Friday, September 13, 2019

Faculty Spotlight: Changemaking Engineering- A perspective from Dr. G. Bryan Cornwall

We are very happy to publish a series of blogs from last year's Changemaker Faculty Fellows.  This week we are highlighting Dr. G. Bryan Cornwall, Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering at USD's Shiley-Marcus School of Engineering. Bryan took part in last year's Changemaker Faculty Fellows program in 2018-2019, below is his reflection on the experience and how it aligns with his current changemaking work. We will be sharing additional blogs from faculty this year.

I’ve wanted to be a Changemaker for as long as I can remember. I have not always had a name for it, but it’s been a driving force in my life: to be an agent for positive contributions to the world. I was born in the USA and grew up in Canada with a global outlook; the term “Global Citizen” resonated with me. My first memorable changemaking experience was through Mechanical Engineering applied to Orthopaedic medicine. I want to provide you with a perspective of the past, present, and future influences that help drive this motivation towards Changemaking.  So what is a “Changemaker”?

 “Changemaker (n) – A term coined by the social entrepreneurship organization, Ashoka, meaning one who desires change in the world and, by gathering knowledge and resources, makes that change happen. The term changemaker is simple to understand, just from the words it's made from.”

In my third year of undergraduate Engineering, one of my Professors asked me what I was planning to do next. I told him I wanted to be a doctor and go into medicine. I explained my father and paternal grandfather were Engineers and my mother was an operating room nurse.  This Professor advised me that you can make a positive contribution to medicine by being a good Engineer. That simple statement had a profound effect on my outlook, and it literally changed my life.

After completing a PhD in orthopedic biomechanics, I spent 20 years working in the medical device industry: designing, patenting, researching, delivering devices and services to patients all around the world. In the last two years of my industry career, I was fortunate to lead two not-for-profit entities which helped me transition from an executive role in industry to an academic role at a university. The focus on “Changemaking” at USD was very attractive to me.

The USD trip to Guadalajara, MX and to the fellow Changemaker campus: Tec de Monterey was a fantastic culmination of our journey this past year as Changemaker Faculty Fellows. Our hosts started by complementing USD on our model and experience as a Changemaker campus and went on to show us some amazing evolution and growth in their program.  Their student examples were outstanding, their design spaces were welcoming, and their vision is inspirational. One thing I did notice is that their efforts seemed more fragmented than ours at USD. My perception is that we have a more cohesive Changemaker presence on campus.

We met two inspiring social ventures and registered as Mexican B-corps: Sarape Social, a socially conscious marketing firm, and Proactible, a center for rehabilitation orthotics and prosthetics. The focus and passion of the Sarape Social team was infectious. The Proactible company was particularly impactful because this company represented the intersection of research, social entrepreneurship, and commercial entity… in my area of research: biomechanics. While we were introduced to the company and what they do in person, the academic behind the initiative, a Mechanical Engineering Professor from Tec de Monterrey, Dr. Joel Huegel, was on the webinar. He was interacting with us real-time, but virtually from a lab in Boston where he is a visiting professor of Mechatronics: the famous MIT Media Lab with Biomechanics research.

The other significant and personally impactful aspect of the visit to Proactible was the use of the Niagara foot. This prosthesis was designed in Canada specifically with a social mission of benefiting vulnerable populations of low income. My PhD supervisor, Dr. Tim Bryant, was involved in the development effort for years. I explained how proud I was that my PhD supervisor was involved in the development of a device and product that has benefited so many patients, especially patients who may not necessarily be able to benefit from such technology without the focus on a low-cost functional alternative. JC made a profound comment: “How is that for a demonstration of legacy”?  Oh, by the way, Dr. Tim Bryant was the same influential professor who changed my life with that simple comment in my third year of undergraduate Engineering.

Future work: As I continue to build a biomechanics lab and capabilities at USD SMSE, I continue to network and collaborate. For Changemaking Engineering, Dr. Joel Huegel and I have similar research interests and we have similar teaching responsibilities (senior design in Mechanical Engineering). We have discussed a collaborative design project with a San Diego spine surgeon colleague (Dr. Gregory Mundis) who is the Medical Director of Global Spine Outreach. They have experience in establishing spine deformity outreach sites in Columbia and Mexico. The third site they are targeting is a hospital and clinic in Guadalajara, MX. I plan to be a positive influence, a Changemaker Engineer, helping to link the Engineering Sciences with medical applications for populations in need. We are exploring funding opportunities to have our two labs working together.

What was significant for me about the trip to Tec de Monterrey in Guadalajara was that it tied together past and present. Visiting Proactables and meeting Dr. Joel Huegel provided clarity for my present and future research and collaborations. It reinforced how important the identity of “Changemaker” is to my identity and potential to influence the next generation of Engineers.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Environmental Studies Graduate Assists Bodhi in Carbon Neutral Process

The following reflection was written and shared by Spencer Dunlap, a USD Changemaker & ex-USD baseball player.

Bodhi’s newest intern is Spencer Dunlap, a former Environmental Studies major from Travis and Gibran’s alma mater, the University of San Diego. Spencer arrived in early December and is helping us in our quest to go Carbon Neutral. He has single-handedly taken on conducting a carbon inventory and overall audit of our footprint here at Bodhi. He has also been “getting his hands dirty” with a number of crafty projects around the lodge! We’re so excited to be undertaking this process and to have someone who has studied this very topic putting his knowledge and skills to use in such a valuable way. Read about his experience finding and becoming an intern for Bodhi!

Ocean Guardian connections

I first heard about Bodhi Surf + Yoga School from my baseball coach at the University of San Diego, Rich Hill. Taking into account that I was both a surfer and Environmental Studies major, he figured I’d be interested in Bodhi as a place to put my interests to work after college. He connected me with Bodhi co-founder Travis — a fellow USD alumnus who had also played baseball for Coach Hill. Shortly after reaching out to Travis, he told me about Bodhi’s 2016 Ocean Guardian Contest, a contest that promotes “taking action in your everyday life to protect the earth and shape our world for the better”.

At the time, I was already working on a project for a Sustainability Capstone course I was taking. I decided to enter the contest by highlighting the innovative ways in which I was creating a positive environmental impact in my local community. Although I didn’t win, I was proud to tell the story of how I was raising awareness of environmental issues at USD, and promoting actual concrete changes at the community level. If you are interested in learning more about my 2016 Ocean Guardian Contest submission, you can read more about it here.

Finding the path back
After graduating in the spring of 2016, I moved to Kauai where I spent three months living off the grid on a small Taro farm (Taro is a root vegetable used to make Poi, a staple of traditional Hawaiian cuisine) on the windward side of the island. It was there that I cultivated a deeper appreciation for my natural surroundings, and realized that living a low-impact lifestyle was an attainable goal. As my time in Kauai came to an end, my priorities shifted toward pursuing a career. I lost sight of my inclination for living a simpler lifestyle. It’s funny how effortlessly priorities change when chasing the almighty dollar, and as human beings we tend to forget that “we are nature, too”.
It wasn’t until a recent month-long road trip through the Western United States that I was reminded of my affinity for nature. I decided to reach out to Travis in an attempt to rekindle my relationship with Bodhi Surf + Yoga. This time I was in luck: Bodhi had recently committed to going Carbon Neutral, and I could help them pursue this goal.

Conducting the Carbon Neutral inventory
And so here I am, Bodhi’s most recent intern, working on the company’s mission to achieve Carbon Neutrality. You might be wondering what this certification process entails. How does a company like Bodhi Surf + Yoga become Carbon Neutral? Well, other than collecting, organizing, and crunching data, the process is really quite simple. First, we have to calculate our Gross CO2 Emissions, taking into account both emissions directly produced by Bodhi (electricity, waste, freight), and emissions indirectly produced by our guests (flights, transportation, accommodations).
In order to reduce our Carbon Footprint as a business, we can mitigate our CO2 emissions by composting, recycling, planting trees, offsetting guests’ flights, and retrofitting appliances for energy efficiency — all actions that Bodhi is already taking! Once we subtract our Reduced Emissions from our Gross Emissions, we are left with our Net CO2 Emissions, which is what we must offset in order to achieve Carbon Neutrality.
My job is to calculate Bodhi’s Net CO2 Emissions within a given fiscal year and submit the data to a Carbon Neutral certifying body. In our case, it is a company called NativeEnergy — a fellow B Corp out of Burlington, Vermont. Ultimately, we will be able to offset our Net CO2 Emissions by investing in renewable energy, and in doing so, we will continue to raise the bar for environmentally responsible tourism.
Written by Spencer Dunlap


Sunday, October 7, 2018

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Alex Mejia on Changemaking

We are very happy to publish a series of blogs from last year's Changemaker Faculty Fellows.  This week we are highlighting Dr. Alex Meijia, assistant professor of general engineering at USD's Shiley-Marcus School of Engineering. Alex took part in last year's Changemaker Faculty Fellows program in 2017-2018, below is his reflection on the experience and how it aligns with his current changemaking work. We will be sharing additional blogs from faculty this year.

I joined the Changemaker Faculty Fellows Development Program to gain the theoretical concepts and practical tools to engage in social justice advocacy. I was interested in learning more about how social justice and changemaking approaches work toward eliminating issues of inequity in our communities. I know that in order to make change happen I needed to continue learning from others and reflect on my role as an educator, researcher, and member of the community. Paulo Freire emphasized the importance of developing a critical awareness of one’s social reality through reflection and action. Freire also argued that we need to stop regarding the oppressed as an abstract category and see them as individuals who have been unjustly dealt with, deprived of their voice, and historically oppressed. The ways of knowing and meaning-making practices of members of our communities should not be silenced or sanctioned. We need to fight alongside the oppressed and not make only pious, sentimental, or individualistic gestures.

As a Changemaker Faculty Fellow, I knew that I could engage in activities and practices to learn from others and collaborate with faculty, staff, students, stakeholders, and the community to achieve collective impact. The Changemaker Faculty Fellows Development Program became the vehicle to fight alongside the oppressed and support their own quest to liberation. I believe that the Program provided the space for synergistic interactions with faculty, staff, students and the community to achieve institutional change and equity. As a Latinx, I wanted to be part of this initiative to empower our communities and together create new solutions to problems of equity, access, education, and social policy.

I applied to the Changemaker Faculty Fellows Development Program because I believe that it is important to acknowledge, value, and validate the knowledge, skills, and practices of people of color in our communities that are frequently silenced. The program gave me the opportunity to interact with people across different disciplines who have the common goal to make change happen. I joined to learn more about policy, how to be more engaged and participate in action research to enact change toward social justice and be part of the university-wide Vision and Pathways to 2024. I was very interested in learning more about how to form cooperative relationships with faculty, staff, students, community members and stakeholders to plan strategic action for change, participate in engaged interdisciplinary scholarship, expand access and inclusion initiatives, monitor the problems and effects of changes, and reflect on the value and consequences of the changes implemented. I wanted to be able to bring all that knowledge and everything I learned through the program to my classroom and encourage others to engage collectively to develop a critical consciousness and have the ability to perceive social, political, and economic oppression and to take action against those oppressive forces.

For the past few years, I have worked on issues related to access to engineering education, literacy, and equity in STEM. For instance, the number of Latinx students in the K-12 population is constantly growing but Latinx are disproportionately not pursuing careers in engineering. At the foundation of this problem lies a deficit of critical sociocultural knowledge about these students. Although Latinx adolescents bring a wealth of knowledge, skills, and practices into the classroom, they are often unacknowledged. Dismantling prevailing notions of educational access and opportunity is critical for engineering and STEM education policy, practice, and research. Often, the narratives of people of color are omitted from the engineering curriculum. One of my goals as a Changemaker Faculty Fellow is to learn more about the synergies between research, teaching, and service that can help me continue working on this area. I also want to connect with other researchers and educators in other disciplines that can help me elaborate more robust approaches to tackle these important issues.

I believe that I can bring my research, teaching, and personal expertise and experiences to the table and contribute to the larger effort of achieving equity and social justice through engineering education and interdisciplinary collaboration. I would like to share this knowledge with others, learn from others, and together work toward a common goal.

I also believe that as an educator I can share with other Fellows some of the strategies I have used in the classroom to integrate social justice into the curriculum and how that translates into culturally responsive education. I am currently teaching an engineering and social justice course that seeks to help students understand how engineering designs, systems, processes, and products impact society, and reflect on our roles as engineers to achieve true change in the world. Students also learn about social responsibility, unequal power relationships, and reflect on their own privilege. I believe that all these efforts have had an impact on my students and colleagues, and influenced the ways we talk about diversity, equity, and transformation in engineering.