Why did you enroll in this course (motivation, prior interests)?
I initially heard about the Global Social Impact Fellowship during my older sister’s visit to Lehigh. On the tour, the student guide spoke about the project in Sierra Leone with the UTI test strips for improving maternal health. I was intrigued by the magnitude and meaning of the project, though the possibility of actually becoming a part of one of the teams did not cross my mind as I was only a rising high school sophomore at the time and did not know that I would eventually end up at Lehigh. Three years later, I heard about the fellowship again through a presentation during my Engineering 5 class. After listening to the presentation and hearing about GSIF from students who were a part of it, I knew the program was something I wanted to be a part of. Though I value my traditional classroom courses, I knew that becoming a GSIF fellow would allow me to engage in a way that my other courses did not. My motive was my desire to actively participate in a hands-on experience that would allow me to apply knowledge from class to a societal challenge. I was also drawn towards GSIF because it seems to be one of the only opportunities at Lehigh that has the potential to create the impact of its size. Personally, I feel most passionate about my work when I know that it is meaningful. I feel the most purpose when I am making a difference. The GSIF gives me the platform to do so through creating sustainable social impact in a country where it is much needed. In addition to creating impact, I am also excited to be able to work with students across disciplines to achieve a common goal, as I feel that working on an interdisciplinary team is representative of the dynamic that is necessary in solving complex issues.
How do you envision this course making you a better (<your major>) student?
Solving any societal, engineering challenge involves working across disciplines, and I envision this course will help me grow the skill set and mindset that is needed to create effective solutions. This includes being part of a group that has different strengths and visions. I think I will learn to value differences in perspectives, as having differences in perspectives in a group is what cultivates optimal solutions. As an engineering student, working with people of different ideas and backgrounds will foster creativity when developing solutions. I envision that the immersive nature of GSIF will lead me to consider the community I am influencing more and understand the causes to the need rather than solely focusing on solving the technical problem. Given that many of the world’s greatest engineering challenges exist in low-income countries, I see the fieldwork portion of the fellowship to be particularly important, as engineers must understand the social circumstances behind their work in order to create a proper solution. By immersing myself in the culture of my work and bridging the gap between communities, I will develop the mindset of an ethical engineer. In addition, I envision the course building my entrepreneurial mindset as an engineer through finding innovative solutions, acting upon new ideas, and learning that failure is an important part in finding a successful solution. For my particular project, Copra Processing and Process Streamlining in the Philippines, I envision my knowledge and experience in Industrial Engineering to grow, as a major aspect of the project addresses the efficiency of systems involving the copra and as well as communication between farmers.
What solution do you propose to address the lack of accessibility of eyeglasses in developing countries like Kenya?
Given that old prescription eyeglasses tend to go without use, one part of the solution to the lack of accessibility of glasses could be gathering and distributing donations from people when they get new prescription glasses. With donating these glasses comes the need for more optometrists in order to assess the eye health of recipients to correctly treat them. To bring more optometrists into developing countries, developed nations can raise awareness of the condition in poorer countries regarding proper eye care. By raising awareness, developing countries would likely attract more donations as well as volunteer optometrists willing to give their time. Though these solutions would not fix the issue permanently, they are solutions to the lack of accessibility while the country builds a more sustainable solution. The foundation to this sustainable solution is education. In order to grow economically and improve accessibility to eye care in the long-term, nations need to work together to build a stronger education system in developing countries like Kenya.