Fulbright Visiting Scholars Introduced to CPC's Global Social Innovation Challenge

Monday, December 3, 2018

Center for Peace and Commerce Director, Dr. Amitkumar Kakkad, left, speaks to the Fulbright Visiting Scholars during a Global Social Innovation Challenge workshop session at UCSD's Great Hall. Center for Peace and Commerce Director, Dr. Amitkumar Kakkad, left, speaks to the Fulbright Visiting Scholars during a Global Social Innovation Challenge workshop session at UCSD's Great Hall.

Ninety of the world's finest higher education scholars gathered in San Diego last week to learn what makes the city stand out as a leader in entrepreneurship and innovation.

Helping them identify this was the University of San Diego's Center for Peace and Commerce (CPC) staff. In collaboration with the San Diego Diplomacy Council, the Institute of International Education and the U.S. Department of State, 90 Fulbright Visiting Scholars representing 49 countries from six continents and more than 50 academic disciplines, were in town for an enrichment seminar from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1.

Titled "Leveraging Strategic Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Long-Term Success," CPC Director and School of Business Professor, Dr. Amitkumar Kakkad, and CPC Assistant Director Rachel Christensen put the highly successful Global Social Innovation Challenge on full display amongst a variety of seminar activities schedule for a second straight year.

"What an incredible opportunity to highlight USD's focus on educating tomorrow's leaders that are competent and caring, and in the process, connect with scholars from a diverse set of academic disciplines," Kakkad said. "It was an honor to again co-host this year's Fulbright faculty scholars from around the world."

Friday's programming was dominated by GSIC's format. Christensen gave an overview of USD's longest-running entrepreneurial endeavor and then, after lunch, the Fulbright Scholars watched four of the 2018 GSIC finalists' pitches on video and in their table groups were asked to be judges. Following this exercise, Kakkad led a discussion for the scholars' feedback and answered questions on how they might improve the GSIC judging rubric.

Other seminar highlights were speakers such as Aviva Paley, co-founder and senior director for Kitchens for Good; USD School of Business Dean, Dr. Jaime Alonso Gomez, speaking on "Complex Forces Driving Transformational Changes Across Economies and Industries"; Dr. Stephanie Bulger from the San Diego Community College District discussing Workforce Development and Educational Institutions; U.S. Department of State's Deputy Assistant Secretary, Caroline Casagrande, JD, and a panel discussion, "The Future is Female: A Discussion with Successful Women Entrepreneurs," that featured Samantha Urban, CEO of Urban Translations, Ana Bermudez, founder/CEO of Get TAGit, Dr. Orianna Bertschger, CEO of Aqua Cycle, Dr. Debbie K. Chen, founder/CEO of Hydrostasis and moderated by Dr. Silvia Mah, founder/CEO Hera Labs.

The visiting scholars were treated to dinners in some 30 San Diego families' homes and had experiential site visits to Qualcomm (Tech for Good), Sempra Energy and GRID Alternatives (Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability) and to the Barrio Logan neighborhood (Community Innovation). A seminar reflection on Saturday concluded the scholars’ visit.

"This is a great way for San Diego to be showcased as a city that's on the cutting edge of entrepreneurship and innovation," said Adam Meier, who represented the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. "We had 90 scholars from 49 different countries exploring the many different ways in which San Diego has embraced entrepreneurship and the social responsibility of giving back to its community."

Meier believed the seminar was an opportunity for scholars to learn and grow. "Every Fulbright scholar was selected based on their proposal and the research project they're doing at the university they're placed at in the United States, but, in my view, it's only part of the Fulbright experience," he said. "Whether they're at Harvard or the University of Idaho, we want them to experience as much of America as possible. Hopefully, they're going into their communities where they're doing research. Here, aside from the classroom work, we want them to see San Diego, we want them to meet with other impressive individuals and build their network."

Exposure to GSIC was another positive. "We really appreciate the partnership with USD and the GSIC. After seeing this, we think scholars will want to take this back to their home countries to try and replicate some of these entrepreneurial ways of approaching things."

The CPC worked closely with the San Diego Diplomacy Council again to bring the seminar to fruition. Heidi Knuff, a double USD alumna (2001 BA Communications, 2009 MA International Relations), is SDDC's custom programs and services director. The seminar was the council's latest work with a professional exchange program and it was a success for multiple reasons, Knuff said.

"I think this was a great way to showcase the Global Social Innovation Challenge," she said. "To bring these 90 Fulbright scholars from different academic disciplines together for a conference that's useful to all of them can be challenging, but I think we struck it right to showcase the GSIC because it's applicable to all of them."

Although USD was heavily involved and has worked with SDDC in the past, two neighboring institutions, Point Loma Nazarene University and UC San Diego, served as host event locations. Add in that a San Diego Community College District official gave a talk and Knuff was happy that the SDDC "had a role in bringing together and cross-pollenating ideas between the campuses and to create relationships between the campuses and the faculty (scholars) at the schools."

One Fulbright Visiting Scholar, Pernille Rasmussen, a computer science professor at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, said the chance to come to the U.S., where she's a visiting professor at University of Washington, has been a great opportunity. In San Diego, she's networked with other scholars, including a math professor from Argentina, and gained new insight for her area of expertise, research and technology entrepreneurship. She enjoyed the all-female CEO panel discussion. Her research centers on improving gender diversity in computer science and one way she's raising visibility is through the history of women in technology development and connecting with today's aspiring female scientists to pass along her knowledge.

Perhaps the Global Social Innovation Challenge in San Diego will be a future destination for an entrepreneurial student's idea by way of one of these Fulbright scholars. Imagine the possibilities.

— Ryan T. Blystone

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