Three Stories of Innovation

Participants Competing in the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge

The innovative and changemaking spirit of University of San Diego students shone brightly during the Ashoka Exchange on Thursday, March 18.

Three alumni of the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge (Fowler GSIC) were featured in a Students in Action session with their presentation: Three stories of Innovation: The Survivor, The Hustler, The Engineer. Speakers Brittany Catton Kirk, Carl Dumesle, Jarvis Lu expertly wove their stores together, facilitated by Chelsea Dunleavy. This session highlighted three USD innovators from different backgrounds who are tackling social innovation in diverse ways to address gaps in trauma recovery, housing and credit for immigrants, and renewable energy storage. 

Catton Kirk, a Master’s in Social Innovation candidate in the Kroc School of Peace Studies at USD, presented first. Catton Kirk founded Sunlight U and Sunlight Retreats. Sunlight U is an online educational subscription-based resource focused on healing from trauma, focusing on the science of trauma. Catton Kirk explains that "Sunlight Retreats is unique; it is an accelerator for healing, where many proven services are available for survivors to sample and experiment within an intensive 3-4 day retreat. I had 40 survivors from all over the country who signed up overnight." Her social innovation Sunlight U will be a game-changer to allow survivors to get support on their schedule. 

Dumesle, a Master’s in Business Administration candidate, spoke second. He created a SaaS platform for a comprehensive solution for creditworthiness and housing opportunities for international students. He explains the motivation behind his project: "The move from Haiti to the USA for my MBA was exciting, but I experienced my first hurdle upon my arrival; I could not lease an apartment because I had no credit. From that point on, I have dedicated all my energy to founding my venture, HUGS, which provides comprehensive housing solutions for international students." 

Lu, undergraduate integrated engineering senior with USD's Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, presented last. He worked with a team called Xatalyze that created a capacitor energy storage device that can capture the advantages of solar power without the drawbacks, alleviate stress off the grid at a  significantly lower price point, and is 100% recyclable. Lu explains that he is "passionate about the environment, I know using innovative design and patents, we can invent our way out of the world's largest challenges [including climate change]. I am proud to work with a team of other fantastic students (environmental policy students to engineering students) to make our dream a reality.”

Finally, Dunleavy, undergraduate coordinator for the Center for Peace and Commerce at USD who is pursuing her degree in Business Administration in Marketing with a minor in Sociology, tied it all together. Dunleavy called on the audience to reflect on their identity, see how they were connected to their community, identify gaps, and begin the process of innovation. The takeaway: it doesn't take "one type" of person to make an innovative and lasting impact. Social innovation takes many forms done by people of diverse backgrounds working around their specialties and areas of experience. Tapping into one’s identity helps to jump-start a new venture that will leave a positive impact both for and on others.  

— Chelsea Dunleavy

Chelsea Dunleavy is the undergraduate coordinator for the Center for Peace and Commerce at USD who is pursuing her degree in Business Administration in Marketing with a minor in Sociology.