TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Two countries, one team, one problem. Business students at Hillsborough Community College, and Duhok Polytechnic University in Iraq, are working together to identify and create solutions for a global problem.
The cross-cultural team is participating in the Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge, a virtual exchange initiative that supports workforce development in the U.S., Iraq, and Jordan. Community college students from the U.S. and university students from Iraq and Jordan team up to solve global challenges facing the business sector across industries. The program improves global citizenship, strengthens problem-solving skills, and develops enduring connections, while enhancing students’ job skills through online collaboration.
The team recently held its first online meeting, and now students are giving one another a look at what life is like in their respective communities. HCC Professor Katen Amin, one of the team’s leaders, says students are learning that, despite being 7,000 miles apart, they have a lot in common.
“Duhok students are no different from American students, they like to socialize, they like to have fun,” Amin says.
The Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge gives students 10 weeks to identify a challenge impacting their communities in similar ways, and develop a unique business concept that could be financially, socially, and environmentally beneficial. Each semester’s challenge focuses on a different sector of the business community. This semester, the business must be related to arts and entertainment.
Amin says the students’ conversations led them to talk about America’s homeless, and refugees in Iraq. There are approximately 1,700 homeless men, women, and children in Hillsborough County, and there are 27 refugee camps in the Duhok region.
“When all is said and done, you’re basically looking at the same thing,” Amin says. “You’re looking at people without homes, who’ve probably been displaced.”
Because the students must focus on arts and entertainment, the subject of clothing and textiles was brought up.
“We started talking about clothing and I prompted, ‘what do refugees wear? What do they have?’ And that sort of led to an incredible conversation,” Amin said.
Amin won’t elaborate on the students’ idea because, after all, the Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge is a competition. In December, the HCC/Duhok Polytechnic team will compete against other cross-cultural teams. The top business models will receive seed money to develop their plans into prototypes. However, even if they aren’t victorious in the challenge, in a way these students have already won.
“We can get that great connection between our societies and realize – you know what Iraq and the US, as different as they are, we all sort of have our similarities, in different shapes and forms.”
The Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge is funded by the Stevens Initiative, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, with funding provided by the U.S. Government, and is administered by the Aspen Institute. It is also supported by the Bezos Family Foundation and the governments of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.
Learn more about the Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge here.