Innovation Beat: UO curriculum gets an innovation revamp

This spring edition of Around the O’s Innovation Beat highlights some of the changes taking place in the UO’s innovation landscape. Innovation Beat is a quarterly feature that tells small stories about UO discoveries with big results.

Fresh Spirits

UO MBA graduate Emily Darchuk has a unique spirit — the kind that will fill your glass.

Just months after her December graduation, Darchuk is getting ready to unveil Wheyward Spirit, a startup company producing a brand-new variety of alcohol that is made from whey — the creamy, rich byproduct of cheese production.

Wheyward Spirit’s product is similar in appearance to vodka but boasts a rich, smooth flavor that is distinct and all its own, Darchuk said. She seized on an opportunity to wed alcohol production and sustainability when she launched the Oregon-based company while earning her MBA at the UO.

“Within the dairy industry, disposing of whey tends to be problem,” Darchuk said. “For every pound of cheese, there are about nine pounds of whey. Turning this into a usable product, a delicious liquor, creates a new market opportunity instead of waste.”

With the support of a $5,000 RAINmaker grant for UO student led and owned startups, Darchuk is now poised to scale her company to market and anticipates production starting later this summer.

“I can deliver something that tastes better, Darchuk said. “And it can come together in a farm-to-flask story that helps solve a problem.”

UO unveils new Innovation Technology Fellowship

A new fellowship will serve as a catalyst driving research, industry and innovation at the UO.

Spring 2019 marks the inaugural season of the new Innovation and Technology Fellowship, a program pairing talented business graduate students with researchers to identify business opportunities for new innovations.

“The program will support UO research efforts by providing a robust assessment of business potential and helping to identify what the opportunity is,” said Nathan Lillegard, fellowship director and program manager for the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship.

Developed by the Lundquist College of Business and Innovation Partnership Services, the fellowship will shepherd UO innovations into development while giving students the chance to apply knowledge and critical thinking skills on a dynamic, real-life project.

Research partners for the debut season will include Benjamin Alemán, assistant professor in the Department of Physics, and members of the Jasti Research Group.

“This program is an exciting way to catalyze UO innovation while investing in our students and giving them the opportunity to learn in a real-world setting,” Lillegard said. “We can’t wait to see what our fellows do.”

New minor in entrepreneurship

Have a great business idea and need some foundational skills to launch it? Interested in building your business skills? The UO has a new entrepreneurship minor that can help students level up their skill sets and bring their new ideas to fruition.  

Designed for nonbusiness students, the new minor in entrepreneurship is crafted for those who want to learn the managerial and leadership skills required to launch a venture.

“Entrepreneurship is an inherently interdisciplinary endeavor,” said Andrew Nelson, associate professor of management and academic director of the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. “We’ve long offered an entrepreneurship concentration for undergraduate business majors. But we wanted to make these same classes available to students in any discipline, and we wanted to combine them with related offerings from a wide array of other departments,”

The six-course minor is a boot camp in business, consisting of courses that lay a foundation in entrepreneurship business basics. Students can also choose from a variety of elective courses that will help them specialize in a particular area, such as product design, social entrepreneurship and sustainability.

Working within an interdisciplinary framework of exploration and self-discovery, the program gives students the opportunity to envision, develop, test and build a for-profit or nonprofit venture.

“At its heart, entrepreneurship is about identifying problems or needs and executing on solutions that address those problems and needs,” Nelson said. “The entrepreneurship minor provides students with the frameworks, tools and knowledge to apply this perspective to their careers and their lives, making them attractive job candidates and thoughtful citizens.”

New, improved DIBELS eighth edition

The UO Center on Teaching and Learning, a UO College of Education research and outreach center that develops educational interventions and assessment tools, has released a new, improved edition of DIBELS, or Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, a research-backed instrument for evaluating reading in kindergarten through eighth grade classrooms.

Each test administration is one minute in length, and assessment typically includes a maximum of three to five tests, which keeps testing duration manageable. The new edition reduces assessment time by up to two-thirds in some grades, developers say.

For schools, less time testing means more opportunity to increase teaching time. The information gathered sheds light on whether instruction is effective and where students are in their learning, which informs curriculum development so it can better suit the needs of students.

“Teachers in schools can use DIBELS to see which students may struggle within the curriculum in a given grade and may be at risk for not meeting end-of-year learning goals,” said Gina Biancarosa, an associate professor at the College of Education, the Ann Swindells Chair in Education and a researcher at the Center on Teaching and Learning.

The Center on Teaching and Learning also offers the DIBELS Data System, which offers users highly flexible reporting and data analysis tools that facilitate and streamline instructional decision-making for teachers. To date, schools have used the assessments for more than 30 million students.

“We’re able to see which children are in need of intervention to meet learning goals, and we are able to see how well a school is advancing the learning of all students,” Biancarosa said. “The system allows us to judge not only the progress of one student, but the progress of an entire school.”

The latest round of updates to DIBELS also integrates consumer requests and streamlines assessments to better correspond to new curriculums and statewide policies and uses the latest developments in assessment and methodology.

DIBELS eighth edition is available for free download. In addition, the DIBELS Data System is offered as a reporting tool free of charge to schools throughout Oregon and offers a digital administration system through an exclusive partnership with Amplify, a curriculum development and consulting company.

UO entrepreneurial community celebrates student success

A June 11 Entrepreneurship Award Luncheon will provide an opportunity for the UO community to engage with student entrepreneurs and celebrate student success over the year. Sponsored by the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship, the Office of the Vice President of Research and Innovation and the Department of Product Design, the event take place Tuesday, June 11, at noon in the EMU ballroom.

The luncheon will feature a student expo and awards ceremony and provides an opportunity for the university to honor student achievements while bringing together campus innovators and partners from the community.

“It’s a time to reflect on our student achievements and celebrate them, while also acknowledging the campus and community partners that helped students reach their goals,” said Kate Harmon, an instructor in the Lundquist College of Business and the undergraduate program manager of the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship.

The event will feature a student expo that will showcase startups and innovations developed by students and will provide an opportunity for visitors to talk with talented UO student founders.

The luncheon will also feature an awards ceremony and keynote speech from Jonathan Evans. Evans was the founding CEO of Skyward, a firm that provides an air traffic control system for drones Evans founded the company with University of Oregon alums Eric Ringer and Dana Maher, and UO professor of finance Stephen McKeon in 2012.

Skyward was acquired by Verizon in February 2017 and is now leading the industry into a new era of connected aircraft and networked aerial fleet deployments.

Award category highlights:

  • Founder of the year
  • Startup of the year
  • Best community partner
  • 2019 Paul Anthony Troiano RAINmaker seed grants

For more information, visit the event page.