How to Work with the Academy

Is it possible to learn how to be an innovator or entrepreneur? We at the Academy for Innovation & Entrepreneurship think YES, and we are here to help make this happen all across campus!

We collaborate with faculty from all schools and colleges to integrate innovation or entrepreneurship into existing courses. AIE has a team of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) educators (Design Thinking & Lean Startup Facilitators) eager to work with faculty to design ways to integrate and teach I&E methodology and concepts in their courses.

What does AIE teach, exactly?

While there are certainly many innovation and entrepreneurship methods and processes out there, we focus on introducing students to:

Design Thinking Post it
Lean Startup Post it

A human-centered, prototype-driven, creative process that helps teams come up with unexpected solutions to problems. Design Thinking includes the following:

  • gaining empathy for your end users
  • reframing the problem in an expected way
  • ideating or brainstorming various solutions
  • prototyping possible solutions in a quick & low-fidelity manner
  • returning back to the end user to seek feedback

An iterative process for developing a product and business model that begins with customer discovery, which involves physically getting out of the classroom and off campus to interview dozens or even hundreds of potential customers and stakeholders to understand their problems and pain points in the market and in society.These interviews, or experiments, lead to real-world insights that validate or invalidate key components of the business model, often leading to pivots.

How exactly does AIE work with Faculty?

We work with faculty in three different ways based on how they describe themselves: (1) Distinguished Fearless Faculty, (2) Fearless Faculty and (3) Light-Touch Faculty. In order to choose how to describe yourself, we ask that you consider the extent to which you want to integrate I&E methodology into your course, teach the concepts on your own and contribute to the Fearless Faculty Learning Community. Rather than bore you with more details written in not-very-well-constructed prose, take a look at these tables detailing how AIE works with faculty to integrate innovation (design thinking) and entrepreneurship (lean startup) into courses.

How do I know if my course is a good fit?

We are certainly open to (and excited about!) finding ways to weave I&E into courses that might not seem to traditionally overlap with I&E. That being said, from our previous prototypes, we’ve learned that courses that either cover I&E directly as a topic, or ask students to complete a collaborative project where they’re coming up with solutions to problems result in the most successful collaborations. For courses with a collaborative project, AIE helps to introduce I&E processes that help students methodically get to an innovative solution.

If you’d like to talk more about whether introducing I&E into your course makes sense, please email Erica (eestrad3 <at> umd <dot> edu) to set up a time to chat. There is also an appendix of resources on the last page of this Faculty Guide that might help you think about whether this is a resource you’d like to pursue.

What makes for a successful collaboration with AIE?

Although this is a bit dependent on how you decide to describe yourself (Distinguished Fearless Faculty, Fearless Faculty or Light-Touch Faculty), there are some general things to aspire to for spectacular collaborations;

  • Be open to learning the I&E concepts yourself! Our Distinguished Fearless & Fearless Faculty commit to being heavily involved in learning and teaching I&E concepts; however, we also encourage Light-Touch faculty to be highly involved as well. We’ve observed in the past that students can connect more to the material when their professor explains how I&E relates to the course and their field both before and during the I&E sessions.
  • Introduce I&E concepts early & often. We’ve found that students engage more deeply when they are primed for I&E sessions. Specifically, it helps to introduce I&E sessions in your syllabus, and make sure they integrate seamlessly into the rest of the curriculum. AIE Facilitators can provide examples from other classes and work with you on how best to do this.
  • Help us hold our time-strapped Fearless Innovators accountable. Whether it be a post-reflection, or turning in some aspect of their work, we’ve learned that students engage best when they are held accountable for I&E aspects of the course. For example, if you ask us to help introduce the concept of prototyping in your course, students should have some sort of graded deliverable related to prototyping. AIE Educators can provide examples from other classes and work with you to design deliverables that will enhance the I&E experience for your students.
  • Be ready to start planning for sessions before the semester begins! While creative breakthroughs can happen just before deadlines, we would rather not be planning up until the minute since we typically support almost 20 different courses simultaneously during a semester. To help us balance that many courses, planning for I&E sessions should take place before the semester begins. While we do try to “meet the students where they are” and can fine-tune sessions based on how things are going in the course, big last-minute changes in what we’re covering and how we’re teaching doesn’t really work. See the Timeline section for exact dates on when planning can begin for this semester.
  • Be ready to get your hands dirty! We often design sessions that are very hands-on & action-oriented. This means that there is sometimes quite a bit of set up before class, and clean up after class. We are always ready to roll up our sleeves and encourage you to do the same!
  • Help us create a distraction-free environment. Our favorite topic. Laptops and cell phones. Since every classroom culture is different, we’ll certainly want to brainstorm with you creative ways to convincing our Fearless Innovators to disconnect for an hour or two.


You haven’t scared me away yet! What’s the process for initiating a collaboration?

Click here to read the rest of the AIE Faculty Guide, which includes next steps for collaborating with AIE.