The UT-Austin Development Board honored the students who won the President’s Award for Global Learning in a meeting Friday.
Teams of students and faculty partnered up to plan a research project that tackles a global issue, which the students pitched to a board of judges and then were selected the fall of 2018. For the next three semesters, the teams worked on planning and implementing their projects.
Laurie Young, director of special projects at UT’s international office, said the winners of the pitch competition receive funding for travel and research and work with an international partner.
“We’re doing something new and unique that isn’t found at other colleges,” Young said. “We’re doing this intensive program that is hitting all levels — undergraduate, graduate and faculty.”
Student representatives for the Cambodia, India and Georgia teams attended the meeting in a Belo Media Center for New Media auditorium. Public health and business management senior Simran Ali presented the Cambodia project, which studied ways to reduce organic waste.
“We were able to understand how this process impacted other people,” Ali said. “We all agreed that this was a process that we would never have learned in the classroom.”
Young said one of the benefits of the program is that participants collaborate with people outside of their field of study. Ali said this helped her learn to work with people with differing skill sets and interests.
“I didn’t know any of the members of my team,” Ali said. “I didn’t know the faculty. This project was the beginning of being able to start to work with people who … have different interests.”
Young said the Development Board established the award in 2017 because they wanted to provide a new opportunity for students, and because UT President Gregory Fenves wanted to advance the University’s international education.
“Some of (Fenves’) values are college-to-career and making sure that students graduating from UT, undergrad and grad, are global citizens,” Young said.
While the award takes students abroad, Plan II senior Lyndsey Wang said her studies of maternal mortality rates in Georgia helped her understand how to solve the same problem in Texas.
“(The United States) has one of the worst maternal mortality rates, and of the 50 states, Texas remains one of the worst,” Wang said.
Mechanical engineering senior Advaitha Byereddy said her team’s project on air quality in India helped her learn how to push herself to takenew opportunities.
“It’s really important to always try to make sure you’re creating enough uncomfortable situations for yourself and to find a way to be comfortable regardless of what the situation is,” Byereddy said.
Wang said one unique aspect of the program is that it provides an intensive research opportunity for undergraduates since undergraduates are not afforded this oversight over their research projects. The benefits of conducting research in new ways also extends to faculty, Young said.
“We’ve had many faculty say that this has breathed new life and new excitement into their tenure at UT and given them an opportunity to work with students in a different way,” Young said.
Recruiting for next year’s cohort begins this fall and pitches will be presented in October, Young said.