Thoughts on STEM education, sustainable business, women engineers, etc. 

Reimagining Global Public Health: Workshop Series

Particularly in this time of global chaos, everyone is feeling like they need to be doing something. Something to make a difference, something to be engaged in their community, something that matters. Along with collaborators from the School of Public Health, this week Sara Beckman (my advisor) and I launched the first workshop in a series aimed at engaging students from across campus in real-world issues. The workshop series has several objectives:

  1. Engage more people in critical in public health issues 
  2. Teach students concrete tools they can use when working on complex problems 
  3. Start a conversation on campus that can lead to ideas + action

The session on Wednesday night focused on thinking through the implications of the global gag rule. If you're unfamiliar with the policy that's also known as the 'Mexico Policy', it restricts federal funding from going to organizations that provide abortions or even offer advice around abortion as a reproductive health service. We posed the following central question: 

How might we provide safe and comprehensive access to healthcare for mothers globally?

Despite a rainy and cold Berkeley night, over 40 people showed up including undergraduates, faculty, medical and graduate students, and Bay Area community members. We went through using a web of abstraction to better understand the broader context the challenge sits within. We further introduced the concept of systems mapping as a mechanism to explore problem spaces. The resources used all are posted on our *new* and *branded* website:! I pulled it together super quickly, so while it could look better - it's at least there.

So what happened? People left talking and thinking. They didn't come up with any solutions that will transform the landscape of reproductive healthcare but that wasn't the expectation. Individuals with like interests met, exchanged ideas, made plans for follow up conversations, and learned a skill. To me that seems like a success in two hours. It wasn't without critique. A faculty member stated that to actually start working on the problems described you need to contextualize the problem and get specific about where and what you are discussing. To which Sara responded, "Exactly!" It's our hope that events like this show faculty members how desperately students want to contribute to something "Real" and engage in work on important on impactful problems. We're kind of figuring out where this will go as it happens - and have had the thought "Hrmm it'd be better if this happened in the fall because there could be continuity to a Spring class.." However, after the session a student came up and said she wants to start a DeCal (student-run course at Berkeley) on Maternal and Child Health in the Fall and is looking for challenges to work on -- the workshop content could certainly lead to problem frames for them.

So this is a start. A start of a multidisciplinary conversations and experiments around problems that matter. Excited to see where it goes from here! 

Development Engineering: What it is and Why it Matters

Over the past month, Julia Kramer (fellow PhD student, Clevelander, friend) and I put together a piece outlining what constitutes the emerging field of development engineering, how it's different from engineering, why it matters, where it started, and where it's going. Julia and I both were lucky enough to get involved with development engineering programs during our undergrads (at Penn State and Michigan) and so have been thinking about the nature of development engineering programs for some time now. Writing the piece provided a great opportunity to reflect on our academic space and think about how the ecosystem could change to lead to greater levels of social change. The full article from Impact Design Hub can be found here and the introduction is below! 


Development Engineering: A Critical Overview

Development engineering is an emerging field that brings together communities, businesses, students, faculty, NGOs, and governments, as well as for- and non-profit organizations, with the intention of working collaboratively to solve global challenges. It is, by design, a multidisciplinary field that bridges engineering with social sciences such as economics, public health, and gender studies alongside business and entrepreneurship for societal benefit. In order to understand where this new field is headed, both independently and within the broader context of impact design, it’s important to understand where it came from as well as its current state of development, which is what this overview sets out to do.

The history that paved the way for the emergence of development engineering, as well as the drivers behind it and the core tensions that currently characterize it, will all be explored here from our perspective: two current PhD students in the Development Engineering program at U.C. Berkeley. The authors have seen the academic side of development engineering within the university setting as well as the entrepreneurial side, a perspective gained through each having run technology-based ventures in the healthcare space.

Because it’s a nascent and rapidly growing field, development engineering has its challenges, as all sectors of impact design do. However, this growth is coupled with an increase in opportunities to both accomplish the social work that the field sets out to do, as well as to begin addressing the internal challenges development engineering faces. Thus, the field has significant potential to make impactful changes to the contemporary social issues faced by society at local and global levels.

Read more!