Through the Laureate Global Fellowship, Laureate is supporting young social entrepreneurs worldwide who are making innovative change in their communities. The fellowship annually selects 20 young people who are the founders or co-founders of social ventures and provides them with mentorship, training, and networks. It is open to anyone, not just Laureate students, but many Laureate students have benefitted from the recognition in the past and bring their innovative spirits to our campuses.
Melanie Tran is one such student, and she has been selected as a member of the 2017 Laureate Global Fellowship class. Melanie is studying her bachelor of digital media with a major in interaction design at Billy Blue College of Design in Australia, a member of the Laureate network that works in partnership with Torrens University Australia.
Melanie was selected as a fellow for her work as a co-founder of Ability Mate, an organization that seeks to develop and distribute assistive technologies to those living with disabilities. Melanie has first-hand experience using and accessing these technologies and identified the need for a human-centered design approach in their development. Ability Mate is growing steadily and serving more and more people with disabilities in Australia and beyond through a range of assistive technologies. Her studies at Billy Blue have been instrumental in her work with the organization, and below, she speaks a bit more about the impact of her university experience on her work.
What course are you studying at Billy Blue and why did you decide to enter this program?
Melanie Tran: I’m currently studying a bachelor of digital media with a major in interaction design at Billy Blue. I am particularly interested in the User Experience Design component in the course. I’ve always been interested in the disability, technology, and health fields and knew that I wanted to make a difference in these sectors. Since studying the course, it has equipped me with essential skills as a designer and helped set me in the right direction for the work I want to do.
What has the experience been like at Billy Blue and how do you see it equipping you for your work with Ability Mate?
When I first started at Billy Blue, it was purely because of passion. I was a student fresh out of high school with no experience in the design industry and start up community. It’s not always easy adapting to a new environment when you have a disability – new faces, new routine, and but also a whole world of new opportunities. Although I had a clear vision of where my passion lay and which direction I wanted to head for my career, I lacked the skills and network – two essential components for a designer and entrepreneur. I spent the first year or so at Billy Blue learning the foundation of design principles and the fundamentals of being a designer. Whilst I was learning from leading experts at Billy Blue, I wanted to build my network of connections in both the design industry and start up community who are passionate about social inclusion – so I started to attend as many conferences, workshops and hackathons as I could, some also hosted by Billy Blue.
Learning the fundamentals of being a designer and building a strong network with industry experts were my two main focus areas while studying at Billy Blue, and these two areas eventually became the driving force of my work. I could not have possibly moved forward in my career in such a short time without the training and mentorship from Billy Blue and their nature of providing their students with the best opportunities in the industry.