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Olin Awarded Second Public Interest Technology Grant

Olin College of Engineering has been awarded a Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN) 2020 Challenge Grant for the College’s student-led PInT Summer Fellowship program. This grant renews support for Olin’s Summer Fellowship for a second year; in 2020, three students partnered with transformative organizations that supported their stakeholders through the COVID-19 pandemic.

PInT organizers Shreya Chowdhary ’22, Sam Daitzman ’22, Ruby Eisenbud ’22, Emma Pan ’21, Micah Reid ’22 and Sabrina Pereira ’21 co-authored the grant with Erhardt Graeff, assistant professor of social and computer science, Olin’s designee to PIT-UN and PInT faculty advisor.

“This continuing grant is a tribute to the incredible work of PInT's student organizers, who imagined this summer fellowship program, and especially Sam and Ruby who delivered it expertly in its inaugural year,” said Graeff. “Our weekly conversations this summer with fellows Austin, Maia, and Jocelyn made it clear what an amazing opportunity this fellowship offers. I'm excited that we will be able to expand the program to five fellows for summer 2021 and help more Oliners see themselves as public interest technologists.”

“Continuing the PInT Summer Fellowship and expanding it to support more fellows means that we get to build upon the program we built last year and create even more opportunities for our Olin peers to experience working in a public interest technology space that they are passionate about,” said Ruby. “I can’t wait to see how this year’s fellows build on Austin, Jocelyn and Maia’s work last year,” added Sam. “You should apply to this fellowship if you want to use your skills to advance public interest.”

PInT is a student-led effort to cultivate pathways and opportunities for Oliners to leverage and deepen their powerful technical and creative skills for justice, equity, inclusion, and doing good in the world. PInT Fellows can choose to seek or create summer internships at public interest organizations such as government offices, public institutions, non-profits, community-based organizations, advocacy campaigns, foundations, environmental organizations and more.

At the beginning of the summer, Austin Veseliza ’22 was looking for ways to “get involved in coronavirus relief efforts at a level I would not have been able to without this.” For seven weeks, he partnered with Ayudando Latinos A Soñar (ALAS), a Latino Cultural Arts and Social Services Program in Half Moon Bay, California. Austin used his technical understanding of systems architecture and the active listening he practiced in Engineering for Humanity to serve ALAS. He built flexible, resilient IT infrastructure that will allow them to support their operations throughout and after the pandemic.

Maia Materman ’22 was “really excited to do work that I feel is meaningful and important and dive deep into an area that I haven't had the opportunity to explore as much as I'd like to.” At the Coalition on Homelessness in California, she worked directly on local policy and legislation to support people who are homeless. In her work, she collaborated with other organizations working to create alternatives to a police response to homelessness and advocated for the health and safety of people who were homeless during the pandemic. By using a policy-based approach to public interest work, Maia took a step outside traditional civic technology and tried something new.

As she was considering partner organizations, Jocelyn Jimenez ’22 was “most excited about broadening my horizons and working with a very welcoming and passionate organization that focuses on uplifting people from diverse backgrounds.” She partnered with Education is Freedom, a non-profit organization that provides comprehensive, local, direct support to students who face socioeconomic barriers to their education. The organization’s network of advisors has helped over 100,000 students complete the college process. Jocelyn created structured, virtual resources for their students, redesigned their website to meet their needs, and used the human-centered design approach she studied in UOCD to create events to serve students as effectively as possible while keeping them safely distanced.

Olin is a founding network member of PIT-UN, is a partnership of colleges and universities dedicated to building the nascent field of public interest technology through curriculum development, faculty research opportunities, and experiential learning programs. PIT-UN was convened by New America, the Ford Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation in order to inspire a new generation of civic-minded technologists and policy leaders.

“Our work points to how important it is to make public interest technology a permanent and vital pathway in higher education,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter, President of New America.“Public interest technologists are at the forefront of societal change and progress, and our students are leading us toward a more prosperous, more just, and more collaborative future.”

Public Interest Technology University Network grants are funded through the support of the Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Mastercard Impact Fund, with support from the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, The Raikes Foundation, Schmidt Futures and The Siegel Family Endowment.