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Humanitarianism: Design Thinking Across Disciplines

Tanzania panoramic

Honors seminar & two-week study tour to Tanzania working with Village Life Outreach!

Check out this amazing website that the 15SS Tanzania group created outlining both their passions and reasons for taking the seminar and their group projects!!

In this honors seminar, students from across colleges and disciplines will combine research into humanitarianism, social responsibility and the principles of design thinking into the development of a project that will benefit a non-profit organization doing work in impoverished communities in rural Tanzania.

In spring 2015, we will explore how fields such as engineering, nursing, medicine, education, business, liberal arts, design and more are all critical in the development of effective and inspiring humanitarian design projects. Together, we will explore the social, cultural and technological issues inherent in the field of humanitarian design and work collaboratively to create and implement projects that will have a positive impact on communities in need. The course includes a required trip to Tanzania during Spring Break 2015.

The projects will be designed and implemented in three villages in rural Tanzania through the Cincinnati-based non-profit organization Village Life Outreach ( They have been working in rural Tanzania since 2004 bringing medical outreach, design and engineering solutions and educational initiatives to the region. Groups of 15-35 practitioners, educators and students have traveled to the region on brigades twice per year and several UC students have done 6-month co-ops in engineering and design.

This breath-taking region of Tanzania borders Lake Victoria and includes members of the Luo tribe, well known as a result of President Obama’s family lineage. The members of Village Life Outreach have a long-standing relationship with these communities. These communities have lived in this region for generations with extremely limited access to water and nutrition. There is no power, extremely limited resources as well as no health care available within a 4-hour walk of most members of the community.

The students enrolled in this course will develop proposals for design solutions that will benefit this community. We will work collaboratively with members of Village Life Outreach to define areas where your disciplinary knowledge can be put to work. Once proposals have been defined, we will create design solutions that will be implemented on-site in Tanzania. We will travel with Village Life Outreach to northern Tanzania during Spring Break. We will spend a week on-site and two days on safari en route to Nairobi, Kenya.

Study Tour

Students will travel from March 12th - 24th, 2015.  Please note that the group may need to leave the day before the start of spring break and return the day after classes begin.

Tentative Itinerary:
Day One:  Fly from Cincinnati to Nairobi, Kenya

Day Two:  Arrive in Nairobi

Day Three:  Drive to Shirati, Tanzania

Day Four - Eight:  Begin implementation of projects in Tanzania

Day Nine:  Safari

Day Ten:  Return to Nairobi

Day Eleven:  Return travel to Cincinnati

Learn more about past brigades and what to expect by reading this 2011 brigade packet (MS Word).

Course Information

Course details:

  • Course number is SAID3010
  • Class meeting times are T-Th 11:00am - 12:30pm
  • Course Attributes: H, I, T
  • BoK: SE, HU
  • Credit Hours: 3
  • Honors Seminar
Course Instructor: Professor Michael Zaretsky is an Associate Professor with the School of Architecture and Interior Design at UC's College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning (DAAP). He received his BA in Art History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his MA in Architecture from the University of Oregon. He has taught at UC since 2006. 

Course Expectations

Students are expected to meet the instructor's academic and behavioral expectations during the class time leading up to the travel component. Students who do not meet academic and/or behavioral expectations will not be permitted to travel. Students in this situation will not receive a refund.

Expected costs will be updated as final travel plans are made and are highly contingent upon airfare.

Total expected cost to be paid to UC is $3200.  The actual cost per person for UC is $4800, but this will be offset by $1400 grant from University Honors as well as a $200 block grant from UC International, making the actual final cost $3200. All participants will receive these grants. 

Costs include airfare, accommodations, CISI insurance, visa fee, some meals, ground transportation in Africa, guides and translators, some tips for guides/porters.

Costs do not include tips (est. $25.00), passport, some meals (at airports, in Nairobi), some snacks, vaccinations (Yellow Fever vaccination required), personal supplies (bug spray, sunscreen, etc.), souvenirs, etc. It is recommended that students bring around $400 USD with them.


Applications for this seminar are closed. 

Applications for this seminar will open on July 21st, 2014 and will be due on September 15th, 2014.  An interview with the faculty leader may be required as part of the application process. This seminar is capped at 12 students.

UC undergraduates who are not in the University Honors Program are welcome and encouraged to apply to participate, provided the student has a cumulative university GPA of 3.4 or above. Graduate students are not eligible to enroll. 

Vaccinations and Health Precautions
Contact your physician to discuss what vaccinations and heath precautions (like taking antibiotics with you or malaria prevention) are recommended.

Yellow Fever vaccination is required. All participants must be vaccinated and carry with them proof of yellow fever vaccination. Students can expect to pay between $150 - $350 on vaccinations. 

In addition, look at the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) webpages on Tanzania and Kenya (most of your time will be spent in Tanzania, but the group will fly into and out of Nairobi, Kenya).

Travel Documents

In order to travel outside the United States, you will need to have a passport that is valid for at least six months after your return (so valid until at least September 2015). To find the forms you need to apply for or renew your passport, go to the passport page on the US State Department's website.  New passports regualrly cost $135 while renewals cost $110. You need a visa to travel to Tanzania. The UHP will help you with this process. 

Contact Course Director Michael Zaretsky or Neil Choudhury of the Honors Program.

Tanzania Construction