Seniors Call for World-Changing Action with Global Action Projects

Every year, seniors round off their MICDS English careers with a final year-long project, the Global Action Project (GAP). JK-12 English Department Chair Lynn Mittler describes the project challenge: “Our students are asked to identify an unjust equilibrium, and through their social enterprise, their mission is to find a leverage point to shift that equilibrium.” As a part of these projects, our senior Rams work in groups of three or four to address a wide range of issues such as food insecurity, homelessness, impoverished women in Brazil, the water crisis in California, and more. Throughout the year, they conduct research and read nonfiction books to explore problems in the world that they then dream up creative solutions for. Each team collaborates to gather data on the respective issue they’re aiming to resolve, they film a brief documentary to highlight the issue, and then they build a business plan to address the issue at hand. As part of their business plan, they create a fitting logo, vision, mission statement, value proposition, and goals.

The final step of the project is an in-person presentation, a missed component of the projects last year when the presentations were in a virtual format due to the pandemic. Students showed their documentaries and presented their final projects to fellow students, Mittler, and a panel of MICDS alumni and staff. The panel was tasked with hypothetically agreeing to fund the students’ ventures while also asking questions to ultimately challenge students to think through any additional details their plans could consider. The presentations in the Olson Hall Presentation Room were also recorded over Zoom and shared with the families of participating students. 

This year’s panelists included the following:

  • Elizabeth Stephens Harbison ’07, Assistant Vice President in the Cyber Solutions Group at Aon Private Equity
  • Chip Hiemenz ’02, Central Division Manager at Hunter Engineering
  • Stewart Crais, Chief Information Officer at MICDS
  • Kendall Krummenacher ’02, former Head of Marketing for Alternative Investments at Stifel in New York
  • Blake DeCola ’05, Senior Vice President at Brado
  • Lindsey Herzog Shipley ’07, Vice President of Weber Shandwick

The 2022 Global Action Projects called for critical action as students pondered how to improve the unjust equilibriums of the world. Check out some of the issues they selected and their business enterprise solutions in these one-page summaries!

Alumni were inspired not only by the hard work of the students but also by how they presented their business ventures. “I was so impressed by this year’s cohort of Global Action Projects,” shares Shipley. “You could tell the students put an incredible amount of time, effort, and research into their business plans and documentaries, and their ideas brought creative solutions to some of our area’s most pressing issues. The presentations were so impactful and the students’ presentation skills were right up there with some of the strongest presenters I’ve seen in the business world.”

Hiemenz echoed this sentiment: “As a first-time participant with the Global Action Project, I was overwhelmingly impressed with the quality of work produced by the MICDS students. Each project started by identifying a challenge and was followed by presenting an actionable solution. The experiences received by our students through this initiative will serve them well and prepare them for future presentations in both college and beyond.”

Besides impacting the alumni panel, the Global Action Project had a profound impact on our seniors. Check out some of their reflections below!

Sophie Henriksen ’22

“Through the GAP project, I got a glimpse of how much trial and error it takes to create a realistic business model. I learned how important it is to empathize with your desired customer demographic in order to meet their needs. I also learned about many other unjust equilibriums that exist in the world today through my peers’ presentations.

“Our group addressed the prevalence of nutrition misinformation within American culture and how it has led to an uptick in eating disorders and long-term health effects. In order to combat this issue, we developed a business model for a mobile application that creates a personalized grocery list that pairs with your local grocery store and uses data from an in-depth lifestyle/health goals survey to best assess your nutrition needs. This app would be paired with tablets on grocery carts that include product scanners and GPS locators for guidance within your local store. By pairing with registered dieticians and creating software to help educate the public on nutrition during their shopping experience, we saw an opportunity to address the unjust equilibrium in the food marketing industry that takes advantage of the public’s ignorance to sell them unhealthy products.

“To complete the project we used our prior knowledge in documentary making to create a film to represent the issue we were addressing to the panelists. During the first semester, we learned how to incorporate elements such as endearing characters and interviews to take advantage of the rhetoric elements of pathos and ethos. In combination with the design thinking process, we used these skills to complete our culminating final project.

“I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to partake in such a unique project before graduating from MICDS. The course has definitely helped to inspire me to pursue a business-related profession in the future, and it wouldn’t have been possible without all of Ms. Mittler’s hard work!”

Shelly Bhagat ’22

“My group addressed the issue of water shortages in California due to drought and our solution was to implement a new technology that has currently been developed in labs to harvest water out of the air. Through GAP, I got to learn the process of design thinking and how social entrepreneurship and other businesses are run, which was a super fun and unique experience. Since we’ve been practicing design thinking the entire year, I think that our practices really helped us come to a final product and helped us to figure out what solutions would and would not work. I think that the whole aspect of learning how to problem solve, which we’ve been learning about all year, was really helpful in this project. My favorite part was definitely working on the presentation and seeing all of our hard work come together since we have been working on this project for so many weeks.”

Ms. Mittler was also pleased with how the projects turned out. “It is a very rewarding experience to watch our students pull together so many aspects of what they have learned throughout the year (and throughout their years at MICDS) in this culminating event,” she reflected. “Each year I am impressed with how invested the teams get in their social enterprises and their ability to share that passion. It is also a privilege to have such great alumni who are willing to come back and offer their expertise. It is consistently a highlight of my year and I love seeing how proud the students are of their accomplishments.”

Annie Danforth ’22

“The issue my team addressed was the divide between Saint Louis city and Saint Louis county. We felt like this divide leads to a plethora of issues including educational disparities and resource discrepancies. We feel like the city has so much potential and our goal was to bring life back to it and create a space reminiscent of Saint Louis in the 1904s. Our solution was to accomplish this goal through architecture, creating an area in downtown Saint Louis that creates an equilibrium between work, play, and culture which will consequently address all of the issues that we see in Saint Louis.

“My favorite part of the project was dreaming up our solution with my group mates. We had so much fun visiting the City Foundry and driving around downtown to capture footage for our documentary. We learned so much throughout the whole process. It was also really cool to present our project to a panel of real entrepreneurs and hear legitimate feedback. In the end, we were so proud of ourselves for all that we accomplished and that’s such a great feeling!”

Did You Know?

One year, a group of students submitted their plan and earned a grant for their Global Action Project? Also, one alumna, Yulkendy Valdez ’13, even went on to start her own social enterprise and was named to Forbes 30 Under 30. You never know—these Global Action Projects might just be the start of MICDS students and alumni changing the world for the better with one global action—one business enterprise—at a time!