By Sofia Lora, '23
When I think of the Mendoza motto “Grow the Good in Business” one person comes to mind, and it is Professor Wendy Angst. I enrolled in her design thinking class simply to fulfill my requirement for my major and it ended up being the most impactful class of my undergraduate experience. The class was using design thinking principles and applying them to helping revitalize a vocational girl’s school in Kolango, Uganda. When the opportunity arose to do immersive research and actually be on the ground in Uganda, being able to see the problems, understand their needs, and actively participate outside of the classroom, I signed up immediately.
My time there did not disappoint. We were able to see the school in person and interview the locals of Kolango, making friends along the way. We were introduced to a completely different culture and a different way of life. Our capacity for innovation was pushed to its limits as we were forced out of our mental frameworks and to adopt a new way of viewing the world. With the guidance of Victoria, the schools principal, and Professor John Onyango, a Kenyan architecture professor at Notre Dame, we had to come up with culturally universal solutions, or adapt them to fit in a non-western mindset. I learned so much from the women at the school, as well as their support system. We were able to draft and broadcast advertisements, print flyers, host a movie night, and see the structure and functionality of the school and its facilities.
Aside from the education enrichment from doing this type of immersive and interactive research, this trip was one of the most memorable experiences of my lifetime. I know many of my peers will live their lives without ever having climbed a mountain, seen a lion on a safari or an elephant from their bedroom window, never have their hair braided by two women standing on chairs, or be able to see a couch balanced on a motorcycle going 60 miles an hour while goats run around on the streets.
The best part of this experience is knowing that I was not only able to make an impact in real time, but also being part of a project that had such a big impact on me and my development, not only as a professional or an academic, but as a person. This experience would not have been possible without the Pulido-Walker Foundation combined with the vision of Wendy Angst. Although I am excited to graduate this spring, not being able to live out this project as a student is one of the few things that makes me want to spend another four years at Notre Dame. I sincerely hope that other professors take on this immersive approach to teaching in the classroom because I have never felt more enriched or engaged during my time under the dome.