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.

Melanie Greene and Dr. James Lawler present inclusion programs for students with disabilities

By Melanie Greene

It was an honor to attend  the Faculty Resource Network’s National Symposium in Atlanta in November. I co-presented with Dr. James Lawler on inclusion programs for students with disabilities in the Seidenberg School. I spoke about the class I took with Dr. Lawler (CIS 102w Web Design for a Not-for-Profit Organization), mentoring students in AHRC’s junior high school and high school programs (they had different levels of autism; one was more severe than the other), mentoring and tutoring Adil Sanai, tutoring his students last semester in his two CIS 102w courses, the two research projects we worked on together, and being a co-moderator for the Disability Film Festival. I got the chance to speak about all of my experiences that I have had working with people with disabilities.

I am uplifted and inspired by Dr. Lawler’s drive and commitment to give people with disabilities access to a college education. I support everything that he is doing.​ I get very emotional talking about all the adventures and learning experiences I have had with Dr. Lawler – they have been life changing opportunities that affect me deeply.

During the conference, we went to three different schools: Morehouse College (an all-male college where Dr. Martin Luther King went), Spelman College (all-female college), and Clark Atlanta University (co-ed).  All of the schools were beautiful, it was a privilege to visit them. I got choked up when we went to Morehouse College because Dr. King went there. I felt like I was walking through history. At the school they had a picture of President Obama delivering the Commencement speech in 2013 and I was in awe: both President Obama and Dr. Martin Luther King’s presences were there.

At the conference, I got the chance to meet other professors from schools  in NY, Atlanta, Hawaii, and others. I enjoyed listening to their research and learning about how we could use social media and technology platforms to teach millennials.

Dr. Lawler and I went to a delicious Italian restaurant one night and a Brazilian restaurant (it was my first time going to a Brazilian restaurant). We invited a professor from Spelman College that I met to join us for dinner, which was a lot of fun. One night our bus broke down which was an experience in itself. The bus was literally like the engine that could. When we broke down one professor started to play Bob Marley “Don’t Worry” and we all chimed in – it was priceless. The bus kept trying to get us all back to the hotel, but unfortunately it failed. We had to walk back to the hotel. On our final day we visited the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. I was overwhelmed with emotion, I had the chills the whole time – history was brought to life. To walk where Dr. King walked, to stand in the area where he preached in Ebenezer Baptist Church, to see the pole in the firehouse where he played on as a child, and lastly to see his grave was indescribable.

My favorite part of the trip was having the privilege to present with Dr. Lawler.  This certainly is a weekend that I will never forget. I thank Dr. Lawler and the Seidenberg School for giving me the opportunity to attend this conference. I will always cherish the incredible memories from this trip.

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.”

 

 

 

You Mean You Haven’t Heard about Urban Mill?

It’s that time of year again — PDP season is in full swing! PDP, the Product Development Project Seidenberg participates in, in collaboration with our friends at Aalto Design Factory, starts every year in the Fall and lasts until May. This year we have six students who have traveled to Helsinki this month to get in touch with the teams they’ll be working with for the next eight months. The students participating are Brianna Vecchione (CS), Ethan Garrison (CS), Jane Rabinovich (Graphic Design), Patrick Prescott (IS), and Peta Clarke (MS in IS).

Brianna Vecchione wrote a piece about the team’s experience in Helsinki earlier this month:
[the following text stands in its original form as it appeared on the Urban Mill home page]

“After weeks of planning and with anticipation and excitement, the Pace University PDP team finally arrived in Espoo to formally begin our PDP projects. There are 6 of us split into 2 teams: One sponsored by ABB to innovate maritime engineering and the other sponsored through ComNet to develop a low-cost autonomous networking system through environmental data collection. Our first stop after our 8-hour flight from New York City was the Espoo Innovation Garden, where we were first introduced to the Design Factory grounds. However, we were lucky enough to run into Lars Miikki, who gave us an in-depth introduction to the history of Urban Mill, an urban innovation platform, from its untraditional conception to its future ambitions as the next pioneer for European innovation. The space boasts extremely advantageous features, from their geographical and cultural location in Espoo to their emphasis on sustainable development via intelligent solutions, like smart city design and internationalization.

PDP Group 2014PDP Group 2014 - 2

This ambition is reflected throughout the grounds of Urban Mill. The space embraces the concept of  “ready but never finished,” with startup vision boards, rough prototypes, research posters, and Styrofoam ground plans scattered throughout the spaces. There are small, creatively decorated design spaces throughout the area, giving it a modern, colorful flare. As Lars explained to us, students prefer the “unfinished” space because it invites their own ideas and contributions as well as providing them with a chance to create, build, and innovate in a way that is original and personalized.

Our group was mesmerized by the many inventions we encountered, ranging from workspace bedrooms, to an “active life village,” to data trackers that detect movement. There’s an entire wall full of business cards of individuals who share, collaborate and contribute to the development of the Urban Mill – of course, we couldn’t resist adding our cards as well. We finished the tour with a demonstration of their three-panel, floor-to-ceiling monitor screen (we were pleasantly surprised to see an image of Manhattan in the background!).

Peta Clarke

Urban Mill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All in all, it was a wonderful introduction to the work to be done here at Aalto University Campus and we are honored to contribute to its visionary expansion at such an exciting time!”

It’s an exhilarating opportunity for all students participating, and we can’t wait to see how the projects turn out!