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Viktor Mak ’15: Google ambassador, world traveler

By Natalie Sportelli '15 on August 2, 2012
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Viktor Mak ’15 rides a custom Google bike during a student ambassador summit at the company’s campus.

Selected by Google as a “student ambassador,” Viktor Mak ’15 finished his training at a summit in California on Tuesday and will serve as a Google representative on Colgate’s campus starting in the fall.

He was accepted into the elite program — which included only 150 current Google interns and recommended college students — after being nominated by Claudia Servadio-Coyne, manager of Colgate’s student technology resource group.

In his new role, Mak (who works for Servadio-Coyne in the ITS department during the academic year) will promote Google’s products via events and tutorials on campus.

Before joining the Google team, like any well-qualified “ambassador,” Mak, of Fort Myers, Fla., has been expanding his global knowledge. Through a combination of Colgate’s Benton Scholars Program and his own initiative, Mak’s adventures took him to four continents and five countries over the summer.

He kicked off his summer plans when he flew to Kigali, Rwanda, as part of the Benton Scholars Program’s annual trip abroad for first-year students. Mak and the group then traveled to Buhoma, Uganda, where they volunteered in a hospital, tested the area’s water quality, and conducted sanitation surveys. “We were trying to find the correlation between bacteria in the water and illness in people who use that water source,” Mak explained. The Benton Scholars also joined up with Colgate President Jeffrey Herbst to talk to Ugandan government officials about current issues.

While in Uganda, Mak began his own project where he took photos of families, students, soccer teams, and hospital patients, recognizing that the people in those impoverished communities have limited or no access to cameras. Color printer in tow, Mak provided more than 300 Ugandans with the first photos they have ever owned. His next stop: Guatemala.

Through a grant from the Benton Scholars Program, Mak spent five weeks in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, studying Spanish in the mornings and volunteering his afternoons at Trama Textiles. “I decided to volunteer [there] because I really liked that it supported women,” Mak said of the business that employs 400 women to do “backstrap loomweaving” — an ancient Mayan weaving technique that is unique to Guatemala.

Mak even developed an initiative for the Trama workers that expanded their small business to the international market. He created an online store, through which the women have already accrued profits.

From Guatemala, Mak traveled to Hungary, where he was born and visits with his family every summer for vacation. Not wanting to “sit around,” Mak said, he e-mailed professors at neighboring universities about research opportunities. With a professor at the Central European University in Budapest, Mak has been investigating the challenges of ensuring media diversity in the age of the Internet. He took a brief hiatus for the Google summit, but is now back to his research for the next few weeks until the start of his sophomore year.

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