Nam Nguyen came to WSU intent on following his parent’s wish that he pursue a career in medicine.
Aaron Ramadan started his college journey studying business at the University of California-Irvine.
Their respective shifts – Nguyen to studying international business and marketing and Ramadan’s transfer to WSU to study mechanical engineering – led them to collaborate on a new way for college students to address their mental health.
The result: An invitation to the Clinton Global Initiative University, where they’ll receive critical mentorship and guidance as they seek to turn their business proposal into a full-blown product.
“It’s an amazing opportunity for Nam and Aaron,” said Shelley Pressley, associate dean of student success for the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture at WSU. “Their success demonstrates the value of WSU’s programs – particularly the Harold Frank Engineering Entrepreneurship Institute – in laying the foundation for students to launch on to bigger and better things.”
Recognition as Clinton Fellows came after Nguyen and Ramadan submitted a lengthy business proposal outlining their plan for a handheld device that guides students through a session of meditation in response to mental health stresses.
“It’s become more acceptable to talk about mental health, which is great, but now we want to give people something that helps them better understand how stress is affecting them and prompts them to take action before issues become more severe,” Ramadan said.
“Aaron Ramadan and Nam Nguyen have committed to helping college students with stress management and anxiety,” according to the Clinton Foundation. “To achieve this, the team has developed an innovative handheld gadget that makes meditation easier by tracking a user’s respiratory and heart rate through vibration patterns, colored light sequences, and peaceful audio for productive meditation sessions. The group aims at encouraging students to embrace meditation to reduce instances of negative thoughts that lead to suicide. They will partner with the advisory board, business incubators, college administrators, and student wellness program. The group expects to achieve a 60 percent decrease in suicidal thoughts instances among college students in the state of Washington by the end of 2021.”
The rise in suicide rates among young people documented in research – including a 2016 study that found suicide had past homicide as the second-leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States – demonstrates the need to help those in need better address and regulate negative thoughts and feelings, Nguyen said.
The pair of seniors are on track to receive their bachelor’s degrees this spring. Their acceptance into the Clinton program means more online classwork and video chats with a mentor on top of their existing classwork.
“Aaron and I are invited to the CGI U annual meeting, which will take place at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland on April 2020 to meet, network and deliberate with President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and many other leaders who are commitment-makers and social entrepreneurs from across the world,” Nguyen said.
The pair met as juniors at the Harold Frank Engineering Entrepreneurship Institute. After working together on a group project alongside Kristian Gubsch – who was recently named WSU’s first recipient of a Marshall Scholarship for graduate study – Ramadan and Nguyen came to see the value in developing a product to better help individuals address their mental well being.
“It is a handheld gadget that makes the meditation easier by tracking a user’s respiratory and heart rate through vibration patterns, colored light sequences, and peaceful audio,” Nguyen said.
Both Nguyen and Ramadan have been recognized for their achievements at WSU. Nguyen received the national Global Student Leadership award earlier this year from Diversity Abroad, an organization connecting diverse students, recent graduates and young professionals with international experiences to prepare them for future education and career opportunities. He’s also the first WSU student to study abroad on every continent. Among other commitments, Ramadan is the president of WSU’s 3-D printing club
“They are both exceptional students,” said Howard Davis, a clinical associate professor in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering. “They’re going to represent WSU well.”