Big Ten Network's 'Global Penn State' showcases service learning

July 22, 2010

University Park, Pa. -- College students who have studied overseas often return home finding that their experiences transformed them. Many Penn State students’ global education focuses on service-learning projects in developing nations. The results of their extended visits have transformed entire villages with improved quality of life. A Big Ten Network series premiering in July highlights several of these dual-benefit service-learning opportunities.

"Global Penn State" debuts at 6 p.m. Sunday, July 25, on the Big Ten Network. The premiere episode takes viewers to Kenya, where three groups of engineering students apply their education by tackling problems related to health care, unemployment, nutrition and renewable energy in marginalized communities while also providing Kenyans with economic opportunities. Penn State student-led projects Mashavu, WishVast and Essential Design build upon Penn State's threefold mission of teaching, research and service and extend relationships with host universities in the African nation.

"The programs featured in Kenya epitomize the integration of our tripartite mission of teaching, research and service, but in a global context. Penn State is committed to preparing students who would be actively engaged in tackling some of the global challenges of our time, " said Michael Adewumi, vice provost for Global Programs.

Using innovative, cost-effective engineering designs and existing technology, Penn State's Mashavu program has brought doctors and Kenyan patients together. While Kenya has a severe shortage of doctors -- only one per 50,000 citizens -- nearly all Kenyans have access to cell phones. Mashavu brings preventative care to Kenyans using telemedicine. Penn State students in a variety of majors have helped design inexpensive diagnostic equipment from readily available materials, like stethoscopes made of plastic tubing and funnels. They set up mobile kiosks with a laptop computer and gather patients' basic health information, like blood pressure, heart rate, temperature and lung capacity. Then, that data is sent to doctors available worldwide via cell phone signals to help monitor individuals' health and diagnose medical conditions.

Preview the work of Mashavu here.

WishVast is a ratings-based social network that connects people to potential business partners, clients and customers -- workers to employers and farmers to manufacturers and retailers -- using inexpensive, widely used cell-phone text messaging technology. WishVast creates networks, managed with a laptop and a tethered cell phone, that improve supply chains and employment through communities built on ratings. Each participant can rate the quality of interactions with others in a network, sending WishVast Points to each person based on their business reputation. WishVat helps to build trust regardless of geographic, economic, social or cultural boundaries.

The Essential Design group's work is based on a class in which students designed and built a biogas generator, a high tunnel greenhouse and a drip irrigation system using low-cost, locally found components. The greenhouse, for instance, is relatively inexpensive to construct with accessible materials and provides Kenyan farmers with a quick return on their investment and an efficient, highly profitable means of growing crops.

Future Global Penn State programs will feature Penn State student and faculty research, projects and partnerships from all corners of the world. The series is produced for the Big Ten Network by the Offices of University Relations and Global Programs and Penn State Public Television.

"Global Penn State" is scheduled to debut on the Big Ten Network at 6 p.m. Sunday, July 25, with additional airings at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 28, and 11:30 p.m. Friday, July 30. Listed air dates are in Eastern time; check local listings.

Watch a preview of the show at /video/166205/2013/02/09/video-no-title online, and visit the "Global Penn State" website at online.

  • Penn State bioengineering major Stephen Suffian befriended Masai men from the village of Olosho Oibor, the site of a Mashavu presentation for representatives from the U.N., European Union, investor groups, NGOs and Kenyan government ministries. Click on the image above to preview 'Global Penn State,' airing on the Big Ten Network.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 18, 2010