Acara expands its borders

Since 2009, the Institute on the Environment’s Acara program has been helping student entrepreneurs plan and launch businesses that address social or environmental needs through Grand Challenge Curriculum courses, competitions for seed funding and study abroad experiences. Now Acara is expanding to better teach, fund and mentor students interested in learning about and developing innovative and financially sustainable solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.

To ramp up its efforts, Acara is:

Adding to its roster of distinguished faculty and staff: Tom Fisher, a professor in the College of Design, and Steve Kelley, a senior fellow in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, will join Acara director Fred Rose as instructors of the GCC course Global Venture Design: What Impact Will You Make? (GCC 5005), launched in 2009 in the College of Science and Engineering. Fisher was recently touted by the StarTribune as being a “leading voice in the world of design” and lauded for his new book that details why design thinking can help solve society’s big social problems. Kelley served in both the Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives. Global Venture Design was among the first of the University’s courses to receive the GCC designation in 2015.

While Acara works with students on ideas for Minnesota and around the globe, its international staff was primarily focused on supporting students to design solutions in response to community needs in India under the guidance of India program coordinator Aruna Raman, based in Bangalore. This year it’s adding part-time staff in Kenya, Uganda and Nicaragua to expand mentorship opportunities to other parts of the world. Closer to home, Acara has hired Megan Voorhees as associate director and Erin Kayser as program coordinator. Voorhees previously was the director of the Public Service Center and assistant dean of students at the University of California Berkeley. Kayser is a College of Science and Engineering graduate and a 2015 Acara fellow. 

Reaching bold frontiers: Adding to the GCC, Rose and co-instructor Cheryl Robertson will apply lessons learned from the U.S. Agency for International Development–sponsored One Health Workforce program experience of teaching in Africa to a Minnesota classroom. Robertson, a professor in the School of Nursing, was recently recognized with an Outstanding Nurses award as someone who publicly advocates for public health by Mpls/St. Paul magazine. The course, Seeking Solutions to Global Health Issues (GCC 5003), will explore complex problems at the nexus of animal, human and ecological health, and involve some of the same East African staff mentioned above. And in May 2017, Acara will offer a new study abroad course in rural Nicaragua in addition to its well-established study abroad course in India. 

Shaking hands: Come meet Acara staff, fellows and interns at the annual open house Monday, September 19, 5–7 p.m. at the Institute on the Environment. Acara alums Eat for Equity will provide refreshments.

Illustration by djvstock (iStock)

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