Q&A with Social Impact-Focused Millennium Fellows

Two undergraduate students in the dual degree programme between Sciences Po and Columbia University took their social impact projects to the next level by participating in the selective Millennium Fellowship from August to November 2020.

The Fellowship is a semester-long leadership development program for undergraduate students around the world who have developed projects related to social impact, sustainable development, and climate change. The United Nations Academic Impact and Millennium Campus Network organise the program. 

In this Q&A, the two dual degree students, May Louise Dittel ‘22 and Manuel Feigl ‘21, discuss the development of their ambitious Millennium Fellow projects and their experiences participating in the Fellowship. 

German student May studied at Sciences Po’s campus in Le Havre and has declared a Human Rights major with a specialisation in Sustainable Development at Columbia University. German-American student Manuel studied at Sciences Po’s campus in Menton and has declared an Economics major at Columbia University. 

Why did you choose to apply to this dual bachelor’s degree programme?

MD: I wanted to study abroad while practicing both English and French. The dual degree appealed to me given the opportunity to study in France and have the American college experience (not to mention at an Ivy League), which is quite different from university life in Germany. It seemed exciting. 

MF: Since my Puerto Rican mother encouraged me to attend a four-year American college and my German dad urged me to study in Europe, I applied exclusively to double and triple degrees. The Sciences Po-Columbia dual bachelor’s degree was my first choice since it was the only one that focused on political science versus business.

What is your Millennium Fellowship project?

MD: s(H)e began in February 2019. It is a documentary series which amplifies underrepresented voices in the feminist movement. We have created a YouTube channel and an Instagram account complete with an IGTV series. Our s(H)estories feature feminist historical figures of all backgrounds, not exclusively white feminists. Overall, we aim to fill an information gap in the media’s feminist discourse. 

MF: ALPFA Para Puerto Rico launched in March 2020. It includes three elements: 1) Researching what happened to the Puerto Ricans who fled following the 2017 hurricane and why there is a dearth of data on this population. 2) Volunteering for Julia De Burgos Latino Cultural Center, which supports Puerto Ricans who sought refuge in New York, and 3) Connecting Puerto Ricans in New York City who seek professional support with ALPFA, the Association of Latino Professionals for America.

What was the inspiration for your Millennium Fellowship project?

MD: Friends from India and China at Sciences Po and I were discussing the need to hear the voices of non-white and underrepresented women in feminist discourse. Plus, the Introduction to Sociology class at Sciences Po with Professor Safford [FR] introduced me to the topic of intersectionality, which I believe white feminism often overlooks. 

MF: The project idea developed while I participated in Sciences Po’s Civic Learning Programme. I also have a personal connection to the topic. I have a family member who experienced health complications after the hurricane and had to relocate to the US for three months since hospital generators in Puerto Rico had broken. I wanted to study the impact of the hurricane on other peoples’ families as well. 

What has been the highlight of the Fellowship program so far?

MD: A webinar about how to make a NGO succeed was very eye-opening. The instructor spoke about the importance of evaluating the results of a project plan step by step and adapting the plan accordingly. The instructor gave the example of development projects in Africa that may inadvertently harm local populations. Obviously in those cases, the plans need to change. The idea really spoke to me; sometimes we need to be flexible. 

MF: I particularly enjoyed meeting other like-minded students from various universities during a webinar on renewable energy. The UN Career Panel was also quite interesting. 

What advice do you have for Sciences Po students?

MD: Well, first get involved with s(H)e and the other feminist chapters at Sciences Po. Also, don’t be afraid to start your own project: Be bold, be creative. And why not apply for the Millennium Fellowship while you’re at it!

MF: For students in the dual Sciences Po-Columbia bachelor’s degree programme, make sure to read the dual degree newsletter! Last year, for example, I had the chance to volunteer at the UN Climate Action Summit. I wouldn’t have even known about the opportunity if I hadn’t read the newsletter. I also recommend that students apply for the Millennium Fellowship. It is essentially a small bachelor’s thesis and may take students in interesting directions. 

What are your plans after graduating from the dual degree programme?

MD: I hope to pursue a Master’s degree in the legal field and am interested in the dual degree between Sciences Po and Georgetown Law. The program would allow me to obtain both a LLM and study international development at Sciences Po. 

MF: I would like to go directly into a Master’s program in International Affairs or Public Policy. The most attractive option right now is Sciences Po. After my Master’s degree, I hope to work in a political risk consulting group such as Eurasia Group, which Columbia Professor Ian Bremmer leads. Essentially, I hope to work in a role that combines politics, sustainable development, and economics. 

What readings or films do you recommend related to your project topic?

MD: It’s funny you ask because I am usually the one asking for feminist book recommendations from others! I have a lot of books on my feminist reading list but the ones I have recently enjoyed are Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women, Jung Chang’s Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, Mary Beard’s Women & Power, and Anthony McCarten’s funny girl. On Netflix, I recommend "Je ne suis pas un homme facile" and “Cable Girls.”

MF: I recommend José Trías Monge’ “Puerto Rico: The Trials of the Oldest Colony in the World" and Ángel Collado-Schwarz’s "Decolonization Models for America's Last Colony: Puerto Rico."

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