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Washington State University
CAS Connect Summer 2014

Students gain firsthand insights in India

Sixteen globally engaged WSU students and faculty did something different this year during spring break. They traveled to Bangalore, India, and gained “the experience of a lifetime.”

Global Cougs on-site in India.
Global Cougs on-site in India.

Most of the interdisciplinary group—many from the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS)—first came together through the WSU Global Case Competition (GCC), a program designed to help solve complex global problems. Their collaborative efforts to address pressing international challenges provided background and a unique sense of purpose for their journey of outreach and discovery.

GCC is among several global learning opportunities offered to WSU students through the Office of International Programs. Small, diverse teams of international and non-international undergraduate and graduate students from across academic disciplines and campuses compete by applying their skills, knowledge, and creativity to solve issues of international concern.

In each of the four years since the competition began, five of up to 20 competing teams were selected to present their innovative solutions in a public forum. Thanks to a generous gift from WSU alumnus Orlin Reinbold (’73), members of the 2013 winning GCC teams also earned the opportunity to travel to India, the site of their “global case.”

CEO of Landmark Native Seed Co. in Spokane, Reinbold delivered the commencement address for two WSU colleges this spring. He serves as one of the GCC judges each year and praises the transformative power of traveling abroad.

“I didn’t travel overseas until I was in my thirties, but it was the most important thing to happen to me,” Reinbold said. “I want to encourage that—to give students the opportunity to open their perspective and develop a better understanding of international cultures. It will change their lives.”

And it did!

 WSU students interacted daily with local residents and business people.

WSU students interacted daily with local residents and business people.

“This trip to India really opened my eyes to other cultures,” said Natasha Clayborn, an undergraduate majoring in psychology. After her visit to the India-based start-up non-profit organization NextDrop, Natasha said she realized “that we have a responsibility to help our neighbors, whether they are in the next city or on another continent.”

Seeing the innovation of Indian companies and interacting with researchers and scholars at the Indian Institute of Science enabled the students to reflect more deeply upon the country’s rich cultural diversity and some of its environmental, political, population, and social challenges. They expressed appreciation for locally devised, practical approaches to vexing problems.

The diversity of the WSU group and frequent sharing of insights contributed much to the students’ experience, they said. Every evening after dinner, the group talked about their various personal, disciplinary, and cultural perspectives on the day’s activities.

“I feel so incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to engage in lengthy discussions with students with strong economics and engineering backgrounds [and with] students from other countries who openly characterized their own cultural contexts,” said environmental science graduate student Amber Heckelman. “By bringing together a diverse group of extraordinary individuals, this program prompted equally extraordinary discussions to unfold,” Amber said.

Civil engineering student Matthew Barner agreed. “The cultural knowledge gained while in India motivated me to further expand my cultural awareness to become an even more effective member of our global society,” he said.

Cougs at the InfoSys campus.
Cougs at the InfoSys campus.

Participants in this unique spring break program hope to inspire all Cougs to go global, said Christine Oakley, International Programs director of global learning and affiliated clinical associate professor of sociology.

Members of CAS who were part of the Innovation in India project include undergraduate students Lara Heersema (zoology) and Natasha Clayborn and Genet Yadetta (psychology); graduate students Amber Heckelman and Melanie Thornton (environmental science); and faculty members Laurie Nelson (psychology) and Christine Oakley (sociology).

Learn more about the Global Case Competition and how you can support it or give to other programs in the College of Arts and Sciences at WSU.

About Orlin Reinbold

Orlin Reinbold
Orlin Reinbold

A third-generation Cougar, Orlin Reinbold was raised on a farm in Davenport, Wash., growing wheat, cattle, and grass seed. His grandfather started one of the first reclamation grass seed companies in 1945 to supply farmers with grass seed for soil conservation.

Reinbold graduated from WSU in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and his teaching certification. After leaving Pullman, he taught Horticulture in Vancouver, Wash. Later in his career he managed a large greenhouse operation in Spokane.

He eventually returned to the family farm and grass seed business, and, after taking ownership, developed the regional grass seed business into a leading national and international grass seed company.

Reinbold currently owns Landmark Turf and Native Seed in Spokane, Arkansas Valley Seed in Denver, and Chesapeake Valley Seed in Maryland.