Hoya Paxa

Alum Explores How to Promote Kindness through Technology at Cambridge

The trip to Cambridge was a long one: a nine hour flight to Heathrow and a two hour drive to Cambridge. Throughout that entire trip, I had not been able to sleep. So, long story short, my entire sleep schedule was a wreck for the first few nights in Cambridge. Waking up at four in the morning, I would spend time checking the news, and that’s when I read something about supernovas. There was something profoundly magical in the idea that a star can emit so much light and give its entire being to a force greater than itself. A supernova is defined as “a stellar explosion that briefly outshines an entire galaxy, radiating as much energy as the Sun is expected to emit over its entire lifespan, before fading from view over several weeks or months.” My experience as an Ariane de Rothschild Fellow was much like a supernova—it was two weeks of witnessing the bright stars around me, watching them shine, and watching them and myself transform into something greater.

The Ariane de Rothschild Fellowship is held at Cambridge University in collaboration with Cambridge’s Judge Business School and King’s College. The goal is to not only empower leaders and their projects with business knowledge, but to also give them the necessary background and tools to further understanding and interfaith dialogue. Throughout the two weeks of intense workshops and classes, we learned from the best and brightest about a variety of business skills and ideas in the world of entrepreneurship as well as tools for compassionate listening. We worked with mentors on developing our business plans and enhanced the efficacy of our projects in a variety of ways.

I could continue to tell you about the range of classes in business, humanities, or dialogue; the phenomenal lectures; or the incredible experience to be at Cambridge, a university that melds together tradition and modernism, that carries an intellectual history that is not only unique, but exciting for any wanna-be leader. But, above all, what made the experience transcendental was the powerful and utterly inspiring network of individuals in the fellowship. A supernova not only occurred outside of us, but within us. Every person had an array of amazing experiences that they shared; hearts opened up, memories were told, laughs were constant, and the powerful reality that are all similar yet different was just another cosmic revelation of the transcendental unity of religions.

To realize this, to feel it within was transformative, and it added more value to my start-up—now known as OurStand Education—which is focused on increasing the positivity and motivation of children, engaging with them in a language that they understand: technology. Specifically, the start-up uses an online-mobile platform to expose children to thought-provoking role models and acts of kindness. According to current academic research, exposure to relevant, thought-provoking role models and engagement with others in a series of acts of kindness can enhance student positivity, reduce bullying, and increase student productivity and achievement inside and outside the classroom. To create such a platform, I realized that each individual student’s experience must be valued—there’s a tendency to create a “one-size-fits-all” technological model, and although that may seem to be efficient, technology must allow students to share and recognize the value of their perspective and understanding.

But, just as important, my experience made me realize that to help students one cannot simply enhance the external school environment but must inspire within the school system and encourage students and teachers to emanate their beautiful self, to let their spirit shine. This is not a simple task—it’s a life-long and personal journey. But it starts somewhere. That’s what my start-up is now working on, and we hope to begin piloting our technology in late 2014.

Now that the Cambridge portion of the fellowship is complete, one may question what happened to the supernova of those two weeks. Did it turn into a black hole because isn't that what supernovas do? My answer is that I hope it eventually becomes a black hole. For a black hole takes in all; it is, metaphysically speaking, the reality that testifies to all that is and all that isn’t. And for one to be all that is and all that isn’t…well, that’s for another time of late-night conversation in the dorms of Cambridge.

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