From Pace to Peralvillo: Rohana Sosa helps communities in the Domincan Republic

Seidenberg student Rohana Sosa (BS in Computer Science) recently participated in the Pace Setters Leadership Program on a non-profit advocacy project that took her to the Dominican Republic to assist vulnerable communities. Rohana’s work both here at Pace and within the community in Peralvillo, Domincan Republic, is both humbling and inspirational. Rohana sent us the following about her experiences – so read on!

Lifting up people is the world’s most beautiful gift. This January 2017, I had a rewarding learning experience assisting communities living in poverty in the Dominican Republic. Having this experience provided me with the knowledge to share with others how we can all be unified and bring peace to all.

As a computer science student at the Seidenberg School, I truly enjoy that being a humanitarian creates a balance between connecting the world through technology and actual in-person interaction to help heal others. Seeing smiles on the faces of people I worked with shows huge positive impact through being a donor of love. It was heartbreaking to see the struggle to simply survive, but inspiring to witness how unified the Dominican community truly is despite lifelong hardship.

My fellow volunteers and I were so happy to be blessed with sunshine the day we went to Peralvillo, Yamasá to bring healing, hope, and happiness to the poor in Dominican Republic through volunteering with the not-for-profit organization Juan Bautista Gautreaux Foundation.

The Juan Bautista Gautreaux Foundation was founded by my grandfather in February, 2000, to provide assistance and health for those most in need.

Since my freshman year at Pace University, I have been inspired and naturally driven to create a shared sense of belonging and purpose into building a resilient community in the Dominican Republic. There is a lot of potential in the long term for the Foundation to assist the growth of sustainable communities and help the most vulnerable develop their own abilities. Unfortunately, a lack of funding has prevented the Foundation from achieving its full effect. I aim to help revive it because striving for the well-being of the most vulnerable is worth it, especially for those who have special needs and who are elderly. As part of this, I chose to serve those in most need in DR as my Advocacy Project for graduating from the Pace Setters Leadership Program this May 2017.

The community needs an act of healing and renewal so I have taken the time to listen, connect, and support those in most need through service this January 2017. Having contributed more than 400 hours of community service throughout my academic years, my natural desire and motivation to serve has grown stronger with this project.

 

What Happened

Benefit Dinner Events & DR Mission Trip November 2016 & January 2017:

New York, Pace PLV Campus: The Benefit Dinner I hosted with my volunteers at the Kessel Multi-Purpose Room on November 13th, 2016, collected donations to bring relief to families in need in the Dominican Republic. Pace WPAW was the DJ of the event and there were four raffles as well. My mentor, Vincent Birkenmeyer (Vinnie), was a tremendous help for me to organize the event months in advance and I will always be grateful for his support. Vinnie and Pace Restaurant Sponsor with Pace Residence Life were able to provide the dinner. Donations of non-perishable food, toiletries, gently used clothing and shoes, as well as educational supplies for all ages, were accepted at this dinner and during tabling sessions (information sessions). Handcrafted accessories I crocheted were sold in exchange for donations. I made necklaces, scarves, headbands, and butterfly-bouquets. I created a website and sell these accessories to continue raising money to donate.

Hosting the event was one of the best short-term ways for me to help solve the large-scale problems and primary necessities faced by the most underprivileged which include: damaged housing that is not safe to live in, medications, sanitation units, fresh water, adequate living and academic supplies, and school support. After the event, we reached our goal of packaging six extra-large boxes to ship overseas to Dominican Republic.

Trip to Peralvillo, Yamasá – Dominican Republic:

While walking on mountainous trails to bring food for those families in most need, my volunteers and I witnessed extreme living conditions, which include broken down outhouses made out of rags and twigs. We personally brought food packages to twelve different homes of elderly people and learned about their needs. The team and I visited the sick, blind, and injured. Many homes had no lighting and water for their homes. We met one elderly woman in her eighties who was missing a leg. Sadly, this elderly woman passed away in February 2017. Other people were suffering from osteoporosis, asthma, and depression. A bedridden and sickly man, father of two elderly sickly siblings, about 101 years old, smiled at us because he was so excited to have visitors stop by his room, a dark shack with sand and dirt for floors and dogs roaming around. His daughter was in tears because she was so happy that we came to bring her food.

Back on the site of my grandfather’s foundation, there were approximately 100 people from the community in need who showed up to receive donations. The team and I helped kids make Vision Boards so they can draw what they want to aspire when they grow up. We made sandwiches to feed everyone and gave out juice, distributed the donated clothes and toothpaste with toothbrushes. I taught young girls how to crochet as well so they can continue to build that skill to help their families. School bags with supplies were given to kids too. There was so much excitement and joy at this moment. Everyone who received their donation was so grateful to us and showed their gratitude with lots of hugs and smiles. It was incredible to see the huge positive impact we all created with combined efforts from NY and DR.

Poverty can be greatly reduced when people create dreams to strive for. My hope is that with this volunteer experience is that we helped developed courage, strength, and creativity in the lives of those in need so they can develop a better overall quality of life.

The experience was made possible thanks to my grandfather, Dalio Gautreaux (president of the Juan Bautista Gautreaux Foundation); my mother who is always there with me every step of the way, especially with this project; my father in heaven who inspires me everyday to achieve goals; my mentor, Vincent Birkenmeyer; family and friends; volunteers in NY and DR; Seidenberg School of CSIS and Pace University faculty and staff; and the Pace Setters Leadership Program for giving me this opportunity to make an impact on a global scale.

Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us, Rohana!

Check Rohana’s website if you’re interested in buying handmade accessories to support communities in the Dominican Republic

You can also connect with Rohana on LinkedIn and read her blog, Tech Bytes for Women.

Krutika Wadhwa brings Indian culture and dance to the Pace University stage

“I’ve never been so proud of being an Indian before!”

Listening to Krutika Wadhwa (BS in Computer Science ’19) talk about Amateur Night is exhilarating. It turns out that not only is she a stunning traditional dancer, but she can tell a great story too – something she attributes to her mother’s writing talents and her own journey through elocution lessons.

Krutika is our only Indian undergraduate student, something she attributes to an unfortunate myth in international communities that undergraduates don’t get scholarships. Krutika herself gained scholarships on her acceptance to Pace that made her moving to the United States possible.

As well as being the one person you can count on to have a smile on her face, Krutika is a Seidenberg front desk staff member and probably spends more time here than anywhere else. We’re more than cool with it.

On March 2nd, she participated in Pace University’s Amateur Night, a showcase of some of the community’s top talent at the Schimmel Center.

The performance was a vibrant, energetic, traditional Indian dance which left an impression not just on Krutika, but on the community as a whole.

Read on to hear all about our smiliest student’s incredible experience.

Why did you decide to perform at Amateur Night?

I attended Amateur Night last year – it was my first event at Pace university! I had just come to the United States, and it was very inspiring to see all these students perform. I thought about how cool it would be if I did an Indian dance – people who had never seen something like that before, how awesome would that be? I made a mental note: do it myself next year. When the time came, I had to do two rounds of auditions before the final show. I did two routines, one for each audition. The second routine is the one I did on stage. Throughout the whole process I was never nervous about how it would go, because I was not expecting anything. Everybody in that show was already a singer or dancer and was a major in that field, and I was the only computer science student!

On the day, I was getting a little nervous because it was going to be in front of an audience, not just judges. I didn’t know how they would take it, seeing something they hadn’t seen before. I didn’t know my audience, I was going in blind. But I had awesome friends. Melanie Greene and Rachel Gonzalez (fellow Seidenberg students) helped me get ready. They even researched traditional Indian clothing for me to wear and helped me get dressed! And when the time came, I walked into the dressing room and all other 13 contestants were there and it was very intimidating – sharing one space with all who were competing.

I was nervous. I hadn’t been on stage performing in 4 years. Pace gave me that and I’m very grateful for it. I didn’t know if I still had it in me, and when I walked into the dressing room everyone was checking me out top to bottom because I was dressed in this weird outfit! They asked all these questions: what did I have on my hand, why did I have henna on, they complimented my jewelry. I couldn’t talk to anyone, but gradually I started. One of the best parts was that people could tell I was nervous and that it was my first time, and they spoke to me, made me feel comfortable. They told me not to worry about it, told me not to stress.

I was the second to last performer, so the nerves were building all night. Once it began, it was fast. I was backstage watching the performer before me and I told myself “just enjoy yourself. That’s what you’re here for. You’re going to get to do what you love and it’s going to be great.” Then it was my turn. I walked on stage. I cannot tell you how awesome the crowd was. As someone who was so scared and worried in the morning about what people would think, I was there on stage and people were screaming and it was just incredible. During the transition between the two songs, people screamed so loudly I will never forget it. I remember performing one move with so much energy and enthusiasm it’s etched in my memory for life. After I got off stage, I was crying. I was so happy. The best reaction was from the other contestants. They had all seen me perform and found me halfway to the dressing room. They surrounded me and gave me compliments, they told me how they saw I was nervous then I came on stage and it was like seeing someone totally different.

The best reaction though was from the crowd. About 5% of the audience was Indian, but that’s about it. People were coming up to me and said they had been so happy to see me perform. I was approached by some second generation Indians who told me that they felt represented by me, that it was the first time they had felt that way at an event not specifically for Indians.

At that point, I didn’t care if I won or if I lost, it didn’t matter. The response that I got, I don’t think I could’ve gotten that from an Indian only audience. People were just so welcoming and sweet to me.

I was representing my community, and the Seidenberg community. Most of my Seidenberg family was there, which made me feel very happy.

Krutika came second in the competition, scoring a $500 award for her stunning performance.

In the end, winning second place didn’t really have much of an impact on Krutika’s experience. “After coming to Pace, I get to do all the things I loved doing in India. My mom is so happy back home in India because I’m happy.

“I have not been this happy ever before. I am doing so much here I couldn’t even have dreamed of in India. It’s not just me, it’s my parents. They can feel happy that the decision they made is the right one. They’ve even become Seidenberg International Parent Ambassadors in India.”

Krutika, we love you (and your parents). We also can’t wait for you to teach us your moves. Thank you for sharing your thrilling experience and what it means to you with your Seidenberg family!

Seidenberg breakfast club enjoys #tacotuesday

It takes a lot to get some students out of bed early on a Tuesday morning, but the thought of hot breakfast tacos enticed people to leave their warm cocoons and join us for coffee and conversation over a hearty plate of food!

The Seidenberg Breakfast takes place every other Tuesday and offers a theme both in terms of cuisine and conversation topic. Each breakfast has a host who briefly discusses the topic (just for a minute or two!) while everyone enjoys the delicious fare. And at only $2 for all the food and coffee you can consume, it’s a pretty good deal!

Today’s theme was Seidenberg International, and the host was our very own Dean, Dr. Jonathan Hill.

“We are a very international school,” Dr. Hill said. “It’s important that all of us let our international colleagues and friends know that we love them and that we want them here and that we need them very, very much. The point of these [breakfasts] is to foster a greater sense of community. Our strength as a school is that community, and the heart of that strength is the fact that we are such an international place.”

We certainly are – many of our students, faculty, and staff hail from outside of the USA. The chance to learn from other cultures and viewpoints is one we hold dear to our community.

Dr. Hill preps breakfast early Tuesday morning

Beginning at 8:30 and (of course) running past its end time of 10am, the breakfast was overseen by Chef Olga Bogomolova, who ensured the cheese was adequately melted to perfection. Thanks to Olga and student Niamh Fitzsimon for organizing everything!

All are welcome at Seidenberg Breakfast, including students at other Pace colleges, staff and faculty, alumni, and friends and colleagues in the area! We are big on community and always happy to meet new friends. Keep an eye on our calendar for the next event!

Seidenberg represents at CERN Design Factory

In the STEM world, there are few places that will make people gasp with awe. CERN is one of them, and during one special week in December, several Seidenberg staff and faculty were there.

CERN is one of the world’s largest and most respected centers for scientific research. It’s also home to a Design Factory, which this year was the host of International Design Factory Week, an annual meeting of Design Factories around the globe to collaborate, bond, and have a good time with other members of the network.

Why were we there?

Pace University recently opened our very own entrant into the Design Factory Global Network (DGFN) – the NYC Design Factory. The purpose of these factories is to build a space within a community where members can research, collaborate, give and get feedback, and ultimately develop excellent ideas and products that solve problems. They do so using a methodology called Design Thinking, a non-traditional way of working that we hope to bring into the mainstream through NYC Design Factory and across the greater Seidenberg and Pace community.

But back to CERN. Delegates from Seidenberg included Dean Jonathan Hill, Professor Stacey Sarris, and Program Manager Olga Bogomolova. They flew out to Geneva, Switzerland, over the weekend preceding the Dec 12th kickoff.

Checking out CERN

So what did our envoys think? “CERN was the perfect backdrop for a collaborative Design Factory global event given that CERN is proof that anything is possible and that’s what Design Factory is about!” said Professor Stacey Sarris.

“CERN is this amazing, dynamic place with thousands of scientists – most of them physicists with some computer scientists sprinkled in – who are working on some of the largest physics problems in the world today. You can’t not be inspired spending a day there among the world’s top science minds,” Dean Jonathan Hill said.

Minds blown at the LHC and birthplace of the internet

Do you want to collaborate?

45 people from 15 countries attended the event. Olga explained the benefits of having an annual get together. “We all have strengths and areas of focus, so when we get together we can exchange ideas and best practices and brainstorm ways of working together. Because we are so different, we can leverage our differences to create a wholesome experience for our students.

There are 16 universities or institutions around the world that think similarly and practice design thinking, project based learning; we have a similar way of thinking and doing things. By getting to know each other, you learn that if you want to work with an institution in Australia, Korea, China, Columbia, and so on, I can just send someone from that country’s design factory a message and say ‘I have an idea, do you want to collaborate?’

Just knowing that even if you don’t know someone in the country there is an institution of people that think the same way as you… it breaks down barriers. The week is great because we get to meet each other as human beings, which helps us work together.”

Top secret

International Design Factory Week has several goals. The first one is to meet and get to know one another. People were spending 10-16 hours per day with each other, so that wasn’t difficult! The second goal was to come up with a project for everybody to work on together. “There’s so many of us, covering the whole world and different timezones. Coming up with a project to leverage the whole network sounds difficult, but we did it,” said Olga. “It’s top secret.”

Top secret? Yeah, right – we found your Mannequin Challenge video, DFGN! We know what you really got up to! Just kidding – but watch their amazing video below!

Seidenberg students head to Finland for 6th Product Development Project

During the fall semester, six students headed to Helsinki, Finland, for Pace’s 6th year of participation in Product Development Project (PDP). The Finnish destination was the Aalto Design Factory, located at Aalto University.

This was a special trip as it came shortly after Pace University opened our very own Design Factory, the NYC Design Factory located here at Seidenberg School.

ava-posnerOnce they had arrived at the Aalto Design Factory, it was time to get started. Attendees met teammates and participated in PD6 – product development in 6 hours. Everyone was then split into two teams: KONE, an established elevator company, and Seecode, a tech startup.

We chatted with students on each team. Representing KONE was Mansoor Baba Shaik (MS Information Systems). Ava Posner (BS Information Technology) was on the Seecode team. Ava was also busy snapchatting the trip for a Snapchap takeover of the Pace University account.

Each team not only consisfinland-3ted of diverse members but was filled with different levels of expertise based on each member’s background. This worked well because the teams were able to work more efficiently in order to make it a collaborative process.

For the first few days/nights, the team members spent most of their time bonding and getting to know one another. Besides working hard, the students were allowed to explore and experience what it was like to live in Finland. mansoor-baba-shaikOn the following days it was time to get down to work!

The KONE team visited KONE headquarters, where each member of the team had the chance to use the mobile operated elevator which is being tested on and which will become the first mobile operated elevator in the world.

The Seecode team also visited the umbrella company NOMO 3D headquarters.

Teams were assigned tasks to be completed during sprints of PD6, utilizing design thinking methodologies.

finland-2For Seecode, the team was to build a prototype that would be used to scan individual body images in order to help design custom made outfits for buyers throughout the world. The aim is to make online clothes shopping a less uncertain experience: who hasn’t bought their size online only to find it doesn’t fit?

Team KONE had to come up with a product allowing a self controlled drone to deliver packages to customers directly via the building’s elevator. The idea is that a delivery company could program a drone operate an elevator so it can deliver packages to the correct person directly. I shouldn’t come as a surprise that Amazon is involved in this project.

As PDP is a two-part project, students will return to Helsinki for part two in May, 2017. In the meantime, both teams, being spread apart throughout the world, must remain in constant contact to finish their projects before the final presentation.

finland-7“We are excited to be a part of this amazing project and willing to put our 100% effort to achieve the final outcome of the project and present it in the gala”, said Mansoor. “We thank Pace University for selecting us for the Product Development Project and we feel it’s a great honor representing Pace University in a global event.”