Tearing down barriers in female education in the Dominican Republic
I was very fortunate to spend a week at the Teresa Toda Hogar in Azua, Dominican Republic, teaching math at a session of summer school for 33 girls ages and ranging from six to 18 years old. The girls live at the Hogar during the school year and return for two weeks during the summer, often having developed skin and hygiene complications along with signs of malnutrition. The public education system in the Dominican Republic faces challenges similar to those of many underdeveloped countries, including overcrowded classrooms, poor-quality facilities, outdated curriculums, and extremely high dropout rates. Additionally, there is inequality in access to education, especially to children living in rural areas of poverty like the Azua Province. Through this Hogar, these girls receive access to a better school, one-on-one tutoring opportunities, and an overall emphasis on the importance of female education. As Malala said, “One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.” The nuns who run this home are helping to tear down boundaries and change the worlds of these strong young women, and I was very grateful for the opportunity to help these future leaders take yet another step forward.
Abby Konkoly ’20
Exploring language and culture in Lebanon
With the help of the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics, I was able to study at the American University of Beirut this summer. For two months, I studied in the intensive Summer Arabic Program. This program provides integrated instruction in both the formal, Modern Standard Arabic and in the colloquial, Lebanese Arabic. This rigorous level of instruction enabled me to rapidly increase my Arabic skills and provided me with an invaluable opportunity to study Lebanese Arabic for the first time. The program also had many opportunities to explore Lebanon and learn about Lebanese society. One weekend, the students in the program traveled out to eastern Lebanon and volunteered for a day at a school located in a refugee camp. The numerous experiences I had around Lebanon afforded me a new understanding of the language, culture, and people. It is an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Kyle Costa ’20
Analyzing Mexican voting corruption at the Paris School of Economics
Thanks to the support of the Winston Center, I spent the summer of 2018 working as a research assistant at the Paris School of Economics in France under the supervision of Professor Liam Wren-Lewis, doing research within the academic discipline of developmental economics. The project that I worked on concerned voting corruption in Mexican states. The presence of corruption was analyzed by compiling rainfall data by municipality as well as the corresponding insurance payouts, and then cross referencing this information with voting records to try to detect corruption. The ultimate goal of this research was to improve democratic conditions in Mexico. Within this wider project, I worked on compiling a database of voting records by state so that a bootstrap regression could be done on the data to try to find patterns within the allocation of votes. My experience at the Paris School of Economics was truly inspiring and has motivated me to continue my studies in economics. I hope to one day get a Ph.D. in this field, and this internship helped to give me tangible skills that will help me achieve this goal. Beyond the career skills I acquired, I also gained a new sense of myself and the world by living in the cultural capital that is Paris with a new degree of independence. Living in a different culture for a summer truly impressed upon me the idea that while all cultures are distinct in their traditions, it is the diversity of these traditions that makes the world such an exciting place.
Kate Peaquin ’20
Empowering women in India
Mahila Mandals are women empowerment meetings that are the core of the nonprofit organization CORD Siruvani. CORD stands for Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development and aims to address all angles of the complex issues of poverty and health. To do this effectively, CORD must be embedded in the community and maintain a trusting relationship with the villagers. CORD does this through Mahila Mandals and community development workers. Motivated women in the villagages are employed as community health workers by CORD to run the Mahila Mandal meetings in other villages. The majority of my time was spent attending Mahila Mandal meetings. Villagers decide what they want to talk about and CORD provides resources to help them achieve their goals. Meetings aim to promote self-governance and eventually create self-sustainable groups. For example, CORD spends a lot of time teaching women how to interact with their local government and write petitions for services they are obligated to receive. The idea is that women of future generations will grow up educated on their rights and health to improve their quality of life. This experience has changed my world view and impacted my goals for the future. In public health classes or social justice groups like GlobeMed, you learn about these disparities and cycles of poverty but it is different to experience them firsthand. The hardest part for me was seeing the women become inspired but knowing their life reality. Yes, these women can improve their lives and utilize countless services provided by CORD, but it would be incredibly difficult for them to move substantially up in society. CORD aims to change this and provide younger generations with increased educational and financial opportunities; but even with the sustainable groups and changes CORD makes, women are still left to respond to crises and huge disparities created by systems in place. I hope to work in a public health-related field in the future and I am certain that whatever I do, I will work with vulnerable and deserving populations.
Grace Harrington ’19
Launching a social enterprise in Bolivia
I went to Bolivia this summer to help the missionary, Pastor Ko, to launch his food truck social enterprise. He has been in Bolivia more than 15 years and has helped underserved Bolivians by providing skills training and basic needs. Pastor Ko wanted to start a social enterprise to create more sustainable and greater social impact so he could help develop a younger generation of leaders to carry on his work. Through the social enterprise, he believed he could not only continue to provide skills training to underserved Bolivians but also actually hire them. After they are hired for the social enterprise, they can see that they can make living wages by working hard. I have been helping Pastor Ko with this project since last fall. I created a pro forma business model to predict financial outcomes as well as an operational road map to plan out day-to-day business and HR strategy to find the right people at the right time. In addition, I wrote a business plan to submit to foundations that give out grants to our kind of organization. Thus, I spent most of the time working on these back-end tasks, and then I went out to the street with Lucio, the manager of the food truck business, to actually make some sales and see how people react to our menus. During the second half of my time in Bolivia, I helped them find the best place to make sales and developed a service standard to maintain a high quality of service. Also, I evaluated the business based on the pro forma, checking which prediction was right and which prediction was wrong. At the end of my time in Bolivia, I did a presentation on leadership to Lucio and his colleagues, urging them to not only work hard to cook better foods and make more profits but also to constantly think about what kind of leaders they want to become and what they need to do in order to fill the gap. The single most lesson I gained through this project in Bolivia was that it is significant to do well in business. The single most important lesson I learned through this project was that although it is imperative to do well in business, the essential thing is making sure I am developing leadership among the people I am working with. If I only do well in business and not in people, I will not be doing everything I can to make the business sustainable and successful in the long term.
Wonsuk You ’19
Gaining new worldview perspectives in Prague
My experience in Prague and Central Europe this summer has given me an opportunity to mature as an adult, living completely independent of others. I now have a better sense of the challenges that face me beyond graduation and the difficulties of self-maintenance and regulation. Furthermore, it has also allowed me to develop my skills in a fast-paced work environment. I have learned a great deal about both communication and development during my tenure at Greenpeace, Czech Republic. I have had a rapid introduction into the ways in which a larger office runs and the formalities that are included with that. I have also acquired a good sense of how to act in both meetings and work collaboratively and bilaterally even if two parties do not agree–an important skill for a political science student. Finally, I have developed my global fluency and citizenship by having traversed not only Prague but a fair share of central Europe as well. Before going to the Czech Republic, I had been to Italy, Malawi, and the Dominican Republic. These experiences have shaped my views of the world outside of North America but Central Europe challenged a lot of my previous beliefs. Seeing such incredibly different snapshots of the world led me to believe that countries were on some sort of scale from best to worst. The Czech Republic, however, is not nearly as wealthy as Germany or France but still has one of the safest cities on the planet. This, along with many other aspects of Czech government, economy, and society, changed my black and white view of the world dramatically. This experience has been really eye opening and has allowed me an opportunity to widen my view of the world to an extent I did not think was possible.
Steve LeGere ’21
Art, leadership and ethics in Cuba
This grant served as a catalyst for cross-cultural and cross-discipline exchange and opened the door for the intellectual pursuit of art, leadership, and ethics in Cuba. The entire visit introduced me to the cultural and political complexities that exist and required sensitivity to the fact that the artists of which my investigation focused on spearheaded a movement that challenged the status quo and were perceived as traitors to their home country. I came to find that artistic and ethical considerations of these artists differed from the point of view of those still living in Cuba. As both a Winston Center Ambassador and McMullen Museum Ambassador, I had the opportunity to represent both institutions in interacting with National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana (MNBA) staff, scholars, and trustees of Estopiñán’s artworks that ultimately enhanced the connection between members of the Boston College community and the Cuban art community.
Faye Hubregsen, MCAS '17
Protecting sea turtles in Costa Rica
Leadership is the ability to translate vision into reality and this project is a vision that I have been working on for the last two years, to develop technologies that safeguard the conservation of an endagered species. I spent spring break working in Costa Rica at The Leatherback Trust, an international non-profit based in Costa Rica whose goal is to protect the Leatherback and other sea turtle species at risk. I trained local researchers on how to use and test the latest aerial/drone equipment. Our goal was to find applications that could expand researchers’ data collection and increase the efficiency of their operations. We established a number of use cases including visual surveys of bays, autonomous mapping of remote beaches, modeling of beach dynamics, crocodile surveying, and rain forest canopy monitoring. Once tested and confirmed as practicable, we set these use cases up for long-term data collection. Looking forward we would like to further explore thermal cameras, aerial balloons, and in particular small drone planes. These planes would allow us to cover many more miles of coastline than current multi-rotor devices. Researchers from The Leatherback Trust recently hosted the annual “Sea Turtle Symposium” in Las Vegas and were able to share the success of many of our drone techniques with researchers from all over the world. We hope to bring this project to the Bahamas next year, where shallower water depths and increased clarities could prove even more beneficial for researchers.
Branick Weix, CSOM '19
Improving healthcare around the world
I was extremely excited to embark on an incredibly informative journey about global health and learn about the current efforts being done to improve health oversees by leading scholars in the field. At the Global Health Innovation Conference held at Yale University, I was able to meet a cohort of philanthropists including physicians, nurses, community health workers, researchers, and social entrepreneurs. Each of these individuals presented their work in a way that deeply touched the audience and inspired people like me to reevaluate my work and consider assisting abroad to expand public health relief to foreign countries in need. This conference heightened my understanding of leadership and philanthropy. As was mentioned several times by prominent speakers, engaging in truly effective global health work requires a commitment to understand the current problems within a country, community, or region before developing any kind of solution. Too often, international aid workers try to instill a solution they believe will solve an issue abroad yet do not get too far in their efforts due to a lack of cultural competence. Therefore, having a sense of cultural humility and cultural competence is integral in getting results in health care sustainably.
Maya Grodzga, MCAS '17
Promoting inclusion for all
I had the privilege to participate in the Other & Belonging Conference hosted by UC Berkley’s Haas Institute For a Fair and Inclusive Society. While each lecture brought its own unique perspective, each focused on balancing in a world where we all belong. Through action, movement, and persistence, society will be a place where everyone has the part of belonging individually and collectively. Today, one problem that we notice is that we are practicing belonging in a period of deep anxiety. Practicing in a world that is so divided. But as Susan B. Anthony simply said, “It was We, the people” and we should work in ways and means that do not devalue, dismiss, or even disrespect those around us. All of us are going through “stuff” whether that be medically, academically, financially, etc., and belonging helps break isolation to touch each other in real ways. As John A. Powell, Conference Chair, concluded, “Belonging means power-building for the future – for everyone to be valued for the work and services that s/he does.” Moving forward I will use my research, understandings, visions and ideas to continue to promote a community of love and inclusion for all.
Joseph Arquillo, MCAS '17
Reducing Obstacles to Girls' Education: A Study of Ruby Cups in Kenya
The goal of the proposed project was to study the effect of Ruby Cups - a high-quality, reusable menstrual cup - on girls’ standardized test scores (KCPE), yearly school attendance, and quality of daily life among girls at the Arrive Kenya program. It was hypothesized that Ruby Cups have a positive effect on the aforementioned outcome variables. As is often the case in research, especially in rural Kenya, the project did not go exactly as planned. To begin with, attendance and testing records were frequently unreliable, with regular gaps in records, and entire years and class levels without any records of any kind. However, despite challenges and setbacks to the execution of this research project, general observations demonstrate that for those who reported using the Ruby Cups, there was overwhelmingly positive feedback. Subjects reported an improved quality of daily life, as well as better school performance and attendance.
Julia Barrett, MCAS '19
Understanding ethics and leadership in the Muslim world
The Travel Grant from the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics provided me the opportunity to refine my research on the War in Afghanistan by studying its connection to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where thousands of Afghan economic migrants, from businessmen to laborers, live and work. The UAE plays an underreported role in Afghanistan, cooperating not only with the Afghan government but also with the Taliban, whose government, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the UAE recognized during its brief existence from 1996 to 2001. Now that the Taliban has returned to insurgency, the Emiratis have worked to exercise more understated influence by providing covert financial and political support to the insurgents to maintain plausible deniability. My research helped me gain insights into the connection between Afghan economic migrants, the Taliban, and the UAE, all of which will help me with my thesis as I investigate the Taliban’s foreign policy. This experience allowed me to develop my understanding of ethics and leadership in the Muslim world.
Austin Bodetti, MCAS '18
reThinking Food as a public good and its societal impact
I attended the 2017 reThink Food conference at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, CA that focused on the intersection of technology, food, and design and the future challenges and opportunities for the food industry. Combining technology, innovation, behavioral insight and design, many of the presenters spoke of the driving factors such as an cutting-edge biotechnologies and an unprecedented societal interest in all aspects of our food system that have catalyzed a revolution in the way we think about food. Coming from an academic background in Neuroscience and Managing For Social Impact, this conference helped me to further explore the intersection of my interests. It exemplified the nature of transdisciplinary research and collaboration toward the mitigation of complex social problems through innovation and technology. As a research assistant for Dean Yamada of the Boston College School of Social Work, I have been researching the nature of transdisciplinary research but the nature of the conference allowed the data to be actualized into meaningful insights. Though I will have graduated before the Institute for Integrated Sciences is fully established at Boston College, I think it is a critical development going forward and will set forth a framework for addressing social issues through provision of resources from a myriad of disciplines. In an increasingly interconnected global world, I now recognize more than ever the need for transdisicplinary collaboration for ensuring the full potential for social impact and public good is actualized. I hope to embody this in my future academic and extracurricular endeavors.
Evey Satterfield, MCAS '20