Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thanks Dr. Petters

Guest post from Mischa-von-Derek Aikman, age 15 (second from right in photo)

Duke University, in conjunction with Dr. Arlie Petters’ Research Institute (Dangriga, Belize), facilitated the Talent Identification Program (TIP) for the first time here in Belize.

This year was the first that the student intake was selected not only from the United States, but as well, from Belize and the United Kingdom.

I am grateful that I was one of the four students selected from Belize and awarded a scholarship to attend the program. The purpose of the program is for the students to develop leadership skills in the field of business and also to learn of the host country’s culture. The TIP spanned over a period of two weeks in beautiful Dangriga and the experience gained was life-changing.

I must say that as the program progressed, it consistently exceeded my greatest expectations! The academic aspect of the TIP was very unconventional in that it defied the traditional classroom setting that most of the pupils were anticipating. It was much more interactive and enlightening than the normal “class per usual” to which we were accustomed. It allowed for each individual to perform at their utmost potential and to motivate their peers to do the same.

The core of the TIP was the challenge presented to us by our Instructors to look critically at three sectors in Belize.

The relatively new and controversial development of our oil deposits was assigned to one group. Students had to research and interview relevant authorities and put together a company to engage in the exploration and extraction of oil with maximum environmental protection to Belize and with a fair return to the Government and people of Belize. The very sensitive issue of industry corruption was also addressed.

Another group of students was tasked with Eco Tourism development and they chose the development of “Why Not Island” in Dangriga, as a Tourist Village. Students immersed themselves in the community and were most impressive with their final product for a comprehensive Tourism developmental plan for the entire district.

View Larger Map

The third group of students was tasked with exploring Marketing Technology. They chose to set up a company to repair and assemble computers in Belize. This too resulted in a very detailed undertaking proving that this can be a very viable project in Belize, with 90% of the work force being provided by High School students.

The unique projects assigned to each group allowed for each student, both native and foreign, to learn an immense quantity of information about Belize’s politics, its economy, and most importantly, the pace it keeps with globalization. It was quite impressive to see the very detailed and professional presentations that each team showcased at the end of the two weeks. It really made the spectators aware of how much time and effort everyone invested in such a short period of time.

Whenever I think of how effective fifteen strangers from across the globe were able to work collectively, I am awestruck when I attempt to predict what leaders from across several nations can accomplish when working together.

On behalf of my other three Belizean scholarship winners, I would like to extend deepest gratitude to Duke University, Belizean, Dr. Arlie Petters of Duke, and the Petters Research Institute in Belize. Together, you have proven to be a catalytic engine for the promotion of human development that will impact nation building around the world. We wish Dr. Petters continued success in his selfless work for Belize.

Belize News 5 story about the program

7 story

Sunday, September 6, 2009

So Long Sweet Summer

Summer is done with, and school has started again- probably not the most satisfying feeling. And I am back to blogging about all the really smart research happening in and around Duke.

Just as a memory refresher- I am Vansh Muttreja, an international sophomore at Duke and a Computer Engineering and Economics major. I have been writing for the Duke Research blog for a year now, and its been an awesome experience so far.

My time this summer was evenly divided between work, research, and everything else.
For the first month, I worked as a Residential Counselor for Duke TIP (Talent Identification Program) in India. The Duke TIP in India program is aimed at providing a unique learning environment designed to motivate and challenge academically talented Indian students within a supportive and nurturing campus setting.

Sixty-three of the smartest kids from 6 cities participated in the second year of TIP in India, and had the opportunity to live together for 4 weeks in one of the premier business schools in Asia- the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

They were taught a number of courses including Entrepreneurial Leadership, Engineering Problem Solving, Java for Video Games and Forensic Sciences. As a Residential Counselor, my primary responsibility was to supervise the students outside the classroom, organize social and recreational activities and as a whole serve as role models for them.

After Duke TIP, I did a small project for One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative, and helped in the initial drafting of the OLPC India model. OLPC aims to empower the children of third world countries by providing them with low-cost laptops that could serve as their primary tool of education and collaboration.

Finally, I did a one-month internship at an international strategy consulting firm, and carried out market research for several foreign clients who wanted to enter the Indian industry. My job was to conduct interviews, discussions and field trips to collect market data and consequently analyze the market demand for the relevant industry or product.

And the rest of time, if there was any, I was having a good time in the scorching heat of India.

What's Next- I will be covering developments in a variety of research areas, organizing interviews with research fellows, professors, or people who are just doing really cool stuff, and also would be posting about my own research projects and practices.