Community Engagement

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Empowering Tomorrow's Leaders: UofL and Notre Dame's Collaborative Internship Program Drives Community Change

Oct. 5, 2023 by Danielle Henson

Dr. Faisal Aqlan, Raymond Lawrence, William Leung, Jon McCarrick and project mentor Patrick Piuma-Director of UofL’s Urban Design Studio.

As the University of Louisville gears up to face off against Notre Dame in this weekend’s highly anticipated football  showdown, there’s another exciting collaboration taking place between these two esteemed institutions. Beyond the gridiron rivalry, UofL and Notre Dame are joining forces to drive community change and empower the leaders of tomorrow. 

The University of Louisville’s Aqlan Lab team, within the Speed School’s Department of Industrial Engineering, recently wrapped up its second summer hosting an intensive internship program aimed at engaging undergraduate and high school students in community-focused projects. Funded by the National Science Foundation, this dynamic program involved twenty-one interns working on six projects over an eight-week period. The initiative, led by Dr. Faisal Aqlan, focuses on improving educational environments to bolster the regional STEM workforce and effect positive changes in the Louisville Metro community. 

“The second summer of the program went exceedingly well this year,” says Dr. Aqlan. “Moving forward, we hope to continue to grow the program, connect with even more community members, and make a profound impact on the Louisville Metro.” 

Notably, this program collaborates with the University of Notre Dame, creating a synergy that goes beyond football rivalries. Together, they’ve formed a Community Engaged Educational Ecosystem Model (CEEEM), aimed at revitalizing Midwest cities by retaining local talent and encouraging research-driven community engagement. The ultimate goal of the project is to establish an interconnected network of STEM education initiatives to benefit the regional workforce.  

The impact of the 2023 projects was profound, addressing various local challenges such as food justice, walkability improvement in Downtown Louisville, waterway cleanup, virtual reality applications, and the preservation of native species. Throughout the internship, students were exposed to professional development workshops, including design thinking, networking, diversity, and time management.  

The diverse group of interns, hailing from various institutions, collected and analyzed data to develop practical solutions for their respective projects, subsequently presenting these ideas to the community. This program not only equips the next generation of STEM professionals with valuable skills but also instills a strong sense of civic responsibility and community engagement.  

“The CEEEM Internship was the best experience, and I couldn’t be more grateful for all that I learned through the program,” shares Ella Swigler, a 2023 CEEEM intern. “This opportunity allowed me to design a research project, work with very supportive team mentors, and meet some incredible community members in my field of study. Thanks to the CEEEM Internship, I have discovered my research passion for urban waterways- and even greater, I have gained the skills needed to apply scientific study to community change.” 

As the University of Louisville and Notre Dame take the field, they also stand united in their commitment to creating a brighter future for their communities. The collaboration internship program not only equips the next generation of STEM professionals with valuable skills but also instills a strong sense of civic responsibility and community engagement. Together, they aim to foster an environment that encourages participants to remain engaged in the Louisville Metro and other Midwest cities, ultimately leaving a lasting positive impact on the regions they serve. Through this program, students are gaining hands-on experience and contributing to the bet

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