February 29, 2024


Technology and Age

JCC One Of 12 Colleges Chosen For Global Challenge | News, Sports, Jobs

Members of SUNY JCC’s Global Sustainability Challenge team, included, from left: Cori Dunagan, academic technology support coordinator; Christian Baffoin; Irene Aloyce; Mason Palude; Jesse Bates; David Guckenberger; Katerina Starkova; and Greg Rabb, political science professor. Not pictured: Carter Gordon.

The lights went out, but the voices continued on the other end. Every so often when SUNY Jamestown Community College students met virtually with students in Iraq, the screen would go black.

“They can’t rely on their power source,” said Greg Rabb, a political science professor at JCC. “All of a sudden we could hear them, but we couldn’t see them because their lights went out. They don’t have reliable electricity like we do.”

The darkness was jarring for Rabb and his students in America, who gathered with their Kurdish counterparts from Duhok Polytechnic University each Thursday afternoon for eight weeks as part of the Global Sustainability Challenge. The meetings started at 10 p.m. Iraq time, amplifying the darkness.

The virtual exchange initiative brought together community college and university students from the United States, and technical college and university students from Iraq and Jordan to solve global challenges in their communities. JCC was one of 12 U.S. colleges chosen to participate on binational teams that competed to develop the most sustainable business concept in response to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The JCC-Duhok team, called “The Young Peers,” chose to address quality education in the U.S. and in Iraq. It turned out to be a worldwide initiative as the JCC group of seven students included three international students from Russia, Germany, and the Ivory Coast.

Students in the U.S. are seldom burdened by not having dependable electricity, but other issues persist. Members of the JCC team said they face communication barriers with their peers and instructors. They also feel that students in general lack a voice to make positive changes in their education.

To address these problems, the JCC-Duhok group developed a business plan for a website prototype that would serve as a network for students and college faculty and staff from around the world to interact with each other.

“Some of the problems we had didn’t directly overlap,” said Mason Palude, JCC’s Young Peers project director. “We had much different problems here than they did in Iraq. Some of their problems are power, sustainability, and infrastructure issues. We generally don’t have those same problems. We kind of figured it out by creating a website with a forum that people could go and discuss problems and maybe try to bridge a solution together.”

Palude said the anchor of the prototype is a discussion forum that is similar to Reddit, a wide-ranging network of online communities where people can share their interests, hobbies and passions.

“There’s other stuff, too,” classmate Jesse Bates added. “There’s educational resources, scholarship opportunities, student exchange opportunities. There’s a donation platform, hopefully for schools to put what they need on the website, and people can come in and donate it or drop it off to the school.”

The students spent six hours on the Friday before Thanksgiving designing the prototype, which they call Bridge EDU. They also put together a nine-minute video presentation for a panel of international judges.

The process of developing components for the website took longer. The students from JCC and Duhok interviewed peers, professors, and family members involved in education. They came back with a host of problems and included them on a mind map with two sides – one for students and one for instructors.

David Guckenberger, from Germany, said a big reason the JCC-Duhok team chose to address education was because the group believed many other world problems could be solved “if everybody had access to quality education.”

Led by Rabb, those participating from JCC were Palude, Bates, Guckenberger, Katerina Starkova, Christian Baffoin, Irene Aloyce, and Carter Gordon.

“The students from Iraq are just like me and my colleagues,” said Starkova, a Russia native who served as JCC’s Young Peers project manager. “They just want to learn something new. They participated in this international process because they want to improve things in their universities. They have big problems with laboratory equipment, books, and material stuff. They are really bright, really smart people.”

Rabb said he didn’t know what he was getting into when he applied for JCC to join the Global Sustainability Challenge. Students couldn’t earn college credits for joining so Rabb sold them on the experience.

“It’s my major,” Starkova said of her reason for joining. “I would like to be an international manager or diplomat or whatever who can solve global problems on the government level.”

Aloyce said it was the “big challenge” that attracted her to the project.

“You get to solve a big problem globally,” she added. “It’s not one place. Being part of this challenge, it does help to be open minded with other cultures.”

Rabb said he was “blown away” by the students’ final product. He also commended Cori Dunagan, JCC’s academic technology support coordinator, for her role in connecting the Iraqi and American students on Zoom each week.

“Our binational group was amazing and our JCC group was fantastic,” Rabb said. “They worked together well with each other and our Iraq counterparts getting no academic credit but simply for the pure joy of learning together and not just consuming knowledge but creating knowledge. It was an honor to be one of 12 colleges in the United States chosen for the competition.”

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