UC Davis Blum Center Reaches New Heights with Blum Summer Fellowship

people around desk

In 2011, the Blum Center for Developing Economies at UC Davis initiated a new program to support promising undergraduate students who design and undertake poverty-alleviating projects abroad.  Last year, all six undergraduate colleges/divisions at UC Davis agreed to collaborate in supporting and co-financing the Blum Center Summer Fellows Program (AKA the Poverty Alleviation Through Action (PATA) grants program).  As a result of this collaboration, the Blum Center was able to support 24 undergraduate students last summer.

Interested students had to choose a faculty mentor, design and propose a project, and be accepted by an NGO that would supervise their work on-site.  Proposals were evaluated by a faculty panel.  Each selected student received $2,000 to fund travel, living expenses, and project inputs.  Students also enrolled in a spring seminar to share and refine their projects, discuss challenges to international development, cultural sensitivity, and health and safety precautions.

According to Tu (Lovell) Jarvis, Center Faculty Director, “the students were a great group!  They were eager to learn, highly motivated, smart and innovative, and fun to be with.”  

People accepting award

2016 Blum Fellows at the College of Engineering Design Showcase

Summer Fellows tackled a variety of exciting projects -- helping others while making friends and learning about other places and cultures. They spent a minimum of four weeks implementing their projects.

  • Renovating a community water sanitation system in rural Peru to improve clean water access
  • Laying the foundation for a community garden in Georgia that will revitalize arable land and provide a source of income for local families
  • Working with refugees in Italy to advocate for resources and aid crucial to the readjustment and resettlement process
  • Working clinical rotations at local hospitals to provide healthcare services for low-income and indigenous communities in Oaxaca, Mexico
  • Designing and implementing improved technology for “Floating Toilets” used to improve water quality for a major lakeside Cambodian community. 

With the summer having come to an end, the fellows have returned to Davis with stories of their adventures working abroad. Below are snippets of what fellows had to say of their experiences:

“What I initially had planned, a series of meetings between migrants, refugees, and Italian citizens, [it] did not really happen to the extent that I wanted. I was only able to have one of such meetings but I was able to connect with people more through individual conversation, teaching English, going to Palazzo Selam, where many of the migrants live, and volunteering with Baobab Experience which gave me a first-hand look at the problem of homelessness that plagues many in the migrant community.”- Joelle Toney, Genetics major


“By spending time in Uganda I have developed a love for Uganda that will probably bring me back there in the future.  As a civil engineer I might try to focus more on the environmental side after seeing how much environmental/pollution cleanup and prevention meets Uganda’s needs.”

– Theresa Mall, Civil Engineering major

We are delighted that UC Davis Deans have expanded support for the program in 2016-17. We hope to send 35 students abroad next summer.  Dean’s Offices are helping spread the word through Student Advisors and program flyers.  Faculty members are volunteering as mentors, and helping to identify potential project sites.  Blum Center staff are speaking in many classes and holding informational meetings.  Kurt Kornbluth, Blum Center Associate Director, is teaching a grant writing class using Blum Center proposals as a case study.  Campus awareness is growing and many students seem excited to apply.  

Al-Saleh '16, Guatemala

Lujain Al-Saleh '16, Guatemala

Tyler Jackon '17, Tanzania

Tyler Jackson '17, Tanzania

Josh Paul and Jessica Gutierrez

Josh Paull and Jessica Gutierrez '16, Guatemala 

Pata blum fellows

2016 PATA Blum Fellows Reunited in October



To find out more about the PATA and PASS grants, visit our website at blum.ucdavis.edu or email us at blumcenter@ucdavis.edu. You can also learn about past grantees and their projects by visiting our blog at http://blumcenter-ucdavis.blogspot.com/ or find us on Facebook at UCDavisBlumCenter.