The Center for Business, Health, and Prosperity in the David Eccles School of Business is sending the first team from the University of Utah to the Map the System competition run by the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Oxford on June 17 – 19.  Map the System is a global competition focusing on using systems thinking to understanding some of the world’s most complex social and environmental issues. Over 60 institutions from around the world will participate in the global final in Oxford this June.

As part of the Map the System competition, teams of 6 students from colleges and universities research the systemic reasons behind complicated social and environmental problems and present their findings at the global event being held on the historic University of Oxford campus.  Presentations utilize analytic tools such as visual systems mapping to accompany their written analysis.  They must also present and defend their ideas in front of a world-class set of expert judges.  The Utah team will be presenting their systems-thinking analysis of the shrinking of the Great Salt Lake.

According to Professor Stephen Alder, executive director of the Center for Business, Health, and Prosperity, “We are thrilled with this opportunity to participate in this prestigious event with all the challenges that come with competing against teams from many of the top world universities.  Our students, who are all members of our inaugural Prosperity Scholars Program, have integrated thinking from fields and disciplines across the University of Utah and have accessed top experts to gain a better understanding of one of the most pressing ecological problems facing the complex and vital resources of the Great Salt Lake.  This connection with the world-renowned Skoll Centre at Oxford is an experience that will bring insights from our Utah students together with those of other remarkably talented students from across the globe.  This is shaping up to be a truly remarkable experience.”

During the fall semester, students pitched local social and environmental issues for a potential topic to enter the competition. The students selected to focus on the environmental issue of the unprecedented drop in the water level of the Great Salt Lake.

Max Schultz, a senior double majoring in Health, Society, and Policy and Biology reflects on the preparation for the upcoming global event, “While Map the System has been a hefty workload on an already busy semester, it was so worthwhile to master a concept and create the visual representation for others to understand that concept as well. An even more gratifying part of the experience was doing something that positively impacts my community, and the people and places I care about so deeply. It has given me a newfound appreciation for the amazing ecological and geographical systems that have developed within the Salt Lake Valley.”

The team that will be heading to Oxford this summer brings together a diverse background of majors. In addition to their research and development, the team drew on deep knowledge and expertise from across campus including, Jim Agutter, Associate Professor in the College of Architecture + Planning, for systems thinking and visual mapping and Kevin Perry, Associate Professor in the College of Mines and Earth Sciences, on environmental effects including air quality.

Working across fields to understand an environmental issue like the shrinking of a world-known geographic feature has brought new perspectives to some of the students on the team. Aiden Bennett, a freshman studying Health, Society, and Policy, “The Map the System project has given me the opportunity to work with incredibly talented individuals in my school and community. It has also allowed me to learn and understand the importance of the Great Salt Lake. Not only is it a beautiful and essential part of Utah, but all North America.”

Members of the Center for Business, Health and Prosperity faculty and staff, Stephen Alder, PhD, MBA, and Jill Stephenson, MPA, served as advisors for Map the System project under the new co-curricular program, Global Prosperity Scholars (GPS). The program aims to engage students from all majors in local and global prosperity topics and projects. Students that worked on the Map the System Project this year emphasized having a multidisciplinary team brought strength to the project. Ash Reeder, a senior completing his degree in Multidisciplinary Design and International Studies, “‘Working with the Map the System group reinforces my views on the strengths of having a multidisciplinary team. With everyone’s unique backgrounds, we are able to address complex and multifaceted issues. This experience has brought new perspectives that I intend to implement in my future as a designer.”

Good luck to the Map the System Team in June.

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