Stanford University Innovation Fellow Connects Sierra College to Entrepreneurship

Savanna Turner, a Sierra College Engineering student, is introducing students to the exceptional innovation and entrepreneurship programs on campus as part of her Stanford University Innovation Fellow project.

Sierra College student Savanna Turner, an engineering major, is one 229 students from 62 higher education institutions in 10 countries who have been named University Innovation Fellows (UIF). The program is run by Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design ( and prepares participants to make a positive impact on the world. She participated in an eight week online training program and recently returned from a weekend at Stanford University and Google where she learned to be a change agent.

Sierra College is one of very few community colleges participating in UIF. As one of 24 colleges funded by the statewide CCC Maker initiative, Sierra College is creating a maker community to produce innovation-ready graduates inspired to contribute to the creative economy and was invited to join UIF.

…our partnership with Hacker Lab gives students access to a community makerspace to build projects, develop business ideas and connect with entrepreneurs.

According to Turner, who researched opportunities for innovation on campus, Sierra College already has enviable entrepreneurship and innovative engineering, design and advanced manufacturing programs. “I interviewed faculty members to learn more about the cutting edge programs at Sierra College such as our partnership with Hacker Lab that gives students access to a community makerspace to build projects, develop business ideas and connect with entrepreneurs,” said Turner.

“Through student surveys, I discovered that few students thought that entrepreneurship applied to them and that it was only for business majors,” said Turner. “But welders start their own companies, artists want to make a living and students will work for businesses that want employees to take an innovative approach to meeting customers’ needs.”

Watch the video Turner produced for the University Innovation Fellows about Sierra College.

From this research, Turner developed her idea for leading change at Sierra College. “I want to increase awareness among students that the entrepreneurial mindset for solving problems is for all students and that these skills will help them change our community for the better,” said Turner. “To encourage students to take advantage of the innovative programs that Sierra College offers, I plan to organize social summits for a cross section of the student body to participate in and build a culture of innovation across the campus.”

The November 16-20 meetup with hundreds of other University Fellows at Stanford and Google provided training for Turner to turn her idea into action according to Jonathan Schwartz, Sierra College Advanced Manufacturing instructor, Innovation Fellow Mentor and Colfax High School Engineering teacher. “It was the best professional development that I have ever done,” said Schwartz.

“It changed my ideas on teaching,” said Schwartz. “I realized that students are only as effective as their public speaking and ability to pitch their ideas to solve problems. I heard compelling evidence that students must develop interpersonal, collaboration and team building skills to lead innovation in the workplace.”

Schwartz thought the experience was inspiring. “I saw excited and driven students from all over the world, with amazing skill sets and the belief that they can do anything,” said Schwartz. “What I heard from industry leaders reinforced for me that we are doing exactly the right things in the Placer Union High School District and at Sierra College to teach innovation and prepare students to make an impact on their world.”

The next steps for Turner are to plan the social summits to provide an introduction to entrepreneurship across a broad range of majors, diverse students and interests. “I anticipate that I’ll use what I learned from UIF about problem solving, working with people who all communicate differently and supporting the success of others,” said Turner.

“I’ve never organized an event so I want to connect with students who have that expertise as well as attract a team of students who will come at planning the summits from different perspectives,” said Turner. “I’ll also be looking for speakers from the community to inspire entrepreneurship across disciplines and innovation across industries. I hope that the summits will inspire students to sign up for an entrepreneurship or design course as well as take advantage of joining Hacker Lab powered by Sierra College.”

Turner is also busy with her engineering classes. “I always thought that I wanted to go into medicine,” said Turner.  “But after I discovered engineering at Colfax High School and loved designing and building products, I decided that I wanted to go into bio-medical engineering to design better prosthetics – the best of both worlds.”

To connect with Turner to help with the social summits, contact her at sturner10(at)

For information about Sierra Makerspaces, contact Dominic Gutierrez at (916) 913-2708 or [email protected](at) and learn about the statewide CCC Maker initiative, a California Community College Chancellor’s Office Workforce Development Initiative under the Doing What MATTERS for Jobs and the Economy Framework and housed at Sierra College.

About Sierra College

Sierra College District is rising to meet the needs of our community, serving 3200 square miles of Northern California with campuses in Roseville, Rocklin, Grass Valley and Truckee. With over 120 degree and certificate programs, Sierra College is Northern California’s top community college for transfers to four-year universities and offers career/technical training and classes for upgrading job skills.  Sierra graduates can be found in businesses and industries throughout the region.

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