Overseeing the Roddenberry Big Impact grant program has been one of the more inspirational things I’ve done this year. This was the first year the grant was offered and we had a total of 41 inquiries: 8 students, 2 staff, 8 faculty and 23 alums. Out of those, 22 met the eligibility requirements and were considered for the award. A total of $272,603 was requested! Needless to say, this was a competitive process. Reading through the 41 ideas, many from alums, I was proud to be part of a cohort of people who are enacting their world-changing ideas. 



Funded by the Roddenberry Foundation, this grant is meant to aid in the testing of solutions to humanitarian, socio-economic, or environmental problems around the world. After some number crunching around the Roddenberry Foundation’s total gift to the College (some of which is going to classes and other programming), we realized a total of $11,500 was available to award to projects. The panel ended up funding one project in full, and awarding the remainder to another—each to alums building off of their Div III work.

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Structural Constructor Set ($7,060)  |  Aaron Wieler 01F

Steel tubing is a dream material for would-be fabricators. It’s cheap and widely available worldwide. Anyone from a garage tinkerer to a remote African community can configure the tubing into a shelter frame, hand and bicycle carts, portable workspaces or agricultural equipment. For most, the biggest obstacle is fastening the tubing. Welding is costly and skill-intensive, and bolts create unstable structures. Aaron’s project, a continuation of his Division III, is a prototype of a set of connecting joints that eliminates the need for welding and creates an easily configurable and accessible construction system.

Nomadic Film Academy ($4,440)  |  Benjamin Herson 95F

Senegalese youth are often the primary casualties of economic stagnation, regressing educational systems, and unemployment. The Roddenberry Big Impact Grant will support the continued development and field-testing of the Nomadic Film Academy which addresses these challenges by teaching 20 Senegalese youth participants media production and entrepreneurship at the Africulturban community center. This project will include: a curriculum guide; a one month workshop for 20 Senegalese youth; an evaluation to ascertain the program’s effectiveness in Senegal as well as its potential to be scaled and adapted for other countries and contexts; and a multi-media presentation and workshop for the Hampshire College community.



The review panel was made up of five people who each had a different relationship to Hampshire. We realized that given how disciplinarily diverse the proposals were, it would be impossible to have the panelists represent all fields. Instead, they were selected for their expertise in seeing projects through from idea inception to completion.

Gabriel Arboleda is a practicing architect and planner with experience in the areas of alternative technologies and sustainable design, participatory design and planning, rural housing, and “culturally appropriate” building. His research is on ethnoengineering, a 45-million dollar culturally appropriate building methodology that has been implemented by the Ecuadorian government in areas of indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian population. Gabriel is a Five College Visiting Assistant Professor of Sustainable Architecture, joint appointed at Hampshire College, Amherst College and Smith College.

Martin Jutres is a current Division III student whose work focuses on environmental economics and entrepreneurial studies. He is CEO and co-founder of M+O Home and Yard Improvement in Sunderland, MA.

Katie Stebbins‘ expertise ranges from urban planning and project management to publishing and grant writing. Her current work includes publishing BYOFamily.com, a parenting lifestyle e-zine for Springfield, MA and its metro region, and freelance project management specializing in urban planning, economic development and non-profit project design and implementation.

Jesse Sterling Harrison 91F is a Massachusetts author, songwriter and recording artist. He has recorded a number of albums, most recently 2010’s “Take the Demons Out.” In May 2012 he released his first novel, “The Prince With One Hundred Brothers.” Harrison grew up in Upstate New York and attended Hampshire College, attaining a B.A. in Music Recording and Composition. When not writing music or prose, Harrison pursues other interests: birdwatching, sports, performance motoring, and homesteading.

Carl Weber is the Associate Director and Project Manager of Facilities and Grounds at Hampshire College. He acted as the project manager of the Ken Burns Wing of the Liebling Center. He has worked previously at Strategic Building Solutions and is an at-home tinkerer.



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