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WSU Department of Sociology Sociology News

Global Case Competition takes innovative students to India

By Don A. Dillman

group photo.Sixteen globally engaged students and faculty did something different this spring break—they traveled to Bangalore, India. Participation in last year’s Global Case Competition (GCC) is what brought most of this interdisciplinary group together for “the experience of a lifetime,” according to graduate student Rosanna Villa Rojas, who was among the travelers.

GCC is one of many global learning opportunities offered through the Office of International Programs at WSU. For the past four years, International Programs has brought together international and non-international undergraduate and graduate students from across academic disciplines and WSU campuses to participate as members of small, diverse teams. Each team must work together to solve a complex global issue. Only five of up to 20 competing teams are selected to present their solutions in a public forum.

group riding an elephant.Thanks to a generous gift from Orlin Reinbold, CEO of Landmark Native Seed Co. in Spokane, WA, members of the 2013 winning GCC teams were offered the opportunity to travel to India, the site of their “global case.” Mr. Reinbold, a WSU alumnus and judge in all four Global Case Competitions, truly understands the transformative experience that can result from international travel. “I didn’t travel overseas until I was in my 30s. But it was the most important thing to happen to me…I want to encourage that, and give students the opportunity to open their perspective and develop a better understanding of international cultures. It will change their lives.”

And it did!

“This trip to India really opened my eyes to other cultures,” said Natasha Clayborn, undergraduate psychology major. After visiting the India-based start-up nonprofit organization NextDrop, she said: “ It made me realize that we have a responsibility to help our neighbors whether they are in the next city or on another continent.”

George Wudiri, graduate student in veterinary medicine, was impressed by the innovation of the Indian companies the group visited, which enabled him to reflect more deeply upon the rich global cultural diversity he experienced. “Our visits brought to reality some of the population, environmental, political, and social challenges in India. It also gave me an appreciation of the practical approaches devised to locally address these problems. Our interactions at the Indian Institute of Science and NextDrop highlighted the innovative approaches used in problem solving.“

What made this experience so rich for those participating was the diversity of this group itself. (See participant profiles below.) Each evening after dinner the group talked about what they experienced on a given day from their various personal, disciplinary, and cultural perspectives. Amber Heckelman, a graduate student in the School of the Environment, articulated this perfectly: “I feel so incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to engage in lengthy discussions with students with strong economics and engineering backgrounds” and with “students from other countries who openly characterized their own cultural contexts…. By bringing together a diverse group of extraordinary individuals, this program prompted equally extraordinary discussions to unfold.”

Participants in this unique spring break program hope to encourage and inspire all Cougs to go global! For Matt Barner, “the cultural knowledge I gained while in India has motivated me to expand my cultural awareness to become an even more effective member of our global society.”

Innovation in India Participants:

Undergraduate Students

Matthew Barner (Civil Engineering)

Rossetti Celis (Economic Science, Honors)

Natasha Clayborn (Psychology)

Lara Heersema (Zoology)

Trevor Mattson (Electrical Engineering, graduated)

Genet Yadetta (Psychology)

Graduate Students

Shiferaw Gizaw (Crop and Soil Sciences)

Amber Heckelman (Environmental Science)

Rossana Villa Rojas (Biological Systems Engineering)

Melanie Thornton (Environmental Science)

George Wudiri (Veterinary Medicine)

Faculty who accompanied the students to India included:

Babu John Mariadoss (Marketing)

Laurie Nelson (Psychology)

Grant Norton, Dean Honors College (Mechanical and Materials Engineering)

Christine Oakley (Sociology, International Programs)