KOKOMO, Ind. — London Bridge, red double decker buses, and the Union Jack are what comes to mind for many people when they think of Great Britain.
But for some Indiana University Kokomo students, it reminds them of composting, bee colonies, and reducing childhood hunger.
Ten students learned to consider global issues and to find ways of solving some of these problems in their own hometowns, as part of the annual Innovation Symposium. Each of them completed the symposium with a final project addressing one of those challenges.
“The Innovation Symposium challenges students not just to visit an overseas destination, but to apply what they have seen and learned, to develop ways to make the world better,” said Karla Stouse, senior lecturer in English, who leads the program. “We want to empower them to create positive change in the world.”
Participants are selected through a nomination process, and spend a semester reading and researching about technology, the environment, and philanthropy. At the end of the semester, the group travels for three weeks in England and Scotland. While overseas, they meet innovators, visit museums and ecological sites, and research for a final project that addresses a global issue.
Bekah Martin will fight childhood hunger with a cooking class at a low-income apartment complex near her home in Westfield. She plans to partner with a church to teach the children how to prepare a healthy meal, which they will eat after the class. She will then give each child a kit of ingredients to take home and prepare the same meal with his or her family.
“I really enjoy working with kids and being involved with them,” said Martin, who is a health sciences major. “I knew I wanted to do a project with kids. I also enjoy nutrition, and teaching kids to eat healthy at a young age.”
Cat Bolinger, Kokomo, wants to turn trash to treasure, creating a compost pile for food waste to be recycled, rather than thrown away. She hopes to work with Rozzi’s Cougar Country Café to use the campus food service’s leftovers in a compost pile, which can then benefit IU Kokomo’s gardens.
“My mom and I have always done composting at home, because my mom gardens a lot,” she said. “There is a lot of waste that does not get reused, and relocating that resource to make a bigger impact is what motivates me.”
Jennifer Troxell gained inspiration from the rooftop beehives she saw in England, and their visit to The Eden Project, one of the biggest greenhouses in the world. She wants to place beehives on IU Kokomo buildings, to sustain a local bee population. She said bees are a fundamental part of the environment.
In addition to learning about the environment, Troxell, a psychology major, gained confidence and motivation to get more involved on campus.
“This trip has made me feel like I should be more active as a student at IU Kokomo,” she said. “I have already reached out to the psychology club and student government association, to see how I can be a part of those organizations.”
Innovation Symposium is more than a tourist experience, Bolinger said. It is an opportunity to consider global problems in a new way, and to realize one person can make an impact.
“This trip introduced us to a variety of issues and solutions that people are working on, this in turn helped us come up with some ideas to formulate our project,” she said.
It gave Bekah a hands-on experience she could not have had in a classroom. She and Troxell had never been outside the United States before the trip.
“I felt like I learned more about myself and being around other people from other backgrounds, as well as thinking outside the box to solve problems,” she said. “This has definitely broadened my horizons and made me more open minded.”
A grant from the Indiana University Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council defrayed much of the cost for the 2015 Innovation Symposium, which made it possible for more students to consider participating. Several students also received international travel scholarships from IU Kokomo.
Participating students included Carolina Anaya Pico, Cartegena, Colombia; Alexius Babb, Cat Bolinger, Eric Knutson, and Alexandria Stark, Kokomo; Chris Johnson and Carly Wimmer, Greentown; Spencer Krhin, LaFontaine; Bekah Martin, Westfield; and Jennifer Troxell, New Waverly.
For more information about supporting IU Kokomo’s international programs, contact Jan Halperin, vice chancellor for university advancement, at 765-455-9415.
Story written by Jeaneth Tavares. Jeaneth was a summer intern in the Office of Media and marketing.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.