Honors Innovation Exploration


This Honors Engaged Experience is designed to bring together a diverse group of students from a variety of different colleges and majors to develop new innovations based on existing University resources. The offices, labs, performance spaces, and galleries across campus are full of underutilized ideas and creations, which could be the source of enormous value, just waiting to be discovered and given new life.  Together we will find them, refine them, combine them, and develop a plan for how they can most fruitfully be brought into the world to create new value. 

The kind of value we ultimately aim to unlock will be determined in a dynamic process guided by the students involved and the kinds of ideas and creations discovered.  Maybe the project will lead to an innovative new product or service which could potentially be commercialized to generate financial returns, or maybe it will lead to something which has the potential to solve an important societal problem in a way that makes our community or the world a better place.  It will be up to the student team to address those important decisions.  Regardless of those outcomes, the students involved will gain tremendous value from the experience of working in a cross-disciplinary setting in pursuit of innovation. 

This project is ideal for students from any major.  Great innovations always come from the recombination of previously disconnected ideas and from the ability to see things from new perspectives.  The ideal students for the project are curious, self-motivated, open-minded, and eager to explore.  While there will be a faculty guide and mentor who will work with the team, the project will be largely student-driven.  The ability and motivation to define and complete tasks on your own and in collaboration with other students will be paramount.   


Program Details 

The project will take place over the course of 12 months (two semesters and one summer).  Students must complete the entire project to earn the Honors Engaged credit, and a student’s ability to continue in the project will depend on their efforts in the early stages.   

The timeline will be as follows: 

  • Application deadline is November 5th, 2021. 

  • Interested students will be interviewed by the faculty guide and a representative of the Honors program by the end of fall 2021 semester. 

  • Selected students will meet together with the faculty guide once every two weeks through the spring 2022 semester to discuss basic ideas of invention, innovation, opportunity recognition, and design thinking.  Relevant readings will be assigned and discussed. 

  • Through the summer of 2022 students will work independently in whatever way they see fit to prepare themselves for the next stages of the project.  That might include more readings, scanning for unmet needs in the marketplace or community, beginning to explore the kinds of ideas and creations that are available in the university, etc.  The faculty guide will be available to provide advice and resources. 

  • At the beginning of the fall 2022 semester students will come together to share with each other what they’ve learned over the summer.  Those insights will be combined to prepare a presentation for the faculty guide and the Honors program which lays out what students learned and possible next steps. 

  • Through the fall 2022 semester the project will proceed in earnest.  This will include a deep exploration of departments across the university in search of unrecognized and underutilized ideas and creations, brainstorming about how those ideas and creations might be recombined in new ways to create value, research into the commercial or societal needs that those innovative combinations might be able to address, the viability of the potential innovative solutions, and the development of plans for how that value could most effectively be unlocked.  The team will meet with the faculty guide once every two weeks so that the guide can offer advice, provide resources, etc.  The guide will also be available as needed throughout the project for whatever the team might need. 


Students will be evaluated by the faculty guide at the end of the spring 2021 semester and again at the beginning of the fall 2022 semester.  Continuation in the project will depend on the efforts and contribution made up to that point.   

The final deliverable at the end of the project will be a paper and presentation to the Honors program detailing the proposed product, service, or solution, the market or societal need, and the plan for bringing the two together. Satisfactory completion of the project will result in earning credit for two Honors Engaged experiences. There is no partial credit possible.  

Especially entrepreneurial students will have the opportunity to continue on to execute that plan if they wish, keeping in mind that there will be important issues of University intellectual property and ownership to be discussed and navigated. 


Application Process: 

Interested students will submit a resume or CV along with a letter of interest.  In the letter, please talk about why you want to become a part of this project and why you think you’d be a good team member.  We are looking for students with curious minds and broad interests, things that do not usually come through in a traditional resume.   


The letter of interest is your chance to tell us about your hobbies, passions, and quirks, the things that make you different and give you the kind of unique perspectives that will contribute to the success of our project.  It is also a team project, so we will be looking for a clear indication that you work well with others.  

Please be cognizant of the commitment implied. You will have to meet once every two weeks with the group and faculty guide through spring and fall 2022 semesters, as well as do independent work over the summer and throughout, culminating in the paper and presentation at the end of process.  


Please submit your CV or resume and your letter of interest by November 5th to Dr. Andrea Radasanu (aradasanu@niu.edu). Title your email “Honors Innovation Exploration Application.” 

Friday, November 5, 2021 at 11:59 PM

Event Type




Target Audience




University Honors Program


Contact Name

Andrea Radasanu

Contact Email or Phone


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