13th Annual Symposium
Save-the-date: June 12-14, 2024 | College Park, MD

Plenary Panel – Ask Me Anything: Lessons Learned on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility from NSF I-Corps


Charleson Bell, PhD, NSF I-Corps Hub Mid-South Region Director, Vanderbilt University

Dean Chang, PhD, Chief Innovation Officer, University of Maryland; Lead PI, NSF I-Corps Hub Mid-Atlantic Region 

Ji Mi Choi, NSF I-Corps Hub Desert and Pacific Region Director, Arizona State University

Stacyann P. Russell, NSF I-Corps Hub West Region Director, University of Southern California

Why is it that it’s only after a DEIA session officially ends that the tough, honest questions get asked? We’re here to jump right to those questions and have courageous conversations. In this interactive Chatham House Rules session (facilitating free and open communication, but respecting confidentiality), panelists will share lessons learned from their leadership with broadening participation including with the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program. Each panelist will also share broader lessons in leadership, data management, change management and their own lived experiences navigating diversity initiatives including those that are and are not inclusive nor equitable.

Attendees are encouraged to bring their own observations, questions, lessons learned to share with each other in this session intended to encourage open dialogue, critical thinking and discussion, and challenge the status quo moving past performative actions and good intentions to create change.

Charleson Bell, PhD is the Hub Director of the NSF I-Corps Hub, Mid-South Region led by Vanderbilt University. Dr. Bell, also Director of Entrepreneurship and Biomedical Innovation at the Wond’ry, Vanderbilt’s Center for Innovation, Research Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Associate Director of the Medical Innovators Development Program in the Vanderbilt School of Medicine, is a parallel innovator, serial entrepreneur, and patented inventor with over a decade of experience launching ventures and developing new products. 

The first graduate student at Vanderbilt to receive an investment of venture capital to launch a startup, Charleson uses his innovative mind to combine his engineering knowledge to create novel technologies of great impact. He is a much-respected champion for equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts, creating an innovation culture that cultivates a sense of belonging for all instructors, innovators, participants, and founders. Most importantly, Dr. Bell is a staunch believer that the value and practice of inclusive innovation is critical to optimize the way innovators empathize with humanity and ideate solutions that create positive change across the world.

Dean Chang, PhD. Dean’s passion is helping students and professionals cultivate the innovator and entrepreneurial mindset inside of them. He is UMD’s Chief Innovation Officer and was also founder of UMD’s Academy for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, which aimed to engage every student in innovation. Dean is also the lead PI and an instructor in the NSF Innovation Corps Mid-Atlantic Hub. 


Prior to UMD, Dean was CTO and VP, Gaming Business of Immersion Corporation, a venture-backed, Stanford spinout he helped transform into a publicly traded (NASDAQ: IMMR), world-leading licensor of haptics technology. Dean’s hobbies include tormenting his family with bad Dad jokes and playing pickup basketball and ultimate frisbee. He is also a seasoned RV camper with RV trips in three different countries. Dean holds over 40 patents and degrees from MIT, Stanford, and Wharton.

Ji Mi Choi is the director of the Arizona State University-led I-Corps Hub: Desert and Pacific Region where she leverages her years of experience as a startup founder and ecosystem builder to lead this partnership of eight universities across Arizona, California, Hawai’i, Idaho, and Nevada. Previously at ASU, Ji Mi served as PI of the I-Corps Site, was vice president, Knowledge Enterprise and led the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute as founding executive director in service to ASU students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the greater community.

Ji Mi is a nationally invited speaker on inclusive entrepreneurship and serves on the boards of the StartupAZ Foundation, Springer Nature’s U.S. Research Advisory Council, and numerous other local and national advisory councils and committees for entrepreneur-supporting organizations and programs.

Stacyann P. Russell is the Director of the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps Hub: West Region where she works with nine academic institutions across California, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico to help researchers learn how to translate fundamental research into the marketplace. She also is the Founder and CEO of The Daraja Collective where she works with organizations to launch and scale tech startups in the US and Canada and help global corporations to establish new product development and innovation processes from launch to market entry.


Stacyann’s passion for innovation and entrepreneurship has been molded by her unique past experiences. She started her career as a nuclear engineer and has worked in modeling and simulation, 3D immersive environments, continuous improvement, and operational optimization for manufacturing processes in the automotive, aerospace and defense, communications, and energy industries.