News - 4/19/10

Students to present work at global conference

Two students will discuss their work to improve the quality of life for people in the African nation of Tanzania at the “Clinton Global Initiative University” conference next week.

The event brings together hundreds of students, university presidents and national youth organizations with the goal of creating and implementing positive change in education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, and poverty and public health in challenged areas of the world.

Ivan Martynenko, a sophomore civil engineering major from Kazakhstan, and Ben Reith, a senior civil engineering major from Mount Pleasant, Mich., will present details of their work as members of Valpo’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders to bring water to a rural village in Tanzania on the eastern slope of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

“By presenting our work, we want to show how the power of education has helped us to help those living in the village of Masaera,” said Martynenko. “We hope that our story will inspire everybody to think of ways to use this gift of higher education for the sake of help to others who are deprived of it.”

Martynenko and Reith have worked with other members of Valpo’s Engineers Without Borders team on the water project in Tanzania that was launched in 2009. The group recently returned from a two-week implementation project in Masaera, where they have been working with villagers to rehabilitate their 75 year-old dilapidated canal which waters their crops.

Reith said working with Engineers Without Borders has enabled him to combine his technical engineering skills with a passion for serving others.

“I feel I’ve gained more from the trip than did the people of Masaera,” said Reith. “The opportunity to visit such an economic and culturally contrasting region also really helped me put life into perspective and made me realize how truly blessed I am.”

Since the inception of Valpo’s EWB chapter in 2003, members have successfully installed 11 windmill-powered water systems in a village in the heart of northwest Kenya where the inhabitants had been facing one of the worst droughts in recorded history. With climate change causing warmer temperatures and diminished winds, the team was called back to Kenya in 2008 and installed two solar panels and a pump system.

Chapter adviser Elizabeth Gingerich, an associate professor of business law, said the work in Tanzania allows students to witness poverty in another section of the world, realize the power of their own gifts and talents, and to partner with people different from themselves in the common goal of affecting change.

Martynenko said that he looks forward to not only presenting his work, but hearing about the humanitarian projects that other attendees are working on around the world.

“I’m looking forward to listening to their stories and learning from their experiences, and I strongly believe that this event will help each of us find new friends and people who in the future will be helping us make all these great initiatives continue to happen as we begin our post-college lives and careers,” said Martynenko.

The conference will take place April 16 to 18 at the University of Miami.

More information about Valpo’s Engineers Without Borders chapter and its work in Tanzania and Kenya can be found online.

Kenya ambassador to speak to campus

An international diplomat who has served as Kenya's ambassador to the United States, Mexico and Columbia since 2006 will discuss the relationship between Kenya and the U.S. during an April 22 program on campus.

Peter Nicholas Rateng Oginga Ogego, Ambassador of the Republic of Kenya for the United States, will present "Policy and the Role of Policy Makers in the Emerging Market on the African Continent" in the Christopher Center for Library and Information Resources, Room 205, from 3 to 4 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are requested and can be made by calling Valpo's Graduate School at (219) 465-5313.

Ogego also will meet with Valpo administrators to continue discussions about cooperative ventures between the University and Kenya.

Ogego previously has been involved in Kenya's HIV/AIDS awareness campaign, and has worked with organizations including Action Aid, the Department for International Development and UNICEF Kenya. The ambassador holds a first class honors degree in political science and international law from Makerere University in Uganda, and a master's degree in public organization and management from the same university.

The discussion is sponsored by Valpo's Graduate School and is a part of an International Commerce and Policy program in global studies.

More information about Valpo's Graduate School can be found online at and more information about its International Commerce and Policy Program can be found at

Students win regional economic competition

A team of economics students has been named regional champions in a national collegiate contest measuring the impact of more than 400 national student groups in striving to improve people’s lives.

Valpo’s Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) Team was honored for their service on campus, locally and overseas April 8 in Chicago at the SIFE regional competition.

“SIFE students have been agents for positive change in the community and have themselves been enriched by their interaction with the community,” said Dr. Jaishankar Raman, associate professor of economics and adviser to SIFE. “Valpo’s SIFE team has been successful in not just impacting the campus, but the community and it constituents, and internationally by reaching out to schools and orphanages in five different countries to date.”

SIFE is an international non-profit organization that works with leaders in business and higher education to mobilize university students to make a difference in their communities while developing the skills to become socially responsible business leaders.

Participating students form teams on their university campuses and apply business concepts to develop outreach projects that improve the quality of life and standard of living for people in need. An annual series of regional and national competitions provides a forum for teams to present the results of their projects, and to be evaluated by business leaders serving as judges.

“Winning the SIFE regional trophy is evidence of how committed and dedicated the Valpo SIFE team is in bringing a change to the community,” said Moiz Ali, a junior accounting major. “The victory also reflects the impact that we’ve successfully made through our projects in not only the Valpo community but the greater Chicagoland area.”

Projects conducted by Valpo’s SIFE team and entered in this year’s competition, include:

  • A business suit drive in which more than 300 items of clothing were collected and donated to New Creation men’s shelter and The Caring Place women’s shelter, both in Valparaiso.
  • A children’s book drive in conjunction with Washington Township Elementary School in which more than 900 books were collected and donated to the Hilltop Neighborhood House and to schools and orphanages in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, India and Tanzania. (Books were delivered in person overseas by Valpo’s Social Action Leadership Team and Engineers Without Borders chapter.)
  • Development of a free iPhone application that provides users with easy-to-use links and information about insurance, credit scores, identity theft and other critical financial topics.
  • SIFE team members served as interns and helped create the consulting company rTrail, which provided marketing, business consulting and multimedia help to Valparaiso-area business and various city government departments.

Valpo’s SIFE team will now join other regional champion teams at the SIFE World Cup national competition, which takes place in Minneapolis May 11 to 13.