POLS Student Annie Kettmann Has Won Cal Poly’s Change the World Challenge Award

Annelise Kettmann
4th year Political Science, Global Studies

Entrepreneurship & Ethics, Public Policy, Science and Technology 

Upon returning from studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain in the fall of 2021, I was eager to jump back into my community and coursework at Cal Poly.

Beginning in the winter of 2022 quarter, I took the initiative to join in on the excitement of the inaugural Change the World Challenge (CWC). The CWC is an interdisciplinary, systems-thinking-based, project which asks students to design solutions to global issues. In 2022, the challenge asked students to design a solution to a supply chain disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a part of the University honors program and a long advocate for multidisciplinary studies, I was eager to collaborate with students from different backgrounds. 

Inspired by courses such as POLS 333, and World Food Systems, I knew I wanted to find a team focusing on designing a solution to an agricultural problem as it affects the entire global economy. Ultimately, my group chose to address the changes experienced in the strawberry industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. We recognized our fortunate proximity to the strawberry industry which is primarily based in the Santa Maria Valley. Further, Cal Poly’s robust agricultural programs granted us access to resources such as the Cal Poly Strawberry Center. We utilized these resources to conduct primary and secondary research. My team members Ahkar Kyaw (’22) and Brandon Janney (’22), Mechanical Engineering majors, sought to eliminate the reliance on high inputs (soil, water, labor, transportation, etc.) by designing a hydroponic solution, or soil-less growing containers.

Coming from a social science background, I focused my research on labor, environmental, and immigration policies affecting strawberry agriculture in California. Using research and presentation strategies I learned in my Political Science classes, I specialized my knowledge on the social, ethical, and political developments experienced by industry stakeholders during COVID-19. In the end, our holistic approach and innovative prototype won our team first place and the grand prize of 20,000 dollars, which were mainly put towards turning our idea into a business reality! In front of a panel of industry leaders, and academics, I felt confident with the critical thinking and confidence I’ve developed as a POLS student at Cal Poly. I look forward to being a part of the challenge this year and hope to return with a desire to work on another systems-oriented solution!

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