What position do you hold at Atlas Workshops and why do you like working there?
I’m the founder of Atlas Workshops. I started the company to engage students in real-world projects around the world while training them to be creative thinkers and problem solvers. I believe that global challenges require new creative approaches and that we can prepare the next generation of leaders to tackle these challenges through fun and meaningful international programs.
Did you go on a program abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?
In high school I did a typical Teen Tour to Europe. Traveling for the first time was incredible. After the program, I was more mature and totally hooked on traveling. In college I traveled more - on my own and with programs - and lived abroad when I completed my masters degree at the London School of Economics. Eventually, I ended up working abroad on projects for organizations such as the UN or the World Bank in Kenya, India, and a number of other countries before starting Atlas Workshops.
How does your organization differ from other ones in the industry?
Our high school summer program, the Global Innovators Trip is the first project-based travel opportunity for high school students. These trips combine STEM, Politics, Design Thinking, and Research, and take place outside of the classroom. Alums have described our trips as action-packed, fun, life-changing introductions to social enterprise, international engineering, and global business. Each trip is truly unique and students get to brainstorm creative solutions to real-world projects.
What is your favorite story of a participant's experience in the program?
Last summer, we led a group of students on a project to study public transport in Sweden and Denmark and invent new ways to improve transit here in the US. The trip attracted students who were very interested in engineering as well as other students who were more interested in politics or business.
On our last night, one of the engineering students left me a note to say that he expected to become an expert on transit engineering, but through the trip, had realized that transport is about people, not just maps. The trip helped him tie his interests into broader global context and challenges. For him, the experience was eye-opening and inspiring, and he explained that it was way more impactful than he could ever have imagined.
What would you tell a parent who's reluctant to send their kid abroad?
Traveling abroad has been one of the most impactful experiences of my education--traveling with a program can be one of the best ways to get comfortable traveling. Increasingly, international exposure and creative problem solving is not optional in the globalized economy - if you have an opportunity to live, work, or travel abroad: take it!
How does going on a summer program with Atlas Workshops prepare young people for college?
Our programs take place beyond the classroom but are still incredibly educational and impactful on our students. Think of our trips as a field study, research project, and global laboratory.
We are giving students the fundamental skills to solve complex problems, invent new ideas, understand global context, and link issues together. Increasingly, these are the skills most valued by colleges and the most important for students to be successful in and outside of the classroom.
How often does Atlas Workshops staff communicate with parents while students are abroad?
During our program, we have students post a daily update to our trip blog (you can see old posts on our website) and we also send e-mails to parents on travel days so they can rest assured that their children are safe. Also, our staff and trip leaders are available should anything urgent come up.
How far in advance should students start preparing for this program? And how should they prepare?
We want students to prepare to be successful travelers and project team members. Before the trip, we have online materials that will help students prep for their travels and also fully immerse themselves in the problem that we will be tackling. We know most students are really busy before the program and so we want to give you the tools and support to be as successful as possible no matter how much time you have to prepare.