Newly launched Shaw Innovation Fellows Program at UNE opens creative doors for students, inroads to Maine's economy

Shaw Fellows at UNE 2021 Group Picture
The Shaw Innovation Fellows pose with Visiting Lecturer David Evans Shaw outside the Harold Alfond Forum.

From his early days as founder of IDEXX to his current philanthropic and business ventures, David Evans Shaw has shown that there are no boundaries when it comes to innovation.

A prominent business and social entrepreneur whose global leadership has led to the creation of more than a dozen successful technology companies, Shaw’s adventurous spirit stands as an inspiration to the young creative minds of Maine. Now, with generous financial support from the Shaw family, creative minds at the University of New England will learn — from the source — how to become successful innovators on their own with the establishment of the Shaw Innovation Fellows Program.

The program is intended to inspire creative confidence and innovative thinking across all of UNE’s programs and majors — from the allied health professions to environmental science, marine biology, sustainability and business, the humanities, and various interprofessional disciplines.

With Shaw acting as visiting lecturer, student fellows will benefit from his experience and other resources regarding practices and policies for innovation to create change in meaningful ways. As part of the program, students will also have the opportunity to meet other local and regional innovators via specially designed workshops.

The program welcomes five students as Senior Shaw Fellows. These students have demonstrated exceptional drive and passion and will each receive $5,000 to lead an innovative project in their area of interest in the 2021-2022 school year.

A second group of Shaw Fellows form the Shaw Innovation Team, comprised of students from diverse backgrounds and interests who have demonstrated creative thinking, curiosity and teamwork.

These students will be trained in design thinking and real-world problem-solving, and they will learn how to generate wild ideas, prototype, experiment, and use empathy to become more innovative thinkers and doers. Students will each receive a $1,000 stipend and work as a team to apply their change-making skills to select capstone projects.

“Our goal is to show students how to go from having an idea to making an impact,” says Justine Bassett, M.S., director of Innovation and the P.D. Merrill Makerspace. “They have the ideas and the passion; we will mentor them in the skills they need to become innovators and change makers in their respective fields.”

Following establishment of similar programs at the University of New Hampshire and the University of Southern Maine, the Shaw Innovation Fellows Program at UNE will supplement demand for education and research in the fields of entrepreneurship, science, technology, business, and leadership, in turn building a network of student innovators across all three universities.

“In Maine, as in many other geographies, traditional economies are yielding to a new generation of disruptive, technology-based businesses, and this offers great opportunities for those who are willing to embrace change,” Shaw said, noting that, in just several decades, Maine entrepreneurs have built a rapidly growing collection of new science-based businesses that are adding significantly to opportunities for Mainers. “A spirit of entrepreneurship is also impacting the vitality of Maine’s traditional businesses. We envision this program to be a catalyst for those wishing to participate in these innovative growth industries of the future, where individuals can benefit from innovation, and a density of innovative practitioners can inspire and benefit whole communities in business, philanthropy, government, and other sectors.”

The fellowship affords students like Labina Faizizada (Medical Biology, ’22), whose family is originally from Afghanistan, the opportunity to benefit Maine’s growing immigrant communities through innovative health care practices.

“I want to study medicine and become an innovator who brings change to women and health in the Middle East,” remarked Faizizada. “In my fellowship, I plan to work with a local hospital to build the cultural competencies of medical professionals in Maine, starting with shadowing immigrant families on their medical visits.”

UNE President James Herbert, Ph.D., said the Shaw Innovation Fellows Program represents one of the many ways UNE continues to fulfill its mission of improving the lives of people and their communities.

“Innovation is, and has always been, the cornerstone of UNE’s charge to educate students in a diverse array of disciplines so that they can create change in their communities and better the health of our planet and its people,” Herbert said. “The Shaw Innovation Fellowship encapsulates UNE’s mission perfectly, and I am excited to see the work that comes from our incredibly talented inaugural Shaw Fellows.”

Students participating in the 2021-2022 Shaw Innovation Fellows Program include:

Shaw Senior Fellows:

Shaw Innovation Team:

The five Shaw Senior Fellows.