Carnegie Mellon University. 

For the last several years, Andy has worked as an alumni strategy expert with global philanthropic consultants GG+A. He is the founder and author of the Alumni Futures blog and has presented more than 100 keynotes, professional development workshops, seminars and training sessions in a dozen countries. He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.