Carnegie Mellon University

Education in Action

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Tech Consulting in Global Community

Palau

For years, the Ministry of Health has been trying to implement a system for accurately mapping the Republic of Palau in an effort to plan for large-scale disasters.

This summer, Brandon Loughery (HNZ'09) and a few of his classmates helped the Ministry toward its goal — through a unique program at Carnegie Mellon called Technology Consulting in the Global Community.

Loughery guided multiple stakeholders — from nurses to administrators — through the technology planning process using the tools he learned from classes at Carnegie Mellon's Heinz College.

"The most challenging, yet rewarding, experience was being able to listen to the day-to-day technology needs of workers while considering the constraints and priorities of the hospital administration," he said. "The end results of this project were less about the tangible maps and GPS data collection and more about how the Ministry of Health approaches technology acquisition and planning."

This kind of hands-on, service-oriented experience is exactly what Professor Joe Mertz had in mind when he created the program.

"It's different than an internship. Employers are not supervising or mentoring the students," said Mertz, who teaches in the Heinz College and School of Computer Science. "The students are going into organizations like professional consultants — with technology solutions to solve a problem."

This year's students did projects in four different countries — Palau, Nauru, Phillippines and Niue.

Alex Hills, a distinguished service professor of engineering and public policy who has assisted Mertz in a variety of ways, doesn't know of any program that's just like this one.

"I'm still 50/50 on whether it's more beneficial to the students or to the client," said Hills. "Some have gone so far as to call it life-changing. They go to some really underprivileged places."

Kate Edgar (A'09), who also worked in Palau, finds it difficult to sum up such an expansive experience into a few words.

"You really get to experience the realities firsthand of what it's like to work in a less developed country," she said. "Having adults and government employees look at us as experts — and really respect and believe in our skills, opinions and recommendations — really makes you appreciative of the education we've received and the opportunities we've been given."

Mertz hopes to expand the program to allow more students this kind of an opportunity to impact the global community. He's also looking to attract more faculty members to assist with the program.

Professor Randy Weinberg, who teaches information systems in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, found taking part in the program through a visit to Niue to be as much of a learning experience for him as for the students.

"The program meshes very nicely with the university's vision for global educational opportunities for undergraduates," Weinberg said. "It's a practical, unique experience the students will remember for the rest of their lives...as will I."

Pictured (left to right): Yixin Liu, Brandon Loughery, Kate Edgar, Tom Lewkowitz, Mi Gyeong Koo.

Related Links: Technology Consulting in the Global Community Website  |  Engineering & Public Policy  |  College of Humanities &Social Sciences  |  School of Computer Science