Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Student wins contest, trip to Geneva

Kari Whitney presentationKari Whitney is livestreamed into WSU Pullman.

     On April 8, she sent her teenage daughter to a Comicon convention, her husband to visit his brother, and the dog on a doggy playdate. The only thing she forgot was to close the windows.
     That became important about 5:15 p.m. that day, when WSU Global Campus student Kari Whitney learned she and her team had won the university’s Global Case Competition. She let out a piercing squeal. “My windows were open,” she said, “and I can only imagine what the neighbors might have thought!”
     The annual Case Competition brings together five teams of WSU students to solve a pressing problem. Each team comprises five students. This year’s focus was arbitrary detention in the U.S., and the top prize was a trip to Geneva to present solutions to United Nations representatives.
More...      Kari, a humanities major, presented online from her home in Tacoma. WSU Global Connections, which helps online students participate in WSU activities, livestreamed her segment into a packed WSU Pullman auditorium, and over YouTube.
     Most teams focused on immigrants and refugees. Kari’s team, Dignity Before Detention, looked at the inequity of jailing the poor because they couldn’t afford small fines, or to rent an ankle monitor.
     “Since my contributions would be webcast,” Kari said, “I scripted myself and rehearsed repeatedly in front of a camera, occasionally sending a recording to my teammates for critique.”
     During her time at WSU Global Campus, Kari has also been a student senator, and won a WSU Center for Civic Engagement award for writing about food bank clients. She’s highly organized, and like most Global Campus students, skilled at using technology to communicate.
     “Kari was incredibly effective,” said teammate Margaret Wyckoff. “Once our connection went out. While I looked at what we were going to cover, she made an entire video of her part, uploaded it to YouTube and sent it to us. And it was really good.”
     Teammate Kasey Markland said Kari was expert at collaborating over the Internet. “She would do the presentation in a way where we could see her, the presentation and her comments simultaneously.”
     Kari heard about her win from the YouTube livestream. After startling the neighbors, she immediately texted her husband and daughter: “I'm going to Geneva!!!”
     Her husband was delighted, but her daughter, Helen, was overjoyed. “We’re nothing if not a practical family,” Kari said. “Helen was ecstatic that my travel to Geneva might result in the appropriation of Swiss chocolate for her.”

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Building better lives for widows, orphans

Francoise Gakuba     A decade ago, Francoise Gakuba came to the U.S. from Rwanda. She already had a food science degree from the University of Burundi, but wanted to better help her native county.
     “Households in Rwanda lack infrastructure, such as clean water, electricity, refrigeration systems, that support food safety,” she said. “I want to teach them food safety and management skills to help them create projects that generate money.”
     In spring 2014, the Seattle resident enrolled in Washington State University’s online master's in agriculture, food science and management option. The program, offered through WSU Global Campus, combines food science with executive management courses.
More...      “Finding the combination of science and management was a good move,” Gakuba said. “This program enhanced my confidence in the area of food safety, and gave me the skills I need to help communities in developing countries.”
     Gakuba made a trip back to Rwanda in 2014 and worked alongside the non-profit group Equipping, Restoring, Multiplying Rwanda (www.ermrwanda.org). The group, managed by her husband, is helping the country recover from the 1994 genocide in which 800,000 Tutsi men, women, and children were killed, as well as thousands of Hutus who opposed the massacres. Gakuba’s specific focus is on widows and orphans.
     “My role is oriented toward food safety, product development and training to help widows develop small-scale businesses to generate income,” she said. “The organization has a vocational school for them and we are working on starting a culinary class, which will include food safety education.”
     ERM Rwanda also lets Americans sponsor widows and orphans. During her 2014 trip, Gakuba collected information about food safety education needs, and helped families figure out how to use their sponsorship stipend, which is $40 a month for widows, and $35 for orphans.
     Without training, she said, families often decide to spend that money on immediate needs, instead of investing it for future profit.
     “I motivated four families to identify their priorities and use their sponsorship wisely by choosing a feasible project,” she said. “As a result, two were able to buy land to be able to farm, and the other two were able to get running water with the plan to sell the clean water to neighbors. I also helped teach teenagers about the Bible and personal hygiene.”
     Barbara Rasco is Gakuba’s advisor at WSU. “Francoise is dedicated to helping improve the lives of families through better health and food safety practices in the home,” Rasco said. “She is focused on making the world a better place in the best tradition of a land-grant university.”