OPEN Call for Proposals

The Call for Proposals closed October 31, 2023.

OPEN is the premier innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E) experience for higher education faculty, staff, administrators, researchers, and leaders in the STEM fields. Our welcoming community will:

  • Share the latest trends and cutting-edge ideas in I&E research, technology, and teaching best practices
  • Investigate how to identify partnerships and resources that are necessary to build a thriving I&E ecosystem
  • Provide ample time for you to network with inclusive innovation and sustainability changemakers from across the nation

This year, plan to lead the conversation and contribute to the field of I&E education by proposing a session for OPEN 2024. Our theme is Innovating Futures Together.

What might the future look like for the next generation of I&E advocates and thought leaders? Is only one future possible? How will the disruptive technologies of today shape the jobs of the future? Who should be around the table working to solve the world’s most difficult problems?

We look forward to exploring the answers to these questions with you at OPEN 2024!

We are seeking diverse ideas and perspectives for conference sessions across 4 areas of focus with 5 interactive format types. Though all proposals that fit with our areas of focus are welcome, special consideration will be given to proposals that:

  • Champion methods that engage students in inclusive, sustainable innovation using the latest technology
  • Share learnings from VentureWell Course & Program Grantees
  • Emphasize programs and practices that foster access and engagement of students from historically underrepresented groups (URGs) in I&E
  • Share findings from I&E education assessment, evaluation, or research
  • Discuss institutional best practices to showcase the benefits of entrepreneurial universities and their ability to create I&E pathways for student innovators
  • Feature student innovators or startups as panelists or co-presenters
  • Include institutions that are Minority Serving Institutions, emerging research institutions, and/or community colleges

Session Areas of Focus

We are accepting proposals within the following four areas of focus:

Teaching & Learning in I&E

  • How to engage students effectively and equitably with technology (e.g., using AI as a tool for innovation and teaching)
  • Strategies for teaching inclusive innovation/asset-based learning
  • Strategies for teaching social and environmental sustainability
  • Successful experiential opportunities that help students apply their classroom knowledge in real-world or interactive settings
  • Teaching and learning in entrepreneurial support programs including competitions, makerspaces, accelerators, incubators, and mentoring services
  • Techniques for teaching across disciplines
  • Teaching invention & Intellectual Property
  • Approaches for evaluating learning

The target audience is faculty and staff.

Institutional I&E Strategies for Impact

  • Building and sustaining I&E policies, processes, and programs on campus
  • Funding and development
  • Leading with an entrepreneurial and innovative mindset

The target audience is leadership and administration.

Ecosystem Development in I&E

  • Identifying missing partnerships or resources needed for future innovation in the I&E ecosystem
  • National, regional, and place-based I&E
  • Engaging with industry (public-private partnerships)
  • Cross-institutional collaboration
  • Pathways for long-term & inclusive community engagement
  • Supporting and engaging early-stage innovators and startups, including formation, acceleration, IP commercialization, and venture capital

The target audience is faculty, staff, leadership and administration.

Research in Higher Education I&E

  • Effective I&E teaching practices
  • I&E ecosystem–building within higher education institutions
  • Methods for institutions to strengthen their position in larger I&E ecosystems that include industry and government
  • Ethics and ethical inventing
  • Impact of STEM entrepreneurship on individuals
  • Emerging technologies and trends in higher ed I&E
  • How to increase cultural competence
  • The intersection of entrepreneurship and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)

The target audience is faculty, graduate students, and researchers.

Please note: If you are interested in presenting or demonstrating a specific tool, product, or service, we welcome your participation and have engagement opportunities designed for this purpose. Please contact to discuss your ideas!

Session Formats

OPEN Deep Dives (60 minutes) *New*
OPEN Deep Dive sessions allow for a more focused, in-depth exploration of an I&E subject matter at an intermediate or advanced level. Each presenter will be paired with someone presenting on a related theme. Speakers will be given 20 minutes to present, allowing for 20 minutes for audience Q&A at the end. Deep Dive sessions will be recorded, edited, and made available for viewing and use after OPEN. Limited slots are available.

OPEN Ignites (60 minutes)
OPEN Ignites sessions allow participants to engage with three presenters in small round-table discussions from a selection of six tables. Each discussion includes a 10-minute presentation followed by a 5-minute Q&A period. After visiting three tables, attendees have a chance to report out their takeaways to the full group so that everyone can hear ideas from each table. Please note: We have adjusted the OPEN Ignites format from last year. Speakers will not present with slides, but handouts and/or QR codes with links to additional information are encouraged.

OPEN Workshops (60 minutes)
OPEN Workshop sessions are highly immersive and emphasize learning by doing. Presenters begin with a brief overview and then dive right into engaging attendees in applying the featured approach or tool(s). Workshops may have up to a maximum of 3 facilitators; small group work is strongly encouraged. The goal is for attendees to leave the session with a work product, tools, or approaches they can immediately implement in their classroom, along with new community connections. Workshop applicants will be asked to provide an agenda for their workshop to ensure that it is interactive.

OPEN Foundations (60 minutes)
OPEN Foundations sessions use a live panel format to provide introductory, foundational content for those new to the field of I&E education. Foundations panelists are seasoned I&E veterans who will share and compare their contrasting experiences on a single topic. We are seeking panelists who are willing to discuss topics in which they have passion, expertise, and/or experience. Foundations sessions will be recorded, edited, and made available for viewing and use after OPEN. Limited slots are available. Here are three examples from last year’s conference:

There are two ways to apply: (1) submit your proposal as an individual and we will match you with other panelists, or (2) submit your proposal including up to 4 panelists total. Panel topics may include the following (however, other topics may emerge based on expertise of prospective panelists):

  • Starting from zero: initiating I&E course content, standalone courses, programs, or other initiatives on campus, and how to amplify impact
  • Engaging a broader audience: underrepresented groups, non-engineering majors, graduate students integrated with undergraduates, nontraditional students, etc.
  • Regional entrepreneurship: engaging in place-based and/or community-engaged entrepreneurship
  • The role of faculty with student teams: activating, mentoring, and/or managing
  • Makerspaces: getting started, specialization, collaboration, centralization, or other related topics

Innovating Futures Spotlight Poster Session (90 minutes)
The OPEN Innovating Futures Spotlight is a poster session reimagined. Presenters share their research or teaching practice that spotlights unique, innovative, and future-focused approaches for engaging in I&E within higher education. During this 90-minute, reception-style session, presenters will discuss their research and techniques with participants, using a poster as a visual aid. Participants will cast their vote for the “most likely to adopt” and “most innovative” ideas, and prizes will be given to our top posters. Each Spotlight may have up to 2 presenters. Presenters will be provided with a poster template for the session but will be responsible for printing their own poster. Posters will be displayed throughout the entire conference so that attendees have ample time to review and learn from these approaches.

How To Apply

All proposal materials must be submitted through VentureWell’s online application system. The deadline for submissions is 11:59 p.m. ET on October 31, 2023. To start, you’ll need to sign in or create a VentureWell account. Click here to access an existing account or to create a new one: Log in, find the OPEN Call for Proposals link, and complete the steps!

To create and submit your proposal, you will need to complete the following:

  • Proposed session title: Make it descriptive and compelling!
  • Additional session presenters and facilitators: Names, titles, organizations and emails.
  • Area of focus: Select the one that most fits your proposed session.
  • Target audience: Who will benefit from this session and why?
  • Preferred format type: Select one of the 5 available session formats: OPEN Deep Dives, OPEN Ignites, OPEN Workshops, OPEN Foundations, or Innovating Futures Spotlight Poster Session. If you do not have a preference, or are not sure, please say so and we’ll choose what we think will work best for your session.
  • Full session description: What will your session be about? What are the goals for your session? How will it be interactive? If you are proposing a workshop, provide a high-level agenda, including a description of the hands-on activity. Please limit your description to 150 words.
  • Abbreviated session description: This is what will appear in the program app. Please include a short, clear description that will encourage participants to attend plus three actionable takeaways for your session. Please limit your description to 50 words.


  • October 31, 2023: Call for Proposals Closes
  • December 1, 2023: Notifications Sent
  • December 15, 2023: Deadline for Speakers To Accept/Reject
  • March 18-20, 2024: OPEN 2024


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Having technical difficulty with the application? Contact

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