From Fellow to Innovator-in-Residence
Stanley to bridge the gap between industry leaders and students
By Julia Meehan, Student Innovation Center Content Writer | Published August 26, 2021
Iowa State University’s Innovation Fellows program is welcoming a fresh yet familiar face to its leadership team as recent graduate Sandeep Stanley takes on the challenge of bridging the gap between industry leaders and students.
Stanley, who completed his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering in Spring 2021, is the Student Innovation
Center’s first Innovator-in-Residence to be hired by the university after successfully completing the Fellows program. Stanley was recognized by President Wintersteen as a Cardinal Fellow during an awards ceremony in April for completing more than 340+ hours within the program.
Karen Piconi Kerns, director of programming for the Innovation Fellows program, said Stanley’s character and experience fit the mold of being a role model for aspiring, bright students to come through the Innovation Fellows program as he once did.
“He has a personal commitment to working with, and closing the gaps for historically excluded populations,” Piconi Kerns said. “He wants to empower the next generation with information and access to the invention process, to legal resources that protect and advance innovation, and to a network of other university leaders working in the intellectual property and knowledge capital space. He has a personal desire and a commitment to do that.”
Born in Singapore, Stanley’s family moved to Ames when he was still very young. When it came to deciding where to go to college, he received a full scholarship to Iowa State University.
During his time within the Fellows program, Stanley collaborated with recent graduates Mani Bhuma and Ashwin Yedavalli on their space mining venture, Jaadu, as a legal consultant. He also gained skills and experience through the Student Innovation Center’s Innovation Programs.
The biggest takeaway from the Innovation Fellows program was learning how to think, Stanley said. He learned how to think for himself in certain situations rather than regurgitating what others think he should do to solve problems.
“They have a problem, they’re taught a way to solve this problem, they apply that method and that’s often all the critical thinking that they do,” Stanley said, explaining the conventional thought process. “I think the Fellows Program teaches you how to take a step beyond that and understand the mindset of how to innovate and how to break outside that mold.”
Before Stanley, all of the program’s Innovators-in-Residence have been established industry leaders and professionals who offer relevant experience around the workplace. Stanley, as a recent graduate entering the workforce, offers something new to the program: the perspective of someone who once walked in the shoes of a student and Fellow.
“I try to be the bridge, sort of between them, and between students trying to take some of those experiences that they’re talking about, those skills that they’re teaching, and turn it into something that’s a little more digestible for students,” Stanley said. “The students may not be ready for all of the ideas and things that are getting thrown at them. So one of my goals is to help to distill some of that information into a form that students can more easily digest.”
Working closely with Gary Griswold, a senior Innovator in Residence, Sandeep has built an entire Innovation Circuit series on student awareness and practice in relation to knowledge capital, invention, intellectual property, and intrapreneurship.
Piconi Kerns searched for a candidate that was better equipped and embodied the potential to influence and impact the world. That led her to Stanley.
“He saw that we had a need,” Piconi Kerns said. “He invited himself in and he was open to the opportunity to create something that didn’t exist before. So that sense of being opportunistic and also not asking permission, inviting himself in and proposing and taking a risk and making himself vulnerable was critical.”
The impact Stanley hopes to bring to the table is a philosophy to be ready to innovate. Having developed the circuit series content, Sandeep will launch the circuit with Gary Griswold in September. He is also teaming up with Gary and other volunteer attorneys to provide a ½ day experiential learning session on patent case studies. This will be deployed during the 2022 Ignite Innovation Showcase.
“I intend to prepare students to be innovators, whether that’s their mindset through understanding the laws around innovation or through getting some leadership experience and getting them in contact with people who can help with their idea,” Stanley said.
Stanley envisions himself in the future accomplishing his career goal of becoming a patent attorney. To do that he has to attain a law degree. But for the time being, he plans to help people, whether that’s students in the Fellows Program or clients at a patent office.
“I want to help guide new adventures to that process, along with helping people innovate and helping get them from the idea of up here [mind] into the idea in practice, whether that’s on a paper or something that they can hold in their hand,” Stanley said. “I think that’s ultimately what I wanted, and I think being an Innovator-in-Residence is helping me do that right now.”
One piece of advice he would give to any college student is to focus on learning as much as possible. By doing so, aim for a multi-disciplinary curriculum and those little innovations will prepare you for the bigger things in life.
“I just want to encourage students to apply, even if they don’t have ideas or if they don’t think of themselves as innovators,” Stanley said. “I think the program can help teach them a lot of skills and useful methods that they could use. We offer things for everyone, you don’t have to be an innovator, you don’t have to think of yourself as a leader. The things that we’re teaching are applicable and I think they’re useful for anyone.”