Impact Scholars Institute

Program Overview

The Impact Scholars Institute (ISI)  is an immersive program designed to nurture leadership skills and foster an understanding of project innovation, design thinking, and business strategy. The primary objective of this program is to empower students who aspire to become leaders by equipping them with the necessary knowledge and skills to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of innovation and effectively bring their ideas to fruition. 

The program operates on a selective application-based system and can accommodate a maximum of 12 participants each academic year. Spanning from the Autumn Quarter to the end of the Spring Quarter, the program demands participants' commitment and continuous involvement throughout the entire year. The curriculum is firmly grounded in the established Leadership Development Model by the Center for Leadership and Involvement, which comprises three core elements of leadership: 1) self-awareness and personal skill development, 2) collaboration, and 3) the ability to bring about meaningful change.These components are thoughtfully nurtured within the innovative academic environment of the University of Chicago. 

To enhance the participants' understanding and practical application of design thinking, project innovation, and business foundations, the program incorporates a dynamic approach that leverages case studies and experiential learning. Through real-world examples and hands-on projects, participants gain valuable insights into industry challenges and opportunities, honing their problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. By actively engaging in the learning process, they develop a deep understanding of the fundamental principles and strategies required for success in the realms of design thinking, project innovation, and business foundations.

After establishing an understanding of each individual's leadership style and mission, the program staff will create teams based on the participants' applications, assessment results, and fields of interest. Each team will collaborate to identify a specific issue on campus that they are passionate about addressing. Together, they will then develop a project centered around tackling that particular issue. As the program progresses, each team will be given the chance to pitch their project to secure seed funding. Teams will construct a budget proposal for seed funding up to $1000. This funding will serve as the necessary financial support to bring their campus-based impact project to life. Additionally, the teams will have the opportunity to engage with various campus offices and seek guidance from community mentors to aid in project development.

Learning Objectives

The Impact Scholars Institute aims to equip students with foundational knowledge in the following areas:

Leadership Development: 

  • Self-Awareness: develop a deep understanding of their own strengths, weaknesses, values, and leadership style
  • Personal Skill Development: acquire and enhance a range of leadership skills, including effective communication, decision-making, problem-solving, adaptability, and resilience.
  • Collaboration and Teamwork: will learn to build and lead high-performing teams, fostering a culture of trust, respect, and inclusivity.
  • Change Leadership: will gain the skills to inspire and motivate others, mobilize resources, and implement innovative solutions.
  • Application of Leadership Skills: opportunities to apply their leadership skills in real-world contexts. Develop the ability to effectively translate theory into practice and demonstrate their leadership capabilities.

Design Thinking:

  • Understanding Design Thinking Principles: gain a comprehensive understanding of the principles and core concepts of design thinking.
  • Empathy and User-Centricity: develop empathy skills to deeply understand the perspectives, desires, and challenges of end-users. They will learn techniques to gather user insights, such as conducting interviews, observations, and engaging in active listening.
  • Identifying User Needs: effectively identify and define user needs and pain points. Acquire methods for conducting user research, analyzing data, and uncovering insights that inform the design process.
  • Prototyping and Iteration: Gain hands-on experience in prototyping and iterating solutions. Learn to rapidly generate and test ideas using low-fidelity prototypes, allowing them to gather feedback and refine their designs based on user insights.

Business + Innovation:

  • Market Analysis and Competitive Advantage: learn how to conduct market analysis, identify industry trends, and assess competitive landscapes. The ability to identify and leverage competitive advantages, understanding how to position their ventures for success.
  • Value Proposition Development: acquire skills in developing compelling value propositions that address customer needs and differentiate their offerings in the market. They will learn how to articulate unique value propositions that resonate with target audiences.
  • Market Research and Customer Segmentation: gain insights into market research techniques and customer segmentation strategies. They will learn how to gather and analyze customer data to identify target markets, understand customer behaviors and preferences, and tailor their offerings accordingly.
  • Innovation Process and Project Management: develop a deep understanding of the innovation process, including how to identify opportunities, generate creative ideas, and develop sustainable solutions. Learn project management methodologies to effectively plan, execute, and manage innovation projects, overcoming challenges that may arise during the project lifecycle.

Program Outcomes

Completion of ISI will yield the following: 

  • Each team is eligible to receive up to $1000 in seed funding for their Innovation Project 
  • Each participant will receive the following: 
    • 1 Recommendation Letter 
    • LinkedIn Certification 
    • UChicago LEADS Leadership Excellence Lapel Pin

2024-2025 Impact Scholars Institute Session Dates

2024-2025 Application Timeline

  • Application Opens: August 26, 2024
  • Application Deadline: October 10, 2024
  • Interviews: October 10, 2024 - October 18, 2024
  • Application Results: October 21, 2024
  • Program Begins: October 30, 2024

How to Apply

Complete the application form: Applications for the 2023-2024 cohort are closed. Check back in August of 2024 for information on the 2024-2025 application process. 

Items needed for application: 

  • Resume
  • Optional supplemental materials upload outlining any additional information you would like the review committee to know - do not exceed 1 page in length

Please combine all documents for upload into one PDF before submitting

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the application process or program requirements, contact Heather Duval at

Serve as a Mentor

Join us as a mentor in the Impact Scholars Institute (ISI), a transformative program shaping future leaders. Guide a maximum of 12 participants through a year-long journey focused on project innovation, design thinking, and business strategy.

As a mentor, you'll help participants grasp real-world challenges through case studies and hands-on learning. Your guidance will be instrumental as teams identify campus issues and create impactful projects. These projects will be pitched for seed funding, up to $1000, giving participants the chance to bring their ideas to life and make a tangible difference on campus.

By sharing your expertise, you'll shape aspiring leaders' growth and contribute to meaningful change within the University of Chicago community.

Mentor Expectations: 

  • Be a Supportive Role Model: Embody leadership and positivity, serving as a role model for participants. 
    • Demonstrating professionalism, responsibility, and a willingness to help.
  • Serve as an Engagement Facilitator: Encourage active participation and interaction within the cohort.
    • Initiating discussions, activities, and connections to foster a sense of community.
  • Assist in Resource Navigation: Assist participants in accessing program materials, resources, and information.
    • Being familiar with program content and helping participants find what they need.
  • Provide Support to Individual Participants: Offer guidance and mentorship tailored to participants' individual needs.
    • Addressing their questions, challenges, and goals through one-on-one interactions.
  • Contribute Feedback: Share insights and suggestions to improve the program's effectiveness.
    • Providing constructive feedback to enhance the cohort experience for all participants.

If you are interested in serving as a Mentor for ISI please fill out the interest form

If you have any questions or concerns please contact Heather Duval at 

UChicagoSocial: Center for Leadership and Involvement