TU offers NOVA Fellowship

Monday, January 07, 2013

A unique student program combines practical study with community support.

Established in 2012, the NOVA Fellowship is an exclusive University of Tulsa program offered to undergraduate and graduate students in all majors who wish to develop innovative projects outside of their regular coursework. Through a grant from the Koch Foundation, students are given the opportunity to work with mentors and develop initiatives that benefit Tulsa residents and businesses.

“The NOVA Fellowship is more than just a set of courses students can take,” said Dr. Charles Wood, program director and TU marketing professor. “Through inter-disciplinary work, students who wouldn’t normally connect on campus tackle community problems together.”

Students selected for the fellowship may also earn an Applied Innovation Certificate while participating in workshops, service activities, presentations and other networking events. At the conclusion of their fellowship, students have built a portfolio of relevant experience for their future careers.

“This program, like so many at TU, offers students the opportunity to go beyond books and computers, beyond the campus, and gain real-world experience while reaching out to help our community,” Wood said. “The university encourages all our students to find ways to serve others as they grow academically.”

Geosciences graduate student Aaron Ball is the first TU student to complete the requirements to receive the Applied Innovation Certificate. His project involved using Geographic Information Systems to identify the ideal location for grocery stores in Tulsa’s “food deserts.”

NOVA Fellowship“I had volunteered with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma and learned how some areas of the city are in serious need of additional food resources, such as new supermarkets,” Ball said. “I’ve always been a free thinker, and I wanted to be a part of a multi-disciplinary program.”

Ball used his undergraduate degree in mathematics to write code and generate grid data that identified areas in North Tulsa that were lacking adequate grocery stores and markets. The data was plugged into a regional GIS for the creation of maps and graphics to further illustrate the need. Ball said the next step is to determine the potential annual sales of a market in those food deserts. His project has caught the attention of local grocery store enterprises such as Reasor’s, and officials are eager to see Ball’s next phase of data.

“Aaron’s project is an example of the kind of collaboration and connection the NOVA Fellowship is developing with area professionals,” Wood said.

A group of 30 mentors representing a range of industries from advertising to construction have committed to working with TU’s NOVA Fellows. Ten students began the program last fall with five more scheduled to begin in the spring. Wood, recipient of TU’s 2012 Outstanding Teacher Award and Medicine Wheel Award, said NOVA presents unique service-learning opportunities for the entire campus, and he hopes other colleges take an interest. He has given NOVA presentations at multiple academic, professional and service-related conferences and will conduct a NOVA seminar for other university educators at the 2013 South by Southwest Conference and Festival in Austin, Texas.

For more information about the program, please visit www.novafellowship.org.

Gail Banzet