CORONAVIRUS UPDATES: Select the "more info" link for coronavirus-related resources and updates for Liberal Arts students, faculty, and staff. More info >
Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE)
Up one level
Angelique Santiago

Major: Political Science, Communication Arts and Sciences
Hometown: Peekskill, NY

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I found out about the Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) program at a Global Brigades meeting. The Global Brigades is an organization on campus that raises awareness of global health, development, and poverty issues through various fundraisers. One Sunday afternoon, at our meeting, a Penn State graduate who had been heavily involved with HESE and Global Brigades talked about her experience with the program and how it shaped her career path after college. At the end of the meeting, she gave the name of another undergraduate Penn State student who was currently involved in both Global Brigades and HESE and told the group to visit her office hours if we were interested and that is exactly what I did. I followed up for more information about the classes that I would have to take, and it seemed manageable and fit my interests, so I went for it!

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

I took the my first HESE class during the Fall 2016 semester. It was a 400-level class on Social Entrepreneurship through the College of Engineering. In this class, we had a chance to pick the issue we wanted to focus on, and I chose disabilities in Sierra Leone. Once our interdisciplinary teams of six were set up, we did research on the social issue and created a business model to provide a practical solution. My team and I created a business model for a helpline that would improve education, comfort, and support to the disabled and their caretakers in Sierra Leone. We had to create a value proposition for our venture and spreadsheets, and we connected with real world NGOs to help fund our venture and give us the credibility we needed in the Freetown, Sierra Leone context. I learned so much from my team and the professor, Khanjan Mehta. As a result, when I was asked to join the HESE Field Experience during the Summer 2017 semester by Dr. Esther Obonyo, I could not say no! The Field Experience is when students of the HESE program travel to the country in which their business model is based and try to implement their venture to solve the selected societal issue. After being chosen as a Grand Challenge Scholar and receiving enrichment funding from the College of Liberal Arts, I embarked on a journey with 18 other Penn State undergraduates to Arusha, Tanzania. We worked alongside Community Sector Organizations and Tanzanian scholars from the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology on projects modeled to combat selected societal challenges. Specifically, I worked on a team of six to address vision impairment through affordable 3D printed reading glasses. It was amazing! We interviewed local optometrists, business owners, professors, students, and lawyers. Sure, we faced many obstacles when it came down to the implementation and design of the venture, but we formed sustainable relationships and gained firsthand knowledge from the local people of Arusha, which made our achievements in that context even more rewarding.

We formed sustainable relationships and gained firsthand knowledge from the local people of Arusha, which made our achievements in that context even more rewarding.

How did this experience impact you academically?

HESE has given me real world experience in which I am able to apply key concepts and theories from my Political Science and International Relations courses. Academically, HESE has been very impactful. 

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

The HESE program has helped me solidify my interest in international development. I am currently working at a nonprofit that seeks to promote bipartisan solutions to critical foreign policy and national security issues, and I love it. HESE was my first real experience in this line of work, and because of the program, I can genuinely say that this is the field I belong in. After Penn State, I want to receive my degree in International Human Rights Law.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would definitely recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students. Penn State has so much to offer. Why limit yourself to just your academic college? Explore anything and everything that sparks your interest, even if it is in the College of Engineering. We need to participate in these holistic, interdisciplinary programs on the college level so that we can hit the ground running when we graduate.

For more information on global opportunities for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
Return to Top