My Week in ESTEEM: February 10-14

Author: Risa Takenaka

Risa Takenaka, ESTEEM '20Risa Takenaka, ESTEEM '20

Hi everyone, thanks for taking the time to read about my week in ESTEEM! I’ll keep it short and simple and hopefully a little entertaining. 

First, a little bit about myself: I went to Providence College for undergrad and studied physics and philosophy, and came to ESTEEM because I realized my interest in complementing my analytical skills with knowledge in business. I am also specifically drawn to the intersection of tech and social issues, and I figured this program would be a good place to expose me to both of these areas within the framework of entrepreneurship. For my capstone, I’m doing just that and I’m working to create a software that facilitates a feedback loop between community groups and police departments. 

And this was my week… 


The week kicked off with a nice and early 12 PM start as I rolled out of bed and headed to my linguistic anthropology class. (Which, by the way, I was taking for fun but ended up dropping because sometimes you just gotta prioritize.) I wish I could say that I’ve been getting quality sleep but unfortunately my housemates and I are dealing with a raccoon infestation and let me tell you, the little fellas do not respect quiet hours. I’ve been trying some ‘home remedies’ like playing screamo on the Google home throughout the day to annoy them enough to leave but it doesn’t seem like it’s doing the trick. The exterminators are incompetent, it’s a long story. 

Anyways, after scraping together a mediocre college student meal comprised of random leftovers in the fridge, I head to IP to meet with my group — the Corporate Luddites — we call ourselves, to work on our final presentation for Product Development, one of the classes we are taking this semester. After that, I hitchhiked to the Duncan Student Center to meet with my venture coach, Abeera, who’s been helping me a lot with my capstone project. Right now, I’m working with a tech team to develop an MVP of the software, so Abeera has been helping me think of ways to incorporate the feedback that I’ve gotten about my idea from various stakeholders in the South Bend ecosystem, into an actual vision for the product. I’d say we are great duo because she has a similar interest in social issues and has a lot of past experience working in this space. After the productive 40 minute meeting, I scurry back to IP for Launch Strategy, where we are preparing for our one and only assignment for the semester, which may or may not include a 15 page Excel financial workbook. If you know me, you know I hate numbers, so this is pretty much my worst nightmare.


I woke up for an early gym session before Social Design, the tech elected that my roommate Kaitlin and I are taking together. I love the class because it’s very small (11 people, I think) and so I get to know my classmates, who are all undergrads, at a very friendly level. We are currently working on a semester long research project where we are utilize design thinking principles to investigate and develop a solution to issues related to lack of racial / ethnic diversity, either on the Notre Dame campus or in the surrounding South Bend ecosystem. My group and I are focused on examining diversity,  as it relates to opportunity for high school students in South Bend. We’ve been spending some time researching relevant demographic data in the different school districts and speaking with guidance counselors at local high schools to learn about resources for students. 

After class, I went home to eat my second breakfast, did some work at IP for my Launch Strategy assignment and sent some capstone related emails. Tuesdays are my long days and we have Funding New Ventures and Data Analytics back to back, but I really enjoy both classes. For Data Analytics, we are learning how to use Tableau and although my visualizations are always a bit off, it’s still really interesting to learn how to use the program. 

One of the highlights of this semester has been training with my classmates for the Parseghian bike ride, an event I should probably know more details about but really all I know is that it’s a really long bike ride for a medical research related cause. We’ve been doing group spin class, led by our very own classmates, with upbeat music, lots of sweat, and the occasional wincing in pain. We had practice today, but I skipped it. Oops.


Happy hump day! We had another meeting for our Product Development group to briefly go over our presentation and finalize some details. After that, I went to meet with a local community group called Imani Unidad, an organization which supports marginalized members of the community improve their emotional, mental, and physical well being. The group’s leaders are also very engaged in civic engagement, so I’ve been meeting with a lot of similar organizations like Black Lives Matter Chapter of South Bend, Bullets For Life, and Moms Demand Action to discuss partnerships for when my MVP is complete. The plan is to beta test the software locally, in conjunction with the South Bend Police Department and the City IT department. I’m really happy I stuck with my founders’ project because I’m really passionate about this topic, which makes the work that I’m putting into it, feel meaningful. 

I blocked out a few hours out of my day to work on my Launch Strategy but per usual that did not go as planned and I ended up going to the gym and eating a lot of peanut butter on the couch at my house afterwards. Productive-ish(?) After consuming probably 10 times the amount of suggested daily servings of fat, I’m off to Launch Strategy. Post class post dinner, my classmates and neighbors Niamh and Connor come over for our daily binge of Euphoria. If you know you know. And if you don’t know, go hop on HBOgo right now!!


Happy Galentine’s day! The 818 house decided to host a little get together to celebrate all the single ladies (and the non single ladies, because why not) which I spent arguably way too much time preparing for. So instead of working on my Launch Strategy I made a piñata and bought lots of decorations. Some call it procrastination. I like to call it prioritization. 

After turning in a fellowship application with 9 minutes to spare until the deadline (it’s called living life on the edge, check it out), we spent the evening hanging out with and celebrating Galentine‘s day with good company and red wine. Hands down my favorite part about ESTEEM is how close I am with my classmates. Seriously, they are the best and I am one happy camper when I am spending time with them : )


Friday was off to a productive start and I had my capstone meeting with my advisor, Dr. Foley, to talk about my financials in my Launch Strategy document. Although I’m really focused on beta testing my MVP in the South Bend area, it’s really important to think about scalability and how the solution could be sold to many different entities. This meeting help me think about ways to design my MVP so that it wouldn’t only operate in the narrow scope of the South Bend community. After that conversation I had a quick turnaround to another meeting in the law school commons (a beautiful space btw) to meet a law student, Maggie, who I chatted with in the past about my project. She has been like a third advisor for me, and her past experience at the University of Chicago‘s Crime Lab and as an entrepreneur makes her a really great resource. If there’s one thing I’ve learned here, it’s to always reach out and seek advice from people! Believe it or not, humans are a great source of knowledge. 

Aaaaand that is a wrap on my week in ESTEEM! Congrats if you made it to the end of this not so short and sweet blog post, but hopefully it gave a bit of insight into my daily life here. If anyone has any questions or, most importantly, pest control advice, please feel free to hit me up :)