Equipping Student Leaders to be Change Agents: Engaged Learning through the President’s Sustainability Research Fellowship
The President’s Sustainability Research Fellowship (PSRF) equips students as change leaders to expand sustainability through engaged scholarship. In PSRF, students learn by leading; they take stewardship of vital sustainability challenges on campus. A collaboration between the Office of Sustainability, the President's Office, the Lang Center, and the Environmental Studies program, PSRF matches advanced students with staff and faculty mentors to research, develop, and implement campus sustainability projects in a year-long course and associated internship. In collaboration with a number of stakeholders on and off campus, Fellows carry out their projects in their internships supported by the theory and information they learn in the academic course. Working on projects that cover a number of sustainability topics, including food, waste, transportation and energy, the PSRF Fellows are ultimately working to inspire lasting, sustainable campus change at Swarthmore.
Fighting for Working Families
A Better Balance fights for the right of working people to care for themselves and their families without risking their economic security. As a Staff Attorney, Lang Scholar Molly Weston Williamson '10 advocates for paid sick days and paid family and medical leave laws across the country and then works to ensure those laws are effectively implemented. The Family Leave Works campaign focuses on ensuring workers know about and can use their rights under New York’s groundbreaking new paid family leave law, which will provide paid, job-protected leave to nearly all private sector workers in New York State beginning on January 1, 2018.
A Foray Into Juvenile Justice
Thanks to generous contributions from Swarthmore Black Alumni Network members in 2016, three students served as Urban Inequality and Incarceration Legal Interns under the leadership of Professor Keith Reeves ’88. The interns worked with Attorney Stefanie McArdle-Taylor from the Chester Youth Justice Project to prepare litigation materials for juvenile clients impacted by the 2012 Supreme Court decision, Miller v. Alabama. In addition, the interns were mentored by attorneys Chris Jamison, Scott Lisgar, and Robert Keller from the firm Keller, Lisgar and Williams, LLP. In this regard, the interns attended court proceedings, attended simulated law school classes, and visited the offices of Cravath, Swaine, and Moore, LLP in New York City. Finally, the students drafted a law review to be submitted in the spring of 2018.
Word to World: the Literacy to Community-building Project
Sonya's Lang Project, Word to World: the Literacy to Community-building Project -- a partnership with the Breakthrough Collaborative of Greater Philadelphia -- ran this past summer with a cohort of ten 10th and 11th grade students and three undergraduate Teaching Fellows. Students wrestled with topics of justice, power, and action, and completed college-level work by developing analytical, research, fieldwork, interview, and creative-thinking skills. Students created culminating projects where they analyzed the issues of climate change, police brutality, art for social change, and access to education. They proposed ways for the government to spend $10,000 on the issue or designed a campaign to get people in their community to care and act, and then pitched their ideas to a panel of professors. The curriculum and pedagogy of Word to World is deeply rooted in a commitment to uplifting the voices of student of color, fostering a student-driven and collaborative intellectual space, and empowering students to use their academics to make sense of and have a positive impact on the world. This project was supported by the Eugene M. Lang Opportunity Scholarship Program.
Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary
Swarthmore College's Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary will bring together book artists and Syrian and Iraqi individuals who have resettled to Philadelphia. Driven by questions about displacement and refuge, history, and experience, the project explores art’s capacity to build empathy and create a deeper sense of belonging. Working in partnership with the immigrant and refugee service organization Nationalities Service Center, Swarthmore will invite a group of collaborators to work with renowned book artists and participate in multi-day workshops designed to provide access to new creative tools, and to explore various aspects of visual storytelling, artistic expression, and craft. Swarthmore’s library collections—including the Friends Historical Library and the Peace Collection, the largest archive of peace-related material in the U.S.—will be made available to book artists to inform their commissioned works, and to collaborators, with materials translated into Arabic. Both the workshop collaborators and the book artists will create books that highlight the relationship between historical and contemporary stories of displacement. The project will culminate in a series of programs, exhibitions, and an exhibition catalogue that will focus on how archival, academic, and community knowledges can come together to build knowledge of contemporary issues.
Haiti: Hands On | Community-Driven Development
Haiti: Hands On, cofounded by Lamia Makkar ‘21, is a nonprofit strengthening vulnerable Haitian communities through innovative education and capacity building opportunities. Haiti’s greatest untapped resource is its people. We choose to acknowledge that effective solutions come from people who face the realities of the problems every day and as such cultivate civic engagement, innovation, and sustainability to create true community-driven development. Haiti: Hands On co-created the Terre Froide Community School, the first school in the rural Haitian community of Terre Froide that delivers innovative, high-quality education by promoting arts, technology, environmental conservation, sports, ethics, and leadership. This school doubles as community center fostering local initiatives and, through our ‘5-Stage Cycle’ entrepreneurship training and micro-finance scheme, provides access to the capital needed to create innovative community development solutions and transform existing subsistence channels. Our aim is to go out of business. This is community-driven development, not aid; succeeding in our mission means rendering our facilitation, funds and presence redundant and no longer being needed to continue community advancement.
Rural Innovation Lab
Rural Innovation Lab is a network of community collaboration spaces in rural villages with tools and resources for local community members to design inventive solutions to local community challenges. The goal of the Lab is to leverage the resourcefulness and local knowledge of rural community members and create a collaborative platform to engage them in designing their own solutions to local community challenges. Operational in the rural village of Lamjung since summer 2012, the Innovation Lab has provided basic infrastructure/resources and innovative programs to enable 2500 local community members to design their own solutions to local challenges. This project has been supported in part by: Davis Project for Peace and Project Pericles Fund of Swarthmore College. Nimesh is currently a recipient of the Lang Social Impact Fellowship.
Expanding Our Learning: Exploring Liberal Arts & Literacies in a Staff-Student-Faculty Learning Program
The cultural capital of a liberal arts college, we argue, is learning. But who at the institution has access to that learning, and who there identifies as a “teacher” or “learner?” In a case study of one college program that frames all participants—college staff, students, and faculty—as learners and teachers – Swarthmore College’s Learning for Life (L4L) - we ask what the effect of reciprocal learning across social position may have on participants’ learning identities, institutional relationships, and the nature of learning at a liberal arts institution. Preliminary themes from a set of participant narratives include participants’ emerging self-identification as members of a learning community, a community alternately framed as isolated from and informed by the changing nature of the College as workplace and educational institution over two decades. The Learning 4 Life program has received financial support from the Swarthmore Foundation and the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility.
Development, Implementation and Impacts of a Disaster Response System in Haiti
Five years after the earthquake in Haiti, many communities remained unprepared to respond to a subsequent disaster. The need for preparedness was voiced by many hospitals within the local community. With the help of the Lang Opportunity Scholarship, Tyler Alexander collaboratively worked with hospitals in Haiti – in order to develop and implement a disaster response protocol. The project trained an elite team of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to manage the hospital's response efforts in the event of a disaster. They also equipped the hospital with materials, conducted simulations, and set up continual and sustainable systems to ensure the hospital's needs were met.
The Vox Institute: Creating Schools Committed to the Self-Efficacy of At-Risk Youth
St. Benedict’s Prep. is more than just a monastery high school in the Central Ward of Newark, New Jersey. This school has adopted a unique approach to education, one which empowers students to be active agents in their learning process. In particular, St. Benedict’s utilizes a school model that holds students accountable for taking care of the school’s daily operations. Yet, it is by cultivating a communal ethos among its students that St. Benedict’s has been able to foster a student-run school that has gained a national reputation for both academic as well as extracurricular success.
In recent years, St. Benedict’s has garnered interest from schools and educators committed to serving at-risk youth across the country. Those interested in St. Benedict’s have sought to adopt parts of the St. Benedict’s school model to their own environment. The Vox Institute was created as a means to adequately respond to that interest. Furthermore, while completing a portion of his Truman Scholarship in Washington, DC, Louis Lainé was appointed the inaugural Director of the Vox Institute and has been actively supporting schools and educators across the country to create learning environments that would cater to the specific needs of at-risk youth.
Integrating Behavioral Science Into Public Policy in Philadelphia and Kenya
The Philadelphia Behavioral Science Initiative (PBSI) is a collaborative effort between local academics from Swarthmore College, the University of Pennsylvania, and Temple University and the City of Philadelphia to leverage insights from behavioral science to promote social welfare and create data driven policy initiatives. As policy fellows, we worked closely with the Mayor of Philadelphia’s Policy Office and several academics to develop policy surrounding issues such as litter, summer job attendance, and bike share rentals.
The Busara Center for Behavioral Economics, is a research and advisory organization that applies behavioral economics in the pursuit of poverty alleviation in developing countries. As Associate Interns, we supported a broad portfolio of projects to support outcomes in well-being, nutrition, and personal finance. During the 10 weeks, we developed multiple proposals for studies and product development to address malnutrition, female empowerment, and health-seeking behaviors. We analyzed some of the results of a social policy experiment, helped implement a series of experiments to explore the effectiveness of social sensing in predicting various outcomes, and assisted with a mobile lab experiment in the field on individual-level ethnic preferences. The Swarthmore Foundation funded four undergraduate students to work full time on these projects for one summer under the guidance of Professor Syon Bhanot (Economics).
Yenara Robotics is a critical thinking and innovation program aimed at providing specific practical hands-on exposure to STEM and tangible problem solving skills. The pilot program took place in Odoben in the Central Region of Ghana with 25 students and was divided into two primary phases. In the knowledge acquisition phase, we collaborated with current Information Communication Technology teachers in the school and trained them on how to use robotics materials and how to deliver our curriculum content to their students. We then partnered with teachers to teach the students the basics of robotics, implementing the robotics curriculum that we designed alongside collaborators from Ashesi University in Ghana and Swarthmore College. In our second phase, the knowledge demonstration stage, students had the opportunity to apply their knowledge to design challenges specifically tailored to the Odoben context. The program culminated in a robotics fair, where students were further given the opportunity to present the skills they had acquired to parents, local opinion leaders, students and teachers. Our team established a robotics club that is currently facilitated by our trained teachers. YenAra is constantly evolving and I’m excited to share our story, lessons and reflections.
Disparity Reform in Criminal Justice: How Can the Liberal Arts Address Today's Criminal Processing Challenges?
Vast disparities in criminal processing are a pressing social problem, but how can citizens and scholars begin to address them? This presentation examines the practice of engaged scholarship in criminal justice. A focus is given to the efforts of the Delaware Supreme Court and Access to Justice Commission to look critically at their system with the help of experts at the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the Race, Justice, Policy Research Initiative at the University of Delaware. The liberal arts can push government officials to make better use of criminal justice data, understand the social contexts of criminal justice contact, and ultimately design community-based solutions.
Zero Waste at Swarthmore
‘Achieving Zero Waste’ is the President’s Sustainability Research Fellowship project dedicated to supporting the implementation of Zero Waste at Swarthmore. This year, the focus of the project is on waste education – as our infrastructure and operations are changed to accommodate Zero Waste, we want to ensure that community members know what’s going on, their role in Zero Waste, and the importance of waste management and sustainability at Swarthmore. Swarthmore’s Zero Waste system is in its pilot stage, and will be fully implemented over the next few years. It involves a huge variety of stakeholders and constituents – at its core, however, Swarthmore’s Zero Waste is a movement that involves every single member of the community. Zero Waste is a medium through which all individuals can have a positive and tangible impact on broader social and environmental issues – how we understand and manage our waste is a reflection of Swarthmore’s commitment to social and environmental responsibility. Zero Waste at Swarthmore is thus both about the changes to our infrastructure and actions as an institution and as individuals, as it is the fundamental change in how we, as a community, perceive, understand, and engage with our waste.
The Fraternity Mentorship Program: An evidence-based sexual violence prevention program for fraternity brothers
The Fraternity Mentorship Program is a sexual violence prevention program for fraternity brothers designed by Raven Bennett ’17 as part of her undergraduate work as a Lang Opportunity Scholar. More than half of the fraternity population at Swarthmore voluntarily participated in the program during its first implementation in the spring of 2017. Bennett evaluated the program as part of her honors psychology thesis and found that the program was effective at positively changing fraternity brothers’ attitudes towards sexual violence. Now, as a Lang Social Impact Fellow, Bennett is expanding the impact of the Fraternity Mentorship Program by creating a detailed manual of the program, which will be used to transport the Fraternity Mentorship Program to other colleges and universities.
Venture Vignettes Podcast: Trailblazers in Entrepreneurship & Investment
I am the host and founder of Venture Vignettes, a podcast that features trailblazers in entrepreneurship and investment. Women and minorities receive less than three percent of venture capital funding to start businesses and through Venture Vignettes we want to highlight those who are actively working to close this gap. The podcast features investors like Morgan Simon '04, an impact investor who has influenced over $150B in capital, and Miriam Rivera, the MD of Ulu Ventures and former VP at Google. We also highlight entrepreneurs like Siqi Mou, who runs a beauty bot company and Christos Shephard, who ran an airline and now runs a media startup.
Serenity Soular: Keeping the Soul in Solar Energy
Serenity Soular is a collaboration between Swarthmore students, faculty, and members of the North Philadelphia community. Our objectives are to make solar affordable for North Philadelphians and train local residents for jobs in the green economy. We work with Solar States (the only solar installation company to employ North Philadelphians) to support the training of local residents to become solar installers. Serenity Soular also partners with RE-volv, a San Francisco-based non-profit that trains college students across the country to finance community-based solar projects. We have successfully financed solar panels for two North Philadelphia non-profits: Serenity House and Morris Chapel Baptist Church. We are currently preparing to fundraise for a third solar project, the Village of Arts and Humanities, a community arts organization. If you are interested in learning more, please visit facebook.com/serenitysoular and re-volv.org.
Press for Peace: Utilizing Technology and Media as Platforms for Impact
Press for Peace is an initiative dedicated to promoting the education of women in journalism, media, and communications – with a defined focus on data and technology as platforms for impact. Operating in several hubs in the greater Philadelphia area, Press for Peace aims to empower women to use their voices, with the long-term goals of: increased diversity in the fields of technology, media, and telecommunications; economic empowerment through relevant skills-based workshops and training programs; and development of an independent news platform, created by women, for women. Press for Peace’s model equips women with the expertise to thrive in this capacity, while driving academic and cultural discourse in a time plagued by a lack of productive and thoughtful dialogue.
Sesame Street Project
In addition to the legal internships, the generous Swarthmore Black Alumni Network also supported two student summer internships to address the school-to-prison pipeline. The interns worked under the supervision of Susanne Cianfaro at the Chester Community Charter School to develop innovative components of an after school program. Nicknamed the “Sesame Street Project”, the initiative was inspired by Sesame Street’s introduction of a character with an incarcerated parent, and aims to have the greatest impact upon Chester students of the similar circumstance. The interns spent the summer exploring various intervening methods and are working to develop a program to be implemented Summer 2018.
Feasibility Assessment of Biofuels at Swarthmore College
Swarthmore College signed a pledge to reach carbon neutrality by 2035. With 40% of the college’s carbon emissions coming from heating in 2016, it is critical to investigate ways to reduce emissions from heating. For my Presidential Sustainability Research Fellowship, I am investigating the potential for Swarthmore to reduce emissions from heating by switching from burning natural gas to biofuels in the college’s central heat plant. I have researched different factors that determine biofuel’s feasibility, such as storage logistics and pricing, and present my findings in terms of the life of biofuels at Swarthmore.
South Philadelphia Community Resistance Zone
A Community Resistance Zone is a community working together to stand up for their rights and protect one another. This project aims to teach every person in the South Philadelphia neighborhoods how to protect themselves and their neighbors during this era of increased anti-immigrant rhetoric. Through door knocking, information sharing, and know-your-rights training for both ICE and/or police abuse, this project is a commitment to building mutual, neighborly relationships among people in a neighborhood. This means that neighborhood members commit to protecting and standing by their immigrant neighbors in the face of discrimination and deportation. They can show their support as a safe home that supports a welcoming neighborhood for immigrants by placing a human rights sign (that we have created) on their door or window. This project reflects the belief that, through community organizing led by community members, we can empower people to be agents of change in their own communities.
Stanford University Innovation Fellowship
We are the first cohort of students to participate in Stanford's University Innovation Fellowship (UIF) program. UIF (run by Stanford's D school) trains student cohorts at schools across the country in the principles of design thinking and innovation, empowering them to be agents of change on their respective campuses. Each cohort participates in a six week online training course, during fellows use design thinking methodology to launch a program at their schools. The program culminated with a conference in Silicon Valley, where we continued learning about the process of design thinking through lectures, activities, and engaging challenges. Following the completion of the UIF program, each one of us will be launching a separate project that we have been developing for the past few months. Our projects, which include a social innovation fellowship, an impact investing group, a Swarthmore kickstarter platform, and a social engagement map, will all be launched within Swarthmore’s new Lang Social Innovation Lab. In addition, we will also be facilitating design-thinking workshops for a variety of student groups on campus.
Over 80% of urban youth are exposed to potentially traumatic events by the age of 16. Girls are at an even greater risk of trauma-related difficulties following these life events. At SHE Wins, we combine evidence-based resilience and readiness programming so that girls ages 10-15 years old are equipped with the skills required to have choice-filled lives. In just two years, our program has touched over 150 girls in the city of Newark through summer, afterschool, and workshop programming, helping empower the next generation of young women leaders from the city of Newark. This project has been supported in part by the Lang Opportunity Scholarship Program.