Brescia University team wins Global Innovation Challenge

May 3, 2024 | 12:14 am

Updated May 2, 2024 | 8:16 pm

Given the historic relationship between Zambia and China on land mining projects, how should Zambia navigate the future of traditional and innovative mining practices to ensure improved welfare for citizens and lessened environmental impact?

Four Brescia University students solved this prompt to win the Global Innovation Challenge, an intercollegiate competition organized by The College of William and Mary. 

Juan Tavera, Nevaeah DeArmond, Emilee Clark, and Eli Mongare defeated multiple Chinese, Ivy League, public universities, and colleges worldwide to claim the title. 

Dr. Anna Kuthy is the director of the Ursuline Center for Teach and Learning at Brescia and led this year’s team. This marks the 8th year of the competition, which featured 33 teams from 24 schools across six countries. 

Kuthy described the experience as rewarding and a testament to the Bresica and Owensboro communities. She said they competed against schools near D.C. with advisors from the NATO Allied Command, the most extensive Naval base in the world, the World Bank, USAID, and more. 

“It can be frustrating to compete against other teams with unlimited resources and large endowments,” Kuthy said. “This is proof you don’t need a large endowment to compete in a world market and that our students can compete against some of the best universities in the world.”

Tavera and DeArmond will graduate this year, and Kuthy said they’re going through the “What am I going to do with my life?” phase. She hopes the competition has inspired them to believe in themselves. 

“This team won because of who they are, their skills, and how they’ve worked together,” she said. “I really am that much of an idealist. I want them to get to the point where they truly believe in themselves.”

Tavera hails from Columbia, Mongare is from Kenya, and Clark and DeArmond are from the U.S. Though they possess vastly different perspectives, they developed an innovative and inclusive solution that wowed the judges. 

“Sometimes societal structures can influence you and impact your path, but at the end of the day, anyone can accomplish great things, even if the cards are stacked against you,” Kuthy said. “The diversity of this team and their ability to work together and build on each other played an instrumental role in their success.”

According to global news sources, the Democratic Republic of Congo has become increasingly dependent on China. According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, China leans on the Congo primarily for copper, cobalt, and raw copper — increasing those rates by 41% from 1995 to 2022. 

Kuthy said that has led to vast dependency and extended governmental control and influence over the Congo to China. And though it’s not apples to apples, she said it’s not unlike the issues Americans and even Daviess Countians face regularly. 

“We don’t have as much social mobility as we think we do,” Kuthy said. “It’s the same families and names that control the cities. Even when businesses come in, only some money stays here. With anything related to coal, less than 2% stays in Kentucky and impacts the culture here.”

The four Bearcats developed a solution that Kuthy said attempts to mediate the dependency on China, develop internal wealth, and maintain human and environmental safety.

The victory marks the second time Brescia has won the competition, with the last win coming in 2022. That team featured competitors from Lithuania, Belarus, Columbia, and the U.S. — reemphasizing the value of diversity. 

Kuthy hopes other colleges and universities will take notice and join in the competition in the future. She said the competition is a way to expose students to the global job market. 

“The job market is dwindling, and our students need to be versed in the global economy and what is wanted and needed,” she said. “We can’t get to a point where the world influences us; we have to influence the world. These kids inspire me so much.”

Tavera will graduate soon with a degree in political science. Kuthy said he’s shown remarkable growth at Brescia, increasing his critical thinking and leadership skills and eventually earning captain status on the tennis team. He also won the Spirit of Angela Merici for academic excellence and human spirit. 

Clark serves as the president of the Student Government Association and, as Kuthy puts it, “is a female who thinks she has to do everything.” She’s currently working on the human relations commission and has made a positive impact, even though she reluctantly joined the team. 

“It felt like a huge accomplishment, not only for myself but also to succeed for Brescia as a whole. We all wanted to make the school proud,” Clark said. “I think what made our team successful is we really tried to put each of our strengths forward and work together to get the job done.”

Mongare is a freshman soccer player majoring in computer science. Kuthy said his analytical abilities are incredible, and he’s an amazing human being whose maturity level continues to grow. 

DeArmond will graduate this year with a degree in political science. Kuthy referred to her as super idealistic, open-minded, and bright-eyed. She’s the volleyball team’s captain, and according to Kuthy, she “looks at the world differently.” She will head to Northern Kentucky University and the Chase School of Law this fall. 

“Please join me in a heartfelt congratulations to Eli, Emilee, Juan, and Nevaeh,” Kuthy said. “These kids inspire me so much. I was able to watch them and learn so much from them.”

May 3, 2024 | 12:14 am

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