Rachel Svetanoff Alumna Rachel Svetanoff is helping lead JB Dondolo’s recently launched “Music for Water” competition, a fundraising campaign open to musicians that will benefit the Navajo Nation and other underrepresented communities that need access to clean water to protect themselves from COVID-19. (Photo by Rebecca McElhoe)

Stepping Up

Krannert alumni doing their part to respond to the Covid-19 crisis

Alumna helps lead effort to bring clean water to hard-hit Navajo Nation  

Promoting social impact has always been a priority for Krannert MBA alumna Rachel Svetanoff.

At Purdue, she worked as a graduate assistant with the Brock-Wilson Center for Women in Management and as a leader of Student Pugwash USA, which promotes social responsibility in science through an international network of students, professionals, academics, and activists.

Today, Svetanoff (MBA ’18) serves as a consultant for Johnson & Johnson's Global Public Health department, working with the CaringCrowd team, a fundraising platform that helps 501(c) (3) nonprofits achieve their global health goals.

Among these nonprofits is JB Dondolo Inc., which Lumbie Mlambo founded in 2012 with the mission of removing barriers that underserved and impoverished communities face to accessing basic needs.

“I read their story about installing a water filtration system at a health clinic in rural Zimbabwe and wanted to interview the team about their work to illustrate the impact we're making at CaringCrowd,” Svetanoff says. “The founder and I made a connection, and I was so compelled by her story that after the interview I asked to join the organization.

“Hitting the ground running, I joined the board of directors and have contributed to growing their partnerships portfolio, programs, and recognition, including making it past the first round of the Global Water Partnership Changemaker Awards process.”

She’s also helping lead JB Dondolo’s recently launched “Music for Water” competition, an annual fundraising campaign open to amateur and professional musicians that will benefit the Navajo Nation and other underrepresented communities that need access to clean water to protect themselves from COVID-19.

JB Dondolo also has partnered with Disinfect & Shield, a disinfecting company that will provide hand sanitizers and disinfecting products to Navajo communities.

According to NEJM Catalyst, the Navajo Nation has been among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The infection rate of over 3,500 per 100,000 residents surpassed New York City by mid-May, resulting in more than 6,500 cases and 322 deaths. The death toll also is disproportionate. In New Mexico, for example, Native Americans represent 53% of COVID-related deaths in the state although they represent only 11% of the population.

“The Navajo Nation experiences some of the highest rates of water poverty in the United States,” Svetanoff says. “Not having indoor plumbing, clean water or sanitation in their homes makes it impossible for them to follow hand-washing guidelines to slow transmission of the virus. When people haul water to their homes, whether from stores and/or watering sites, they are still exposing themselves to others.”

In the “Music for Water” competition, musicians will produce high-quality recordings of songs and compete for the top five spots to receive a distribution deal with their record label partner Grand Mountain International Records. One song will be chosen to be the song of the year, announced at JB Dondolo’s fifth Equanimity Awards honoring Krannert alumnus Roland Parrish.

“By participating in the Music for Water competition, original water-themed songs will help amplify our message that water, sanitation and hygiene is a human right and that all communities deserve a voice for water,” Svetanoff says.

To learn more, visit https://jbdondolo.org/musicforwater/.

Startup bringing collaborative STEM learning to pandemic-isolated students

A Purdue University startup led by a Krannert alumna is turning game play into serious learning for elementary students away from classrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Explore Interactive markets an augmented reality platform to help students learn about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“Our newest product, MindLabs, extends the foundational Explore platform to allow kids to collaborate remotely on engineering and design of circuits,” says Amanda Thompson (MBA ’05, PhD ’10), CEO of Explore Interactive.

Explore Interactive has worked with educators and elementary students from across the U.S. in the development of the MindLabs platform, which lets children work together to solve hands-on STEM challenges and conduct open-ended design and play.

The founders of the startup recently collaborated with the Museum of Science in Boston and Homewood Science Center, located near Chicago, to host a virtual STEM camp.

“There is no better time to empower racially and ethnically diverse children to see themselves as scientists,” says Heather Gunsallus, vice president of STEM education at the Museum of Science. “We are thrilled to support the vital work of Purdue, Explore Interactive and Homewood Science Center with the students in Chicago’s Southland.”

The virtual camp took place the first week of August for students 8-12 years of age. Thompson led virtual sessions, and the students then completed projects on their own.

Thompson says the MindLabs platform unlocks the potential of augmented reality to deliver analytics of soft-skills-like collaboration and hard-skills-like systems thinking through applied, hands-on design and troubleshooting, a far more effective approach compared with worksheets and multiple-choice tests.

“In the current remote learning environment, MindLabs is a solution for teachers who have very limited options for students to engage collaboratively on STEM projects,” Thompson says.

NEXT: Former Boilermaker football player helps tackle ventilator shortage

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