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Social Innovation Award helps students make proposals a reality

Friday, June 05, 2015

LAWRENCE — Two University of Kansas students were recently recognized with the Social Innovation Award for their proposals utilizing art to advance social change both at home and abroad. The funds awarded will help these undergraduates put their strategic plans into action. 

The annual award is presented by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and was created in 2014 to support undergraduate Jayhawks as innovators, thoughtful risk-takers and global citizens.

Brogan Britt, a senior from Abilene majoring in business, won $2,500 to advance her proposal, “The Phoenix Project.” This project will be the first of its kind in Kansas to address the issue of domestic violence through art.

Karvin Fernando, a junior from Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka, majoring in engineering physics, also won $2,500 to jump-start his proposal, “Zeylan Collective.” The collective will expand opportunities for impoverished artists based in Sri Lanka to get their works to the global market. The project is an online art gallery that locates and sells abstract artwork.

Ten student groups presented projects to a group of alumni judges in a fast-pitch format after months of research and proposal work. Students also sought insight and guidance from alumni mentors active in professional and academic fields.

The students presented their proposals to the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Advisory Board in April. The board selected the winning proposals based on how the project would help solve the presented problem, if the plan was plausible in the near-term, and whether the budget and timeline were achievable.

The other projects and presenting students:

  • “Bamboo Housing in Central America” - Lauren Downie, from Springfield, Missouri, freshman in architecture
  • “Advocates for Progress” - Emily Lenherr, from Windom, sophomore in biology; Laura Fagen, from Wichita, senior in theatre and journalism; Lauren Mitchell, from Hutchinson, senior in social welfare
  • “Inner City Integration” - Thomas McKean, from Overland Park, senior in behavioral neuroscience and economics; Birat Acharya, from Olathe, senior in public affairs & administration; Jolene Gilkey, from Bel Aire, senior in business
  • “Seeds of Hope” - Tho Thanh Nguyen, from Overland Park, sophomore in biochemistry
  • “Students For Educational Equity In Kansas” - Crystal Bradshaw, from Jetmore, sophomore in creative writing; Katherine Rainey, from Shawnee, senior in psychology; Cassandra Osei, from Shawnee, senior in history and Latin American & Caribbean studies
  • “Connecting Primary Care Physicians and Behavioral Health Professionals” - Allegra Baxter, from Olathe, senior in psychology
  • “La Chureca” - Ada Sandigo Campos, from Diriá, Nicaragua, undecided freshman; Rogelio Peschard, from Managua, Nicaragua, sophomore in civil engineering
  • “After School Program at Lawrence Community Shelter” - Elizabeth Hazelwood, from Manhattan, junior in East Asian languages & cultures

All the students received positive feedback on their proposals from the advisory board. Several board members offered to connect the students with professional colleagues whose experience and support could bring the projects to fruition.

The Social Innovation Award is funded by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, which encourages learning without boundaries in its more than 50 departments, programs and centers. Through innovative research and teaching, the College emphasizes interdisciplinary education, global awareness and experiential learning. The College is KU's broadest, most diverse academic unit.