Last Friday, CSE advisory board member Charlie MacCormack spoke on the importance of “intrapreneurship,” the process of rolling out an innovative concept within the framework of an existing organization.
MacCormack, a ’63 Middlebury graduate, currently serves as the College’s Executive in Residence. Previously, MacCormack was president and CEO of Save the Children from 1993 until 2011. Save the Children is an independent nonprofit humanitarian child assistance organization with programs in the U.S. and more than 50 other countries, an annual budget of $550 million, and more than 6,000 staffers. In his leadership roles at Save the Children, MacCormack says he often assumed the role of intrapreneur, using the organization’s existing platform to launch new programs that addressed children’s needs in innovative ways.
While entrepreneurs are often seen as the new rock stars of business culture, becoming an intrapreneur is a way to capitalize on your entrepreneurial streak minus the risks associated with building something from scratch. According to MacCormack, taking an original idea and leveraging the assets of an existing organization — an established revenue stream, credibility, existing governance and systems — can ensure the success and even enhance the impact of your big idea.
“Consciously and unconsciously, people recognize stability, organization, trustworthiness,” Said MacCormack. “The benefits of an established reputable name for an organization and its revenue generation are huge. It makes it a thousand times easier to scale a successful innovation if you already have global reach – it would take forever to produce that from scratch.”
MacCormack added that liberal arts graduates already hold the qualities necessary to become a successful intrapreneur. “The liberal arts and all its insights — curiosity, cross-cultural interest, openness, innovative thinking — produces these people who will be dramatically more successful than those that pursue linear educations and careers when it comes to bringing value and innovation to organizations.”
“I would argue that there is no alternative but entrepreneurship, both for corporations and for individuals,” MacCormack told his audience. “The pace of change has become so pervasive and rapid that to fail to adapt is to be left behind, in one form or another. And I would hypothesize that the survival rates of big ideas that are housed in the right organization with the right elements is dramatically better than startups and small team efforts.”
“I had no intention of becoming an entrepreneur,” Lucie Ide ’97 told her audience on Friday afternoon.
The statement seems hard to believe, since Lucie is the founder and CEO of Rimidi, a software platform designed to harness big data to deliver better outcomes for patients with diabetes.
But then again, Lucie’s career sounds like it has been pretty unbelievable so far. Her bio on the Rimidi website reads, “Lucie brings her diverse experiences in medicine, science, venture capital and technology to bear in leading Rimidi’s strategy and vision.”
“Diverse” is certainly true. Her resume reads like a laundry list of the most sought-after positions in some of the most competitive job industries; and, from the perspective of a college senior, the ease with which Lucie has jumped from industry to industry seems impossibly impressive. In the fifteen years since her college graduation, Lucie has worked for the NSA, dabbled in venture capital, went back to graduate school to get her M.D. Ph D., completed her residency as an OB/GYN, worked for a healthcare consulting firm, and co-founded her own company. And she has three children. In an age when we are constantly talking about ‘leaning in’ and questioning whether women can ‘have it all’, Lucie seems to be making a strong case for the affirmative.
While her career path so far has been anything but linear, she chalked up the diversity of her professional experiences to hard work, a tendency to question the status quo, and a knack for problem solving.
A strong desire to make a difference and contribute value to society led her from venture capital to medical school. Yet during her residency, she kept coming up against systems problems within the medical practice, and found herself challenging and changing the ways in which emergencies were routinely handled. Through this experience, Lucie saw an opportunity to do greater good by improving the overall system.
“I have these core values of working hard while contributing value to society. I noticed a tendency in myself to always question why we do things the way we do them, and I realized that with my skill set, I can make the most difference questioning the system and through innovation,” she said.
She decided to stop practicing medicine, and took a position in healthcare consulting. In this position, she learned that the United States spends $450,000 a minute on managing diabetes nation wide and only 7% of diabetes patients are meeting their treatment goals.
“I found this really strange, because diabetes is one of the best studied diseases out there,” Lucie said. “We understand it really well, and yet we continue to manage it poorly. And people care about it, from a health perspective and economically. People are willing to put money behind this problem.”
This realization led Lucie to team up with co-founder Michael Albisser to found Rimidi, a healthcare management startup that offers a software solution to physicians and diabetes patients to help identify gaps in diabetes treatment and create a more efficient cycle of care.
“Medicine is fundamental to our health, and fundamental to our economic situation as a country,” she told her audience on Friday. “Social entrepreneurship is identifying systems problems, while creating jobs and wealth and your community. In a sense, all entrepreneurship is social.”
Lucie Ide’s advice on how to be a change maker:
- Don’t call out a problem unless you’re willing to be part of the solution. You lose credibility and you lose opportunity to make a real change. You need to have an idea of how to fix it.
- Understand your stakeholders. You need to be able to see and understand the players and why the status quo is what is it. Either there’s a large barrier to change or there’s someone who is benefiting from the status quo.
- Prepare for failure: Get over being afraid of it, and accept that it’s going to happen. If it doesn’t happen, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough, you’re not taking enough risks.
Follow Rimidi on Twitter! @jointherimidi
The Middlebury Center for Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship 2013 selection committee has selected the six student fellows for 2013! Keep reading to meet these six superstar young social entrepreneurs.
Gaby Fuentes ‘16
Gaby a sophomore Psychology major and Educational Studies and Art History double minor. A Chicago native, Gaby is a member of the first Chicago Posse cohort at Middlebury. In the spring of her freshman year, she was awarded the MCSC Summer Grant, which alongside funding from Middlebury alumni allowed her to launch Project: BECOMING Pilsen. In collaboration with Professor Christal Brown, the founder of the program and the chair of the dance program at Middlebury College, Gaby expanded Project: BECOMING, an empowerment program including dance and dialogue for teenage girls, to Chicago. The program worked closely with Pilsen, a predominately Mexican-American neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago. She spends much of her time outside of academics involved in themes that affect Mexican-American communities. Other activities that Gaby participates in on campus include Residential Life, Distinguished Men of Color, Café con Leché, and Alianza.
Sarah James ’16.5
Sarah, a sophomore Feb from Cleveland, Ohio, is an English and American Literatures major and an Environmental Studies minor. During her gap semester, Sarah interned at a human rights law firm in Cleveland and spent time in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. While in Cambodia, Sarah taught English and French to young children infected with HIV. This past summer, Sarah graduated from Middlebury’s MiddCORE program, where she now works as an intern. On campus, Sarah also serves as a founding mother and student advocate for Middlebury College’s soon-to-be launched sexual assault advocacy program.
Sarah believes the key to creating lasting social change lies in solving our climate crisis. As a CSE fellow, Sarah looks forward to learning more about how social entrepreneurship can work to improve both environmental and education issues simultaneously.
Rabeya Jawaid ‘16
Rabeya grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, but attended high school in Hong Kong before coming to Middlebury. Last year, Rabeya organized a program to train deaf Pakistani women how to sew and embroider as well as how to communicate in sign language in order to help these women gain financial independence, and she returned to Pakistan last summer to implement her project with a grant from the MCSE. Rabeya is currently undeclared but is considering majoring in Economics, and is passionate about women’s rights, public policy and journalism.
Winson Law ‘16
Winson Law was born and raised in Seattle, WA. After graduating from high school, he served as a Global Citizen Year Fellow in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Challenged by learning Portuguese, navigating a new culture, and figuring out how to use the city’s bus system, Winson discovered the value of taking intentional time away from academics. He arrived at Middlebury with new questions and curiosities about the world. Guided by these questions, Winson is currently studying Geography. He draws inspiration from people who have dared to compete, unconventional approaches to old problems, and his family.
Among many developing interests, Winson plans to increase access to gap semester and bridge year opportunities. He is also interested in human centered design thinking.
Debanjan Roychoudhury ‘16
Debanjan is a sophomore Sociology major from Queens, New York. He attended public school in Queens for grades 1-12 before being awarded the Posse Foundation Scholarship. He has always valued civic engagement and community building as an essential part of a complete academic experience. As a result of this, he is actively involved with Addison County Teens, mentoring high school students and facilitating poetry/Hip-Hop workshops. While mentoring he draws upon his experiences performing as a Rap/Spoken Word artist at various academic and artistic institutions around the country. On campus Debanjan is also a member of the Student Advisory Board for the Center for Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity, as well as a board member of Distinguished Men of Color.
Debanjan was a Field/Organizing Intern this past summer for New Yorkers for de Blasio, campaigning throughout New York City for the recent mayoral election.
Mzwakithi Prestige Shongwe ‘16
An International Politics & Economics major with an African Studies minor, Prestige grew up in the Kingdom of Swaziland in Southern Africa, in loving family of five in a community that had a strong Swazi tradition, and experienced social hardships such as the spread of HIV during the early 2000s.
“I sometimes think back to the images of the Mozambican women in my neighborhood who made a living as fresh fruit vendors in the local market,” Prestige said, reflecting on his sources of inspiration. “In their silent, patient and preserving way, they went from nearly escaping Mozambique’s civil war to providing an education of their children through working hard in a country that did not document them as legal citizens.”
In working with the CSE, Prestige hopes to learn more about different models of financial sustainability, and incorporating lessons learnt from these experiences in making his organization, Platforms for Hope, more financially-independent and sound.
On Saturday, October 26, we welcomed back fourteen young entrepreneurial and creative alumni to sit on the Young Alumni Showcase Panel. This year’s theme was Creating Impact Through Design, and the panelists were invited to share the lessons they have learned, the ventures they have undertaken, and the ideas they have been exposed to since leaving Middlebury. They pitched their ideas, challenged students to share their own, and offered their advice on pursuing an impactful and creative career path.
The panelists and participants culminated the session by collectively coming up with a list of ways in which we can be successful in our creative work. Here are the 10 things we came up with. What would you add to the list?
How to Work Creatively:
2. Don’t Design in a Box
3. Think About the Problem First
4. Find People Whose Skills Compliment Your Own
5. Hang Out With Little People More. Children are inspiring.
6. Focus on the process, not the product
7. Innovate Within Constraints. Challenge yourself.
8. Invite Criticism & Constructive Feedback
9. Listen and Ask Questions
10. Know Your Weaknesses and Know What You Need From People Around You
What do you think of our list??
The panelists included:, Ryaln Kellet ’09.5, Maggie Smith ’09.5, Pier LaFarge ’10 , Ben Silton ’11, Annie Maleka ’11.5, Doug DeBold ’12, Shane Scranto ’12, Brian Sirkia ’12.5, , Esme Lutz ’12, , Kara Shurmantine ’12, and Austin Ritter ’12.5, Hannah Judge ’12.5, Anna Clements ’12.5, Peter DiPrinzio ’13, Corinne Prevot ’13
As one person in the room put it on Friday, Pier LaFarge ’10 is the “king of social entrepreneurship” — and they weren’t far from the truth. During his time at Middlebury and in the short time since he graduated, LaFarge has taken on the role of social entrepreneur in several endeavors. While at Middlebury, he co-founded the Race to Replace campaign, a grassroots movement that sought to raise awareness about Vermont’s clean energy future during the election season, bringing the issue to the forefront of the political debate and agenda.
“It all started with a bicycle,” LaFarge said of his career in social entrepreneurship. “The Race to Replace campaign, something I got started with through Sunday Night Group with Ben Wessel. Even in a state in liberal as progressive as Vermont, there is change to be made.”
After graduation, LaFarge went on to work for ICF International, a consulting firm that specializes in technology solutions in energy and the environment. While at ICF, LaFarge implemented social finance consulting as a new service offering at the firm and co-created ICF’s Green Revolving Loan Fund, showcasing his social intrapreneurship skills. “The great thing about being an intrapreneur, as a opposed to an entrepreneur, is that you have this unique chance to innovate, but its from within, so you get all these resources behind you to do incredible things, ”said LaFarge.
His work at ICF led him to realize that there was a lack of energy efficiency financing for smaller-scale projects in the market. “I could see that energy efficiency financing had this split structure with big projects on one side that were being really well served by energy finance companies, banks, etc. — but small projects with same risk structure and same returns, no one would finance. The biggest reason wasn’t a lack of awareness or demand, it was just a structural misfit.”
This realization led LaFarge to leave his job at ICF to found Spark, an online crowd investment platform that connects individual investors to high-quality projects in energy efficiency, giving small organizations the capital they need to improve their energy efficiency.
In reflecting on his new venture, LaFarge gave credit to his Middlebury education. “Never underestimate the power of an education that thinks about systems, about how forces act in those systems, and that brings together these discipline,” LaFarge told the students in the room. “Social Entrepreneurship is nothing — in fact, business is nothing —if not about communication, about storytelling, design, critical thinking. It’s every discipline all at once. There is nothing more liberal arts-y than social entrepreneurship.”
Pier shared his words of wisdom for the students and aspiring social entrepreneurs in the room:
Social entrepreneurship is a spectrum: “Social entrepreneurship can be activism, or it can be a for-profit enterprise. Finding innovative solutions to social problems is the common thread. Social entrepreneurship is identifying negative externalities and building structures to fix them and make them better.”
Profit is not a dirty word. “Profit and private sector are not dirty words. They aren’t the “other” — they are not other things that those other people do. We are change makers. We want to make change. Profit is one of our most powerful tools to do it.”
Find things people hate and build things that solve them. “If you can do this, than you get this cycle of revenue that people give you to solve the problem, and then change being made increases visibility for your business. Profit reinforces change, and change reinforces profit.”
Social Entrepreneurship is the new economy: “The old economy was focused on improving society, marketing something as better than what you had. Social entrepreneurship solves a problem no one has tried to solve before, or that unlocks an opportunity that the market has overlooked or failed to solve.”
“Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. Put your ideas through the wringer, and expose it to people with more experience than you. Never stop connecting. Give back, and give back often: give back money, give back time, give back passion. “
In 2001, Silvia Barretto-Croce inherited her father’s coffee farm in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Coffee has been the main export item in Brazil since the 1800s, and her family founded their farm in 1850. Barretto-Croce grew up on her father’s farm in Brazil, but she had moved to the U.S. in 1991 with her husband to raise her family. She managed the farm from the United States for 9 years, but in 2010, she and her husband moved back to Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (loosely translated to “Environmental Fortress Farm” in Portuguese) to run the farm full-time.
Barretto-Croce felt strongly that the farm be organic, even though she knew making that transition would be costly. She immediately banished all toxic materials from the farm and integrated the crop land with the surrounding forest and water as an active part of the production system: she was able to harness the energy of the neighboring streams to generate hydropower for the farm, and she incorporated different species into the soil — adding fruit trees to the coffee plantations to prevent monoculture and allowing insects to live in the soil.
Today, FAF is a model of a sustainable organic farm — socially, environmentally, and financially — for other businesses and within their community. Her father’s old coffee farm has grown to become a triple-bottom line organic farm, and she has inspired surrounding farmers: She and her husband established Bob-o-link Farmers, a network of coffee farmers in the region who hold a common goal of producing the best coffee using sustainable methods.
During our Friday Speaker Series in Axinn last Friday, Barretto-Croce shared the moments and events in her life that have led to her vision and success today.
The Bees – “The bees. That’s what woke me up.” Barretto-Croce told the audience. “I started beekeeping after college, and when I worked with the bees I could always tell when someone had been using chemicals nearby. They were being affected by that kind of farming, and they were being killed by the chemicals. That’s when I realized the importance of organic farming, because everything was connected in the ecosystem. With bee keeping, you can’t help it — you know how important organic is, because you can see it in the hive and in the honey, that there is a relationship between everything.”
The Dictatorship: “When I moved to the United States with my husband, I was very curious about the democracy here, because I grew up in a dictatorship. I knew that Brazil was about to change back to democracy, but that the time, Brazil didn’t know what democracy was all about. We were used to the dictator fixing all of the problems. Suddenly, I saw the importance of solving problems from the bottom up.”
“I married an entrepreneur from Italy.” My husband had always worked in exports — so he was constantly analyzing the market, thinking about trade. Coffee has been the main export in Brazil since the 1800s. And then we started a family in the U.S., and our family ate only organic, and we saw the growing organic market. Little by little we started thinking about health, and how to invest in our family’s health.”
“I joined the PTA.” I joined the Parent-Teachers Association at my kids’ school. I became a soccer mom [laughing], but I also learned how to solve problems. We would get together and talk about our community, and our children, and I saw how to make change happen.”
Rachel Sider ’14 spoke at the International and Global Studies speaker series on Friday, October 4 about her Davis Project for Peace, an initiative called “Empowering Voices” which encouraged public artistic expression among Syrian refugees living in Jordan.
A number of Empowering Voices artists gather together for an evening of painting and fun.
While the insurgency uprising in Syria and president Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons have global caused outrage and concern for human rights, the refugee crisis caused by the ongoing 30-month-long civil war is often overlooked.
A country of 6 million, Jordan has absorbed at least 600,000 displaced Syrians. As the civil war rages on, many Jordanians are becoming increasing wary of the flood of refugees into their country.
Jordan has had a history of receiving refugees from neighboring countries: Millions of Palestinians flooded into Jordan after the partition of the Palestinian territories, the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who have entered Jordan over the past two decades remain in the country, and the thousands of Lebanese seeking to flee the country during skirmishes with Israel over the last few decades have also sought Jordan as refuge. Jordan has absorbed millions of foreigners over the last two decades, and the latest influx of Syrian refugees has threatened to push the country over the edge.
While Sider was studying abroad in Amman last spring, she noticed that the refugee situation was causing social tensions as the notion of Jordanian hospitality was tested. She could see that Jordanians were becoming frustrated, anxious about mounting levels of migration, and as communities became over crowded and the already-high demand on public services continued to mount, Sider sensed that the demographic mosaic of the country was nearing a breaking point.
In response to this growing tension, Sider founded Empowering Voices, a project that brought together Syrian refugees in Amman, Jordan to create public art documenting their migrant experiences. Empowering Voices created a network of artist-activists within the Syrian migrant refugees and established a public exhibition, displaying their works of art across the city of Amman.
“It required me to build people’s trust, and it took me a long time to integrate into society there,” Sider said. “I encountered several challenges throughout the project, logistics-wise, and in trying to bridge the gap between the Jordanian and Syrian communities.”
“I wanted to work with artists because they are young professionals with training and passion but without a way to express it — these artists are working as secretaries, as janitors, because those are only jobs they can get as a refugee,” Sider continued. “I wanted to use their talent, and I found they had this power to project their voice across Jordanian society and engage everyday people. I learned the value of art in making social change. ”
A group of EV artists helping install the portraits of Syrian children for the final exhibition.
Obeida, Mustafa and Firas hanging out while painting at the studio space.
Armel Nibasumba ’16 and Rabeya Jawaid ’16 were invited to attend the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York City from Sept. 25-27.
Rabeya Jawaid ’16 (far left) and Armel Nibasumba ’16 (far right) pose with a fellow UWC alum and CBS Vice President Chris Isham.
Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.
Nibasumba and Jawaid, who are both alums of United World College (UWC) international schools, were invited through their affiliation with UWC, a CGI member organization, to join over one thousand leaders from across sectors in participating in the ninth CGI annual meeting.
The theme for this year’s annual meeting was “Mobilizing for Impact,” and the meeting’s agenda was designed to enable the participants — largely a mix of chief executives, heads of state and celebrities — to consider how they might improve the ways in which they leverage people, organizations and resources in their achieving the Commitments to Action made by all attendees.
Jawaid and Nibasumba both attended the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) conference in St. Louis last April, a similar conference which invites university students from all over the world to make commitments to global social issues. The two students also received summer grants from the MCSE to implement their Commitments to Action made while at CGI U.
Jawaid, who hails from Karachi, Pakistan, received $3,000 from MCSE to implement her Commitment to Action over the summer to provide deaf women in Pakistan with vocational training. Nibasumba, a native of Burundi, also received a grant from the MCSE to teach peace-building and entrepreneurship skills to young adults in his home country.
The two sophomores were invited to participate in a panel session moderated by Chris Isham, vice president of CBS. The two Middlebury students, along with a third UWC alum, spoke about their respective social enterprise projects and how UWC alums can continue working towards the school’s commitment to sustainable peace after graduation.
“It was inspirational to be among such talented, successful individuals,” said Jawaid of the experience. “I talked at length to UWC coordinators, [CBS Vice President] Chris Isham and [Standard Chartered Bank CEO] Peter Sands all of whom inspired me to not give up on Pakistan, which can be a challenge. It enabled me to look for networks and people who can help me in the future to work for global harmony and peace.”
“There were so many people doing incredible things, and it just inspires you,” added Nibasumba. “I was surrounded by other people who are committed to helping people.It was great to feel like I was a part of the movers and shakers. And it was a good reminder that there are so many problems and issue around our communities that we can actually change. You don’t need to be Barack Obama, you don’t need to try to change the whole country. But you can change your community, change your school, change your hallway in your dorm. That’s what CGI is about.”
As I was sitting in the audience in Axinn last week listening to the CSE grant recipients give their presentations on their social enterprises, I was, in short, totally blown away.
During the talks, I was completely absorbed in listening to the nine sophomores discuss the challenges they had to overcome while building solutions to systemic social problems all over the world.
But after leaving Axinn later that afternoon, I started reflecting on my own experience with social entrepreneurship — and couldn’t help comparing myself to these students three years my junior. Cue the pangs of inadequacy. What have I been DOING with my life??
I first was introduced to the CSE when I took Social Entrepreneurship in the Liberal Arts with Professor Isham during J-term in 2012. We spent the month pulling apart social entrepreneurship as a discipline, mulling over its role at a liberal arts institution and in our own lives. Professor Isham pushed us to develop a personal narrative and figure out where social entrepreneurship fit into our own lives. After learning about the work of Jacqueline Novogratz, Muhammad Yunus and Bill Drayton, I was, quite simply, totally psyched about social entrepreneurship.
A year later, I signed up for MiddCORE. MiddCORE’s challenge of formulating an idea, further developing it through conversations with mentors, and convincingly articulating it in a pitch to a crowded room was an incredibly valuable process, and left me with a renewed belief in the potential and the importance of entrepreneurship. I was struck by the wide range of ideas presented by my classmates; their ideas were completely innovative and exciting, and I was so impressed by the depth of creativity surrounding me.
My excitement around entrepreneurship and innovation led me to MassChallenge this summer. Based out of Boston, MassChallenge is the world’s largest startup accelerator and competition, and the first to support early stage companies with no strings attached. Over a 4-month period, MassChallenge accelerates 128 early-stage companies by connecting them with resources and investors that will help them to grow their ideas into viable and successful companies. And if I don’t already sound like a walking advertisement for MassChallenge, let me add: working there was the coolest summer internship of all time.
There was so much innovation and creativity going on in our offices that the place felt like it was literally humming with energy and activity. I went to pitch competitions and startup showcases. I met serial entrepreneurs who had started their own company several times over, and people who had just quit their jobs because they believed in their own idea. I talked with investors and venture capitalists and all kinds of industry experts who have heard enough pitches to recognize when a good idea is more than just a good idea.
All three of these experiences — my social entrepreneurship course, MiddCORE, and my internship at MassChallenge — shaped me as a student and as a person. I learned about the root causes of some of the systemic problems across the globe; I learned how enterprise and economics can be used to address social problems; I learned what a good idea looks like, how to pitch it effectively to a crowd, and what it takes to implement it.
In response to my earlier question (What have I been DOING with my life??): I’ve been learning.
It’s also worth noting at this point that I ended up in each of those three experiences despite a remarkable lack of planning on my part. I took Social Entrepreneurship because I wanted to drop the class I initially registered for, and my roommates were already in the class; I signed up for MiddCORE on something of a whim, and I heard about MassChallenge through a good friend and former fellow Campus editor who graduated from Midd in 2012. That is to say: Each of these experiences was totally life changing, and I stumbled into each pretty much by accident. But it’s not a coincidence that Middlebury is the common denominator.
My point is that it’s ok if you haven’t changed the world yet. But you’re at a place that equips you to do some pretty big things, and you can do a lot with the things you’re learning. Middlebury is like an incubator for smart people who care about making a difference in the world, so take advantage of all that we are offered here. If you can’t be a social entrepreneur, be a student of social entrepreneurship: Learn about the problems, and learn how to think about the solutions. Take the classes and pursue the internships that will give you the skills to one day tackle the issues you are passionate about.
Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. But if you don’t have the solutions yet, at least come learn about the problems. Go to the Friday Speaker Series. Ask questions. Connect with others. Stay curious, engage your empathy, surround yourself with interesting people, and what feels like serendipity going forward might eventually look like an impressively well-thought-out 5-year plan in retrospect.
By Kelsey Collins ’13.5
Last Friday, we kicked off our 2013 Friday speaker series with presentations from our nine CSE Summer Grant recipients.
Rabeya Jawaid ’16 recounts her experience in Pakistan while MSCE staff and advisory board members look on at our first MLab on September 13.
Summer Grant Recipient Armel Nibasumba ’16 and Advisory Board Member Hal Colston
Summer Grant Recipient Gaby Fuentes ’16 shows off a collage made by a Project Becoming Pilsen participant
A large crowd of nearly eighty students, professors, and members of our advisory board gathered in an Axinn classroom to hear how these nine Middlebury sophomores spent their summers working on four projects for social change in Swaziland, Burundi, Pakistan and Chicago.
Gaby Fuentes, a sophomore from Chicago, launched into her presentation with an explanation of how her upbringing in a large Mexican-American family fostered a love of dance from an early age. After meeting Assistant Professor of Dance Christal Brown, Gaby spent the summer launching a week-long pilot program which focused on serving disempowered young girls in Chicago through a curriculum of dance, yoga, music as well as motivational and educational discussions.
Rabeya Jawaid traveled to Karachi, Pakistan and organized a program to train deaf Pakistani women how to sew and embroider as well as how to communicate in sign language in order to help these women gain financial independence. Rabeya grew up in Pakistan, but attended high school in Hong Kong, and returned to her childhood community with the hope of making sustainable social change. Rabeya’s ability to organize people and resources was apparent as she told her story.
“I think the most important thing I learned during my time there was about how to be a leader,” Rabeya noted during her presentation. “I have had the opportunity in the past to go to lots of leadership conferences, and going to conferences is helpful — but not as helpful as having your feet on the ground and getting things done.”
Rabeya was followed by Betty Kobia and Armel Nibasuma, who worked together to facilitate a week-long peace-building camp called Twese for Peace for 30 high school students in Burundi. The pair focused on peace building and youth empowerment to break the taboo surrounding race and ethnicity in Burundi, where the tension between Hutus and Tutsis has resulted in genocide and civil war in the past.
“We wanted to create a safe space where the students could build friendships,” explained Armel. “You need to have sustainable peace to have sustainable economic development. Those two things are so closely tied, and if you don’t have one then you don’t have the other.”
Jin Ying Teoh, Adrian Leong, Mzwakithi Shongwe and Roksana Gabidulina wrapped up the afternoon with their presentation on their work for Platforms for Hope, a program to design and distribute lap desks for students in Swaziland.
The four students talked about some of the challenges they faced in designing their project, such as finding a sustainable price point for the desks and coordinating manufacturing and distribution.
“We learned that sustainable change does not come easily or quickly,” Roksana said. “But it does come with the support of the community.”
After the presentations, the nine grant recipients along with the CSE staff and advisory board members gathered at the CSE for the first MLab of the fall to share their successes and challenges with one another and to compare notes on their experiences.
“I consider myself something of an expert in entrepreneurship,” Armel joked while talking about some of his key takeaways from the experience. “But really — you don’t have to be Mark Zuckerberg to be an entrepreneur. You just have to know your community, and be committed to solving social issues.”