By Madeline Kirsch
While many Union students are searching for summer jobs, nine independent seniors will start 11 months halfway across the globe after graduation. These students, named Minerva Fellows last week, will work to improve the lives of people in developing nations. Once back in the U.S., they will return to Union to educate students about their experiences abroad.
Director of Minerva Programs Tom McEvoy said that the applications this year were “really creative and competitive, even more so than in previous years.” Unlike in the past, no student designed their own program, otherwise known as a wild card. McEvoy was able to confirm the names of most of the seniors, stating, “[the process] can be an adjustment for some families, and we want to respect the privacy of the students who have not yet committed.”
At press time, seven have committed. Photos of all confirmed Fellows will run in next week’s issue.
Jessica Sarrantonio, a double major in anthropology and biology, will work with Bagru Textiles, an initiative to help Indian artisans earn higher wages by cutting out any middlemen in the selling process. Like current Fellow Emily Lacroix ‘11, Sarrantonio will work with the local Block Printing Guild and oversee Bagru’s daily operations.
Matthew Kelleher told the selection committee to put him wherever he would be the most helpful. Need seems to be at the Engeye clinic in Uganda, which provides basic care like malaria medication and antibiotics to almost 15,000 villagers. He’ll also be teaching English and maintaining the well that the current Fellows are working to put in. An anthropology major who said that the news “hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Kelleher says he’ll spend much of spring term researching Ugandan history and politics, as well as thinking about how to connect with locals and be a positive influence.
[pullquote]The program’s goal is to teach you how to live somewhere new and bring back the lessons to teach the new Fellows.
Sarah GagnonMinerva Fellow 2012[/pullquote]
Shalini Singaravelu’s studies in anthropology and biology will be useful at the McCord Hospital in Durban, South Africa, where her job will involve transcribing the stories of HIV-positive expectant mothers and youths for Gift of Hope, which finds sponsors for affected individuals to have access to medication. Singaravelu, who will also help the hospital with research, cites seeing Fellows’ presentations in her sophomore year as her inspiration to apply to be a Fellow. She has always had an “obsession with African sociopolitical culture and history,” and loved a class she took on post-colonial Africa she took.
Taking Social Entrepreneurship, a class partially taught by the Minerva Fellows upon their return to Union, inspired Ian Schwartz. He’s a political science major and is deviating from his concentration in Middle Eastern politics to work with The Global Child in Cambodia. He and Amanda Greenberg, a sociology major, are looking forward to teaching children who would otherwise be street-workers. They will also be running a restaurant and boutique that help to keep the school running.
Also working together will be Sarah Gagnon, a political science and Latin American studies interdepartmental major, and Aaron Glosser, a philosophy and political science double major. Glosser calls their work with The Yanapuma Foundation in Ecuador “somewhat open-ended,” but will be promoting sustainability and entrepreneurship in the community; Sarah says one component includes assisting the villagers in “progressing as the globalizing world does.” The solution? Neither of them know exactly what it is, but Glosser stressed the importance “of long-term tools to combat poverty over a quick, Band-Aid fix.”