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Catalyst Day — held each fall and spring — is designed to showcase Ripon College’s Catalyst curriculum and celebrate the achievements of the students who are completing the junior-level collaborative capstone. Throughout the day, attendees will have the opportunity to watch teams of students present problem solving projects that tackle worldwide issues.

The Challenges

Catalyst 300 students are tasked with developing solutions to prominent real-world issues. This term, students were given the choice of challenges derived from the following sources: Wisconsin Public Radio, Pew Research Center, Department of Homeland Security, WMC Foundation (affiliated with the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Association), UN Refugee Agency and a “wild card” option for students to choose their own topic they are passionate about, pending approval by the faculty members.

Students selected topics in these six categories for Fall 2022:

Opioid Disorder

Big Money in Politics

Improving Resettlement Programs

Immigration Education

Expanding Opportunities in Rural Areas

School to Prison Pipeline

Environmental Justice

Environmental benefits and risks are not evenly distributed across all communities. Some communities are excluded from decision-making about resource management, which results in limited access to ecosystem goods and services as well as greater toxic exposures. Native tribes around the world are frequently excluded from environments in which they thrived for generations. Low-income communities or people of color are more likely to be exposed to environmental risks, including consequences of climate crisis, pollution and waste. This challenge therefore addresses the unevenly distributed access to nature and natural resources.

Quality Education

Globally, 57 million children remain out of school. In some countries, only 40% of children go through primary education. Education outcomes differ based on gender, race, class, and urban/rural divides. Among issues affecting the quality of education are cumulative advantage, child hunger, bullying, cost of higher education and others. This challenge addresses access to and quality of education at all levels worldwide.

Water and Sanitation Access

Almost a third of the global population lacks physical or economic access to safe drinking water, and two thirds lack access to safe sanitation. Untreated water together with lack of infrastructure results in water-borne disease. Access to water is compromised particularly in conflict areas, but water can also contribute to conflict as 62 countries share bodies of water. This challenge therefore addresses the need for access to safe drinking water and sanitation worldwide.

Aging with Dignity

Many middle- and high-income countries are facing a population dilemma: smaller population may be necessary to avert environmental crisis, but aging population creates a difficult demographic transition. In 2050, the population over 60 years of age could reach 2.1 billion. Due to major medical advances people live longer, but that does not always mean that they live better. With advancing age, people face numerous issues including decreased productivity, limited access to resources and decision-making, and access to appropriate health care. This challenge therefore addresses issues associated with a demographic transition and promotes aging with dignity.

golden stalks of wheat

Rural Poverty and Farm work

While the majority of farms and fisheries around the world are small scale, global food supply is governed by few companies. In the United States, the average size of a farm is increasing, farmers are getting older, and barriers to entry to farming profession are high, particularly for women and people of color. Globally, women account for about a third of the agricultural labor force, yet very few women own land. In the US, only about 11% of principal farm operators are people of color. Farm workers are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards, abusive working conditions, and face dangers connected with immigration. This challenge addresses support for small farmers and farm workers worldwide to support rural livelihoods.