Having youthful energy come in and say, ‘Oh you could do this, or you could do that’ was wonderful and energizing for us.

Donna Brown, Tiny Tots Othello Child Care Development Center

Last weekend, UW College of Education students participated in the second annual education Ideathon, exploring ideas to make Othello UW-Commons a catalyst for equitable education practices.

Teams of students partnered with community organizations in Seattle’s Othello neighborhood during the intensive and energetic 3-day event. Their challenge: to create an equitable, sustainable, partnership-based innovation that advances the mission of the partner organization, meets the needs of learners in the community and makes use of the Othello UW-Commons space and presence. Partner community organizations included the Somali Family Safety Task Force, Tiny Tots Development Center and Mercy Housing Northwest.

Dean Mia Tuan, during the kick-off of Ideathon, shared the importance of working with the Othello community and the need to be collaborative and present in the communities UW serves. 

“I am excited because the theme is about Othello and our commitments of working with and in the community,” Tuan said. “We are a nationally and internationally ranked College of Education, but it is because we do local and research practice community partnerships so well. That is why Ideathon matters.”

After a kick-off meeting with the teams and their coaches, students spent the next 48 hours gathering information from their partner organizations and designing their ideas for final presentations on Feb. 23 (watch the final presentations on YouTube).

Senior Andrew Hu, a member of the team partnered with the Somali Family Task Force, noted that Ideathon provided an opportunity to challenge his assumptions.

“I haven't taken a community-based practice class yet, but this really introduced me to things I would have never even thought about while working with a community partner.”

Ideathon 2019

Doctoral student and coach Kelsie Fowler emphasized the importance of experiences like Ideathon that are community-centered and help localize ideas that students are learning in the classroom.

“Education is about people and communities and learning how to respond to their needs,” Fowler said. “I think this really pushes students to do that. This is an opportunity that is missing in a lot of different programs.”

The architect for Tiny Tots Othello Child Care Development Center, Donna Brown, said it was exciting to work with students and hear their insights during the event.

“There was a lot of energy. Both groups we worked with presented ideas that we would love to, in some capacity, pursue. Having youthful energy come in and say, ‘Oh you could do this, or you could do that’ was wonderful and energizing for us at Tiny Tots.”

Ideathon concluded with each team presenting their innovation to a panel of five judges.

Winning the grand prize and $4,000 for their partner organization to implement their idea was the team Inclusive Diverse Equitable Alliance (IDEA) which worked with the Somali Family Safety Task Force. Team members were undergraduates Alissa Davis Beinstein, Angela Cheng, Andrew Hu, Eya Lazaro and Heather Yackel, coached by doctoral student Roxana Chiappa. 

The team proposed creating a digital media workshop/center called “Intersectional Voices” that would serve as a platform to connect the Somali community, UW academic departments and Othello UW-Commons. The main objectives would be to enhance and strengthen the digital media skills of Somali girls in order to amplify the voices of young women in the Somali community, bring resources and expertise from various UW departments, and to make Othello UW-Commons a hub of digital resources for grassroot organizations in the Othello neighborhood.

Chiappa looks forward to seeing more UW undergraduates participate in Ideathon in the future.

“This is a moment to put in practice what students have learned and rather than thinking you will win it’s really an opportunity to experience,” Chiappa said. “The worst case scenario is you will learn something. You may feel overwhelmed at times, but you are supported by an entire group of people that want you to succeed.”

This year’s judges included Jondou Chen, senior lecturer at UW College of Education; James Hong, executive director, Vietnamese Friendship Association;  Sarah Buhayar, deputy director, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Sunny Ysa, administrative assistant, Othello UW-Commons; and T. J. McGill, managing partner, Evergreen Pacific Partners.

Ideathon Final Presentations

Story by Rosa Beyene.


Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications
206-543-1035, dwunder@uw.edu