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TCNJ School of Science Students Accepted into University Innovation Fellows Program

Congratulations to TCNJ School of Science students Vinisha Patel, Kassidy Farnum, Joe Petrecca, and their faculty advisor, Dr. Monisha Pulimood, on being accepted into the University Innovation Fellows program through Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, also known as the Stanford d.School.

This program is designed to empower student leaders by equipping them with skills in innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking, and creativity, enabling them to create new opportunities for their peers. Participants are immersed in a variety of innovation based educational experiences, including designing student innovation spaces, organizing entrepreneurship initiatives, facilitating workshops, and collaborating with faculty and administrators to develop cutting-edge programs.

After her own life changing experience, Dean of Science, Sunita Kramer, knew she had to provide our students with an opportunity to experience the Stanford d.School. Dean Kramer explained, “I had the opportunity to experience the University Innovation program as a participant in the Teaching and Learning Studio several years ago. During this week-long in-person workshop at the Stanford d.School, I was immersed in the process of design and surrounded by fellow teachers and administrators from around the world. It was one of the most significant learning experiences that I have had in my career and it completely changed my perspective and my approach to teaching, learning, and higher education administration. I couldn’t wait to expose our students and faculty to this experience.”

As part of this initiative, Vinisha, Kassidy, and Joe will gain unique insights into establishing a physical student innovation hub where cross-collaboration and idea-sharing will ultimately thrive. They will also learn how to advocate for institutional change and contribute their unique perspectives to discussions on the future of higher education within TCNJ’s School of Science.

As a Computer Science and Mathematics double major with a minor in Music, Kassidy’s interests span far beyond the walls of the School of Science as she explores the fascinating intersections between the fields of science and music.  

With a deep passion for both areas of study, she hopes to work on bridging the gap between these fields in her work as an Innovation Fellow. 

Kassidy explained, “I am really excited about the opportunity for innovation that this will bring to TCNJ. I think that science is an ever flourishing field of creativity, innovation and change and I think that this is a really good program to have the school reflect that a bit. For me personally, I think the interdisciplinary piece is really important.”

“Being a double major while also being super interested in pursuing music, I feel a really strong and natural connection to cross collaboration. I have intersecting research interests in both fields and I hope other students will be able to have similar experiences to further explore their own personal interests.”

Vinisha Patel, a Junior Biology major with minors in both Public Policy Analysis and Management and Public Health, also knows the powerful impact of cross collaborative opportunities for student’s experiences.

“I am so passionate about cross-collaborative research and study agendas here at TCNJ because there is always more that can be done. Our departments on their own are great individually, but why not be doubly great together?” Vinisha explained. 

“I really feel that it would encourage students a lot more to find their specific niche and flourish within areas that directly interest them,” Vinisha continued. 

Junior computer science major, Joe Petrecca, who is also minoring in both astrophysics and finance, emphasized a similar sentiment towards cross collaboration within the sciences. 

“I look at this opportunity as a nice way to remove barriers from within the school and to create a more interdisciplinary environment for students to work collaboratively with one another,” Joe explained. 

As a student technician in TCNJ’s planetarium, Joe has had the opportunity to develop his skills within the planetarium first hand, presenting captivating shows to a wide audience of students, faculty, parents, and community members. 

Knowing and experiencing firsthand, the benefits of experiential learning opportunities within technologically advanced facilities, Joe, Kassidy, and Vanisha explained that throughout their experiences as an Innovation fellows, they hope to help design and actualize additional space for students to collaborate in meaningful ways. 

“Similarly to how the STEM forum acts now, we would like to help design a more creative space that’s engineered towards encouraging students to join in these collaborative conversations to help formulate ideas and inspire one another,” Kassidy noted. 

In joining this prestigious program, Vinisha Patel, Kassidy Farnum, and Joe Petrecca have embarked on a journey that not only promises personal and professional growth, but also holds the potential to transform the landscape of innovation within TCNJ’s School of Science. As they delve into the intricacies of design thinking, entrepreneurship, and collaborative problem-solving, these remarkable individuals are poised to become catalysts for change, advocating for a future where interdisciplinary collaboration is not just encouraged but ingrained in the fabric of the institution. Faculty mentor, Dr. Monisha Pulimood, expressed her enthusiasm:  “I am very excited about the opportunity for our students to take an active role in their own education and that of their peers, and in shaping the future of interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation in the School of Science. I look forward to supporting Vinisha, Kassidy, and Joe as they bring their ideas to life, and engage more students in immersive interdisciplinary experiences.” 

Kassidy’s passion for bridging different realms of study, Vinisha’s advocacy for cross-collaborative research, and Joe’s commitment to breaking down barriers within the sciences exemplify the spirit of innovation that this program seeks to cultivate. Their vision for a more creative and inclusive environment, where students from diverse disciplines can come together to exchange ideas and inspire one another, mirrors the ethos of the University Innovation Fellows program.

As they embark on this transformative journey, we extend our heartfelt congratulations to Vinisha, Kassidy, Joe, and their advisor, Dr. Monisha Pulimood. Their acceptance into this esteemed program not only reflects their individual achievements but also looks forward to a promising future where innovation thrives, boundaries dissolve, and possibilities ignite passion within TCNJ’s School of Science.

To learn more about the program, visit:  University Innovation Fellows

Written by School of Science Student Journalist, Jax DiEugenio

Pictured from left to right: Dr. Monisha Pulimood, Kassidy Farnum, Vinisha Patel, Joe Petrecca, & Dean Sunita Kramer


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