Resource:How to Stitch Campus Faculty and Student Relationships to Support Student Innovation

From University Innovation Fellows
Jump to navigation Jump to search

How-to Guide:Stitching Campus Faculty and Student Relationships to Support Student Innovation


The problem: Oftentimes students have innovative ideas, but have a difficult time establishing relationships with influential academic individuals with the power to encourage, mobilize and enable their ideas. Having cooperative relationships with faculty and administrators is pivotal to making ideas and dreams become a reality. Without being able to break down the walls between the students and faculty, innovative ideas can be pointlessly abandoned and passion can be lost.

From the Faculty and Administrative points of view, a student will only be enrolled at an institution for a certain amount of time. How can faculty be encouraged to invest time and resources into a project that may graduate and move on when the student does? Further, how can a student ensure that his/her idea and progress establishes a legacy?

This guide below will explain how to establish mutually beneficial relationships between students, faculty, and administrators. After all, these relationships are the ultimate key for innovation and entrepreneurship to flourish.

The Big Idea:

The cornerstone of entrepreneurial relationships between students and faculty is innovation. Generally, it is easier to follow an idea than a person; sharing a passion inspires hard work for the right reasons. As such, the relationship must be built upon a big idea.

Albert Einstein remarked that if given an hour to solve a problem, he would spend the first fifty-five minutes thinking about the problem. With this in mind, research is key. Before approaching a faculty member and pitching an idea, the student must clearly identify both the stakeholder and the stakeholder’s problem. Further, the student must develop a plan of action that sufficiently covers all of his bases. By preparing to such a degree, upon approaching a peer, professor or administrator, the student will appear confident, prepared, and ready to begin collaboration. If on the other hand a student prematurely approaches a professor with a disorganized and underdeveloped plan, credibility and respect may be lost, consequently impeding progress.

Gaining Support:

To maximize the support an idea may generate, one should target the pitch towards how the idea may benefit the audience. This means that not only should a student understand his/her audience stakeholders, but also the stakeholders who will be involved in supporting and assisting with the idea.

Often a student will come across faculty members or students of a different discipline who might be cautious or hesitant to volunteer time and effort; this may be a result of myriad existing commitments, the unfamiliar discipline from which the student comes, or simply a personality that does not work well with collaboration. These limitations may be overcome by appealing to the other’s desires. A professor may respond to departmental incentives, a student may respond to a resume booster, or an administrator may respond to the hope of boosting school rankings. While none of these goals were the original idea’s primary focus, discovering and targeting the desires of potential collaborators is paramount. Lastly, it should also be noted that a student should not be afraid to exaggerate potential success. Stretching the truth or appealing to one’s desires will allow the student or faculty member to move past the initial barrier of uncertainty and allow collaboration towards success.

Finding Success


Innovative ideas thrive through overwhelming amounts of support and inclusiveness. As the number of supporters for your idea grows and relationships form, the ability to communicate will become increasingly difficult. It is pivotal to your success to understand diverse methods of communication and how they best correspond to different groups of individuals.

First you must determine the level of importance of each group or individual supporter. For example, the level of importance of your faculty stakeholder would be extremely high compared to the importance of fellow student supporters. The determined level of support of each individual should be used to determine how often you communicate and also the method in which you use to communicate. A highly important stakeholder should be frequently updated on the progress of your idea using a personal method of communication (i.e. telephone, in-person, etc.)

In addition to frequency and type of communication, the material that you choose to communicate is pivotal. Concise information may be the number one priority for a person of high power that is a stakeholder in your idea. Usually people who are higher up concentrate on the bottom line of information or the end result. For this reason you should choose the content that you are communicating very carefully based on your audience.

Marketing and visibility can be included in communication as well. In fact, in some aspects they are very important. Not only advancing your idea but also raising awareness can really help build a foundation to solidify a future for your idea.


Another important aspect contributing to finding success once relationships are formed would be to acquire and maximize your stakeholder’s respect for you and your innovative idea. Respect is comparable to trust and must be earned. The first foundational things that should be established would be to show your maturity through responsibility, dependability, and consistency. Once this foundation is created and believed by your stakeholders your idea will become a safer investment worthy of respect.

On top of your foundation you must have knowledge and confidence of your idea. It is necessary to research your idea and find case studies and statistics that reinforce your innovative idea. If you have knowledge combined with confidence, your stakeholders will have a deeper respect for you and your idea.

The final building block is to create some form of quantitative results. If you really want to wow your stakeholders and solidify faculty relationships, show them what you can do. The ability to put your idea into action and achieve some form of success will lead to more successes. Ultimately, this formula can provide you and your idea with respect, a higher number of supporters, and more prestigious relationships.


Moving from the initial stages of having an idea to finding success down the road can be a long and difficult task. While the long hours, meetings, and constant communication may be rewarding and fulfilling for the idea-holder, for faculty members this process can be arduous. For this reason, sustainability of a program or club is essential.

In giving support to a student and his/her idea, a faculty member is putting his/her name behind the idea and dedicating time and energy to helping the program off the ground. If the program is successful and succeeds while the student is at the institution, out of respect the student should make strides to allow the program to continue. If every program that faculty members supported and helped initiate collapsed upon the original student’s graduation, there may be a quick decline in the number of faculty members willing to support future ideas.

A powerful model to achieve these results assigns leadership to non-senior classes. By having the club or program president a sophomore or junior, this president may step down the following year and while remaining at the institution allow for a smoother transition into the new leadership. The presence of the former president will also ease the workload of the faculty advisor. If the president each year graduated, the faculty advisor would be tasked with making sure that the new president is effective and produces good results. Allowing the former president to oversee these duties both respects the faculty advisor’s time and efforts and ensures a continued quality of leadership.


With a great idea in mind, there should be no barrier to pursuing the idea and finding success. Hopefully through this guide, the future student may more easily communicate with faculty members in order to develop his/her great idea. Based on open communication, respect, and maturity, the relationship between faculty and student will enhance rather than impede the success of the idea.