Tyler Van Herweg’s first brush with business came in the fifth grade when he mixed and burned CDs of the “Best of Blink-182” and sold them on the playground. We’re certain that his business savvy and ethical standards have risen since then, because the alumnus with a double major in Economics and Theater received a Fulbright Research Scholarship to work in Uganda the summer after his graduation. We talked with Ty (whose hometown is Woodinville, Washington) about the scholarship and his plans for life after SCU.
Tell us about the Fulbright Research Scholarship: how did you learn about it, when and how did you learn that you had received it?
I learned about the Fulbright Research Scholarship this past summer while conducting research for BanaPads Limited in Mpigi, Uganda, on an SCU Global Social Benefit Fellowship. Working in Uganda opened my eyes to many opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurial problem-solving. The Fulbright Research grant seemed like an amazing avenue to continue exploring potential innovations for Uganda.
Once I decided to apply, I was introduced to Dr. Leilani Miller, director of the University Honors Program, by Dr. Keith Warner, O.F.M. She helped orient me with the Fulbright process, and I immediately began brainstorming for the proposal and personal statement. After a rigorous drafting process that took three months, the two documents were submitted. I learned that I had received the Fulbright Scholarship via email on April 13. I first told my girlfriend, then my family, and released the news publicly via Facebook and email on the next day.
What will you do with the grant?
In Uganda, poor infrastructure makes transportation costs high and rural villages hard to reach. With the Fulbright Research grant, I will be researching current distribution channels in both urban and rural Uganda, and conducting trials for an SMS-based app that will connect motorcycle (boda boda) drivers to small-scale entrepreneurs, smallholder farmers, and social enterprises. While testing the app, rigorous data methods and observation will be conducted to spot bugs, resolve ineffective features, and examine whether such an app can alleviate market inefficiencies. The goal is to frugally improve the efficiency of distribution channels that already exist, and stimulate the local economy by doing so.
How does this work connect with your major and your plans for after graduation?
As an economics/theater double major, I am naturally suited to work as an entrepreneur. Balancing empirical analysis and creative collaboration has enabled me to discover innovative solutions to market inefficiencies. This grant will allow me to flex multiple strengths that I have developed within the Global Social Benefit Fellowship, the Theater Department, and the Leavey School of Business. My dream is to employ entrepreneurial problem-solving as a means of resolving some of the world’s most challenging problems. As my dad constantly reminds me, in the words of Yoda, “Try not! Do or do not. There is no try.”
What kind of person would gain the most from a Santa Clara education like the one you’ve pursued?
Anyone who is looking to leave a positive impact on the world should pursue an SCU education. Through my diverse array of classes, I have been forced to ask difficult questions, think critically about my purpose in society, and draw connections between seemingly disconnected ideas. SCU is a wonderful place to take risks, embrace others, and grow as a global citizen.