UO’s first Innovation Summit finds success among students, faculty and innovators


Project design signs stood in the hallway of the EMU, displaying new ways to develop sports products such as snowboarding jackets, running leggings and adjustable kayak seats. Small, UO alumni-founded companies like ketchup company Red Duck Foods, showed off their products. Grad students displayed facial expression software and an eye-tracking program.

These are just a few examples of the displays at the Innovation Summit last Friday, Oct. 27. The student-facilitated event aimed to connect and engage UO students and groups from different departments around the university  like science, communications, and performing arts.

It was a collection of interactive activities, events and lectures. These ranged from slideshows about environmentally efficient vehicles to pitching ideas while running around Hayward Field, all intended to connect students with innovative ideas and encourage their participation.  

The summit started as an assignment in Kate Harmon’s entrepreneurship class last winter term when they were assigned Phil Knight’s autobiography “Shoe Dog.” The team started by bouncing ideas around and made their final decision in the spring term.

According to Harmon, every college on campus participated in at least one of the 91 different activities or sessions because, “everyone’s doing something that’s innovative.”

“I think there’s a stereotype that entrepreneurship or innovation is something that’s only in a business school,” said Harmon. “But that’s something we don’t want to promote. It’s not true. It’s really about making people recognize that you can be innovative in whatever your passion is.”

Harmon also expressed the mission to make the Innovation Summit a staple of Homecoming Week. “The thought is that if this is successful this year we might be able to revisit doing this as an annual event around Homecoming to make it a tradition,” she said. They even received support from campus administration like UO President Michael Schill when he dedicated the day as “Innovator’s Day.”

Anna Mikula, one of the summit’s lead planners, said this was also a great opportunity for students to learn about additional resources on campus and network with the alumni and professionals visiting UO.

They also invited clubs to participate, which included No Lost Generation, a student group established to help refugees who want to attend college. The group set up a model refugee tent in the EMU Fishbowl to show what living like a refugee is like, and it included supplies like mats to sleep on, laundry and dishes.

Time and money were obstacles while planning this project. Over the summer, it was difficult to meet and discuss ideas for the summit, and their starting budget was only around $10,000. The exact amount spent is not known as of yet.

“We had so many ideas that we generated that we had to cut loose,” Shiroma said. “There were way more things that we wanted to do than we were able to do.”

According to Harmon, the speakers and participants in the events were all volunteers.

“They found that when they asked students do you self-identify as an entrepreneur most of them would say no, but if you said the term innovator they would self-identify,” Harmon said.

Organizers plan on making this an annual event, especially with the reception they received.

“We’re engaged in this because we believe in it,” said Vee Chan, another student organizer. “We believe that this can work.”

Follow Kylie Storm on Twitter: @kmstorm99

Follow Becca Robbins on Twitter: @brobbinsuo


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Becca Robbins

Becca Robbins

Becca Robbins is a News Reporter. She is a junior majoring in journalism and minoring in creative writing. She loves to read and watch sports.