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NCSA announces latest recipient of Fiddler Innovation Fellowship

NCSA is excited to announce the latest recipient of the Fiddler Innovation Fellowship, Jewel Ifeguni. Ifeguni, a senior in communications within the University of Illinois’ College of Liberals Arts & Sciences and also the Founder and CEO of YouMatter Studios, was awarded the $10,000 Fiddler Innovation Fellowship at the Illinois Innovation Prize ceremony which took place in conjunction with the Cozad New Venture Challenge Finals event at the I Hotel and Conference Center on April 10, 2019.

The Fiddler Innovation Fellowship is part of a $2 million endowment from Jerry Fiddler and Melissa Alden to the University of Illinois in support of the Emerging Digital Research and Education in Arts Media (eDream) Institute, which is based at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA).

This annual student scholarship is awarded by eDream to an undergraduate student who shows promise of significant, innovative achievements. The goal of the Fellowship is to inspire students to propose significant research projects that address cultural or global challenges that incorporate art and technology. With the support of eDream, selected students work with a faculty mentor or mentors of his/her choosing to develop and complete a substantial project. Funding for the Fellowship is based on student needs and the requirements of the proposed project.

“Often times, research challenges cannot fit within the scope of a single discipline,” said Donna Cox, Director eDream and NCSA’s Advanced Visualization Lab. “To have an award that explicitly provides resources for students to transcend traditional discipline borders is priceless, and we are incredibly thankful to Jerry Fiddler and Melissa Alden for their generous contribution.”

Ifeguni, one of five finalists for the 2019 Illinois Innovation Prize, is the founder and CEO of YouMatter Studios, a virtual reality (VR) media startup focused on diversity and inclusion in media. Driven by the lack of representation of marginalized groups in the video games, Jewel Ifeguni developed her first venture, QUEEN, a video game to empower young black girls like her sister. She then launched YouMatter Studios to innovate “the way we understand representation.” YouMatter Studios is spearheading and empowering marginalized voices through digital storytelling and immersive workshops. Ifeguni is passionate about creating VR films, web series or workshops to spark important dialogues and innovate representation. She is dedicated to creating content that will enlighten, empower, and inspire future generations. Currently, Ifeguni and her team are working on a three-part VR film that addresses relations between police and marginalized groups.

Through support from the Fiddler Innovation Fellowship, Ifeguni hopes to continue her research on minority police relations. As part of their initial plan, they hope to facilitate a community healing workshop in which activists, academics, and police officers can discuss community concerns and work together to find solutions.

“I am still at a loss for words… it’s the validation I need that I belong in the entrepreneurship community,” Ifeguni says. “I am extremely grateful and it feels amazing that NCSA has the faith in me and YouMatter Studios to innovate the way we see representation. Only big things to come!”

You can follow Ifeguni and YouMatter Studios’ journey to building a media company through their YouTube show, #JewelzStartupJourney.

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