2018 Here for Good Winner speaks with Laureate CEO on education as an agent for social change

23-year-old Melanie Tran knows quite a bit about perceived obstacles and naysayers.

“As a person living with a disability, I’ve always been surrounded by people who had a number of opinions and perspectives about disabilities that I think, has sometimes drowned my own thoughts and ambitions”

Melanie Tran

Tran, who has a neuromuscular condition, shared recently in a conversation with Laureate International Universities CEO Eilif Serck-Hanssen.

The 2018 Laureate Here for Good winner traveled from Sydney, Australia to Baltimore, MD, for the first time, to share her story at Laureate’s quarterly town hall, last Friday. Tran described what education has meant to her.

“Education changed me as a person,” Tran said. “It helped me grow as a person and helped me build a career and a path.” Tran continued, “I’ve always wanted to use creativity as a platform to create meaningful work. At the same time, I knew that passion and motivation alone wouldn’t get me there. I needed to have the technical skills to get to where I needed to be and I think education, especially higher education, was the answer to that.”

A disruptor, an innovator, activist and entrepreneur, Tran graduated with a Bachelor of Digital Media from Torrens University Australia and went on to co-found AbilityMate, a company which uses 3D printing to create custom made orthoses. She is also a UX Designer for Hireup, an online platform which allows people with a disability to find and manage support workers.

“As a person with a disability I rely heavily on technology to help me do the work I do every day and for that reason I’ve witnessed firsthand how powerful technology can be when it’s used and created by the people who use it themselves,” Tran said of her work in the tech and design sectors.

Tran shared she recently discovered she was offered a full scholarship to complete a Master of Philosophy and a PhD at Torrens. She wants to continue to work to improve the lives of those living with disabilities.

“Throughout the years of learning, and having opportunities to work in the industry, I’ve discovered design is much more than just about aesthetics and functionality but it’s also about design for social change,” Tran said.

Tran also spoke about the challenges she faces as both a woman and a person with disability in a male-dominated, and able-bodied dominated, industry.

“I have asked people ‘when you look at me do you see me as a woman or a person with a disability or even as a person in a wheelchair’ and what I have learned from that, regardless of the answer to that question, it doesn’t change the fact that access and inclusion needs to be embedded in our society and in our culture,”

Tran said.

Nearly 300 employees and 1100 online watched the conversation between Tran and Serck-Hanssen.