By August Wagner ’21
This post is written by August Wagner, two-time WMGIC contestant and Events Director for WMGIC V. As the Global Research Institute works to create cutting-edge solutions to the world’s most pressing issues, funding William & Mary’s Global Innovation Challenge creates a natural partnership.
I arrived at William & Mary in the fall of 2017 with a clear academic plan. I was committed to a career in investment banking and was prepared to apply to the business school while majoring in finance. Five years later, I can look back on my time at William & Mary and be thankful for where I have ended up. I never took a finance course, and I didn’t even apply to the business school. Instead, I majored in economics with a minor in mathematics, which might not seem all that different, but at the time, deciding to major in economics felt like a huge decision. William & Mary’s focus on providing a liberal arts education allowed me the freedom to pursue multiple subjects and interests, but I have WMGIC, William & Mary’s Global Innovation Challenge, to thank for introducing me to what became my primary focus: international development.
In the spring of 2018, I competed as part of the winning team in the second Global Innovation Challenge. The case focused on the Darfur region of Sudan, a part of the world I knew very little about. Over the course of the 24-hour competition, I worked on finding a solution to address the multifaceted economic, social, and environmental issues that affected the region. I think I slept for 45 minutes that night. Nevertheless, it was some of the most fun I had in college. Even though our solution would not be implemented in Darfur, WMGIC encouraged participants to engage with real-world problems and ask the question, “How can we improve the lives of the people who live in this region?”
WMGIC encourages and facilitates interdisciplinary collaboration and applied learning opportunities among students, policymakers, practitioners, and researchers by bringing innovative and sustainable perspectives to solve complex global issues.
Judges deliberating at the Second Annual Global Innovation Challenge (WMGIC).
As I reflect on this experience, I think about what made the competition so enjoyable. I admit winning was a great feeling, and the cash prize was nice, but when I delved deeper, I found that winning was only possible because I enjoyed every second of the work. Finding innovative solutions to deforestation, migration out of rural areas, and the looming threat of climate change was exciting, but the real motivating factor for me was the idea that, maybe, we are finding a way to help people.
Four years later, I am still driven by the desire to make the world a better place for all who inhabit it, and I must thank WMGIC for opening my eyes to the world of international development work. I participated in two more WMGICs after that, once more as a participant and then as the event director, but I only needed that first WMGIC to know that international development was what I needed to do. Today, I work in the international development space for a company that manages development projects all over the world, trying to solve the same problems WMGIC introduces to students every year.
August leading the WMGIC V Judges & Mentors Brief.
At the center of international development is a mission to help vulnerable groups become more resilient and lead fuller, more prosperous lives. WMGIC challenges students to think about complex economic, environmental, and social systems and find ways to improve them. WMGIC not only offers students the chance to reflect on global issues but calls for solutions from them. What makes WMGIC so unique when compared to other case competitions is that after the 24 hours are up and the judges announce the winners, you can’t just down tools and walk away from it all. Those problems still exist, and real people are still suffering. It is up to the students to embrace that challenge and go out into the world ready to solve them.