KOKOMO, Ind. – You realize how big the world is when viewing it from more than 30,000 feet high.
James Wilkinson recognized this while traveling to England with the Indiana University Kokomo Innovation Symposium.
“Being in the air gives you perspective on how big the world is, and how small we are,” he said. “And then when you’re talking to someone from Looe (a town in Cornwall), and you’re talking about the same kinds of politics you would at home, you realize how similar we all are.”
Not only was it his first time on an airplane, the Amboy resident said, “it was my first time seeing a part of the world that wasn’t Indiana or Florida.”
The Innovation Symposium’s goal is not only for students to have these kinds of life-changing experiences, but to inspire each one to change the world, according to Gabby VanAlstine, lecturer in business, who co-led the most recent trip in May.
“We’re challenging the students to try to improve the world in some way,” she said. “We want to help them expand their world view, and challenge them to solve social, global, and environmental problems, and build a network of people to help them work towards that goal.”
Over 20 days, the 10 students visited sites such as the British Library, the British Museum, the London Science Museum, the Migration Museum, Alexander Fleming’s laboratory, the Eden Project, and the Cornish Coastal Path, gathering information to create a final project, designed to solve a global issue on the local level. They then settled in at Harlaxton Manor for research and project development.
Wilkinson’s project was a website where, for every recipe an individual shares, a meal is given to a person in need.
Recent graduate Shelby Beltz said the trip made her realize that individual people have the power to make a difference in the world.
“It made me realize that we can change the world,” she said, “We saw so many examples of innovation, and we can continue that. Each of us came up with a project to solve one problem. If you put all of those together, you can do a lot of good in the world. We’re not doomed.”
She chose a project near to her own heart — improving lunches in schools and work places, by helping them create gardens.
“I love gardening and cooking, and I love eating healthier food that is fresh,” said Beltz, from Alexandria. “I remember school lunches, and how they were terrible, and terrible for you. Most people don’t have other options. Then you go to other countries and see their school foods, and you can actually tell what the ingredients are, and they are fresh.”
Marisha Rigle’s project — a reduced cost health care clinic — was inspired by knowing that nearly 20 percent of the people in her hometown of Logansport are uninsured.
The most impactful part of the trip for her was the roundtable discussions, where students could discuss their ideas.
“We could ask each other questions, and hear all our different perspectives,” she said. “We all are from different majors, so it was interesting to hear the insights each of us had, based on our own interests.”
VanAlstine was impressed by the students’ work ethic and thoughtful final projects.
“These are incredible human beings,” she said. “They are so impressive, motivated, and driven. They are going to make such a difference. The things we saw in England are forever life-changing. We saw the evolution of the modern history of the world. It was unbelievable.”
Gloria Preece, assistant dean of the School of Business, co-led the trip with VanAlstine.
Other students participating, and their projects, included:
- Taylor Coram, buy-one-give-one blankets that offer information on newborn care;
- Elizabeth Curtis, sustainable thread from recycled plastic to encourage regional economic development in developing nations;
- Ana Garcia, travel agency for low income students and families to see the world at an affordable price;
- Emily Harsh, mental health subscription boxes to encourage mental health and care;
- Alex Martakis, virtual reality education programs for schools;
- Breanna Rose, Insurance company that helps emergency responders stay safe/encourages safe driving;
- Aaron Stanley, fact-based political discourse website to help people understand other viewpoints.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.