By Kierney McKiernan, '24
When I think I couldn’t love the University of Notre Dame anymore, I am yet again stunned by the generosity, character, & curiosity of donors, professors, staff, partner stakeholders, and students who have become great friends. When people ask me why Notre Dame and specifically, the Mendoza College of Business at ND, my answer is easy. The Mendoza College of Business seeks to authentically grow the good in business by fostering community, and my recent experience traveling to Saint Bakhita’s Vocational School in Kalongo, Uganda exemplifies just that.
In Spring of 2022, I had the opportunity to take an Innovation & Design course led by Professor Wendy Angst, focused on using design thinking methodologies to prototype business opportunities. Our class had a goal of providing successful business ventures for Saint Bakhita’s graduates while simultaneously making positive change in the surrounding community, so naturally I was drawn to learning more about Saint Bakhita’s students, the Kalongo area, and the need for female education. When Professor Angst offered the opportunity of a lifetime to travel directly to Saint Bakhita’s in an extension of Innovation & Design for an Immersion course, I jumped at the chance to travel to Uganda and hear first hand from the Saint B’s students. My expectations were completely blown out of the water for the week that included over 75 hours of travel to get to the small rural area in Kalongo, Uganda.
During our four pivotal days at Saint Bakhita’s, my class of 12 along with amazing translators and staff from Saint Bakhita’s, conducted ethnographic interviews from various demographics to understand how Saint Bakhita’s could better serve the community while also benefiting the financial health of the school. In between interviews, my classmates and I were able to walk around in the area, observing what businesses flourished in the area to draw inspiration for Saint Bakhita’s. We toured Saint Bakhita’s farm, called Innovation Acres, where I got to try their tasty papaya for the first time. With the help of Kacie Mooney and Abby Maichin, we tested a solar powered oven and attempted to fry an egg. We hiked Mount Kalongo, and even had the chance to go on a safari. Our group of 12 with some help from the impressive Saint Bakhita’s students, played a soccer game against a local Kalongo team with 200 spectators in attendance, and piloted another screening of a free movie for the community where laughter consumed the area for 3 hours straight.
I want to thank the generous gift from the Pulido-Walker Foundation for the life-changing experience to travel to Saint Bakhita’s to directly hear from the students, school leadership, and outside community. Professor Angst, thank you for being our fearless leader and mixing the perfect amount of fun and guidance to fuel our learning. The chance to physically be at Saint Bakhita’s and participate in experiential learning pushed my class to think of more innovative ways to serve both St. B’s and the outer community. My experience in Kalongo further cements my desire to continue to work with Saint Bakhita’s in my last year and a half of college & beyond.
GO IRISH, GO SAINT BAKHITA’S!