For the first time, Penn is a campus hub for The Millennium Fellowship, which aims to support students in achieving the United Nations' goals for a sustainable future.
Twenty-eight Penn students are taking part in a global fellowship that spans across 30 campuses around the world and includes 530 fellows in total. Sponsored by the Millennium Campus Network as well as the United Nations Academic Impact program, the fellowship is designed to help students complete a project that helps attain one or more of the UN's sustainable development goals.
Engineering and College junior Richard Ling, who is a campus director for Penn's cohort of fellows this year, said the sustainability goals encompass a wide range of global challenges.
“The word sustainability does not just connote the usual terms that come to mind which are like environment, energy, maybe, but it also encapsulates things like health, income inequality, social inequality, education, gender equity, zero hunger, pretty much every single spectrum of society," Ling said. "And I think if people get that message than I find it hard to believe that anyone can find a reason to not care about sustainability.”
Campus directors lead the four sessions that all the college's fellows attend during the semester-long fellowship. The sessions generally center on education, the sustainable development goals, and leadership training.
College senior Alyssa Yun, who is also a campus director, said the fellows' projects cover almost all 17 of the UN's SDGs.
“We have a very diverse group of students," Yun said.
Some projects are working to raise awareness of global issues.
Ling's project, Sustainable Solutions, is a non-profit organization and Penn club that works to make college and high school students aware of sustainability. Sustainable Solutions culminates in a competition at Penn's Kleinman Center for Energy Policy. “This competition will invite high schoolers and college students to team up in teams of two to six to devise projects that center around the UN sustainable development goals," Ling said.
Wharton and Engineering freshman Carisa Shah said her project, CyberSensibility, teaches middle school students about internet safety and digital security by partnering with schools around the world. "We teach this curriculum that we made to try to help them learn about how to be a good citizen on the internet and how to engage with it in a safe, privacy-centered manner," Shah said.
Multiple students are working on projects about refugees. College junior Sonari Chidi’s project is working through Penn FilmAid, a group he co-founded.
“We are a group committed to using film as a tool for social change, specifically advocating for refugees and migrants," Chidi said.
Wharton senior Sonali Dane is developing an app to aid refugees.
“My project is a refugee app called Glome and it’s basically trying to help resettlement agencies communicate more efficiently with refugees by breaking down that translation barrier," Dane said.
College senior Ejirooghene Ojeni is working on detecting areas that are prone to flooding in the Bronx and proposing recommendations for green infrastructure to reduce the flooding problem.
“Growing up I noticed that every time it rained, [the Bronx] will have these huge, massive puddles and looking back at it, I realized this is just a huge infrastructure problem.”
The application for the fellowship required students to propose a project, specify what their role would be in the project, and how they would measure the impact.
“It’s just been such a great opportunity to have The Millennium Fellowship on campus because of the community and the other fellows in it," Chidi said. "But it’s also really exciting because I really believe that social change takes collaboration and it takes an interdisciplinary conversation."