Silence to Sound: Combating Sexual Assault on College Campuses

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Today, our society is facing numerous problems but people often forget or choose to ignore an epidemic that affects so many young people today:  sexual assault on college campuses. Individuals think that it would never happen to them or anyone they love—their brothers, sisters, mothers, or even their friends—but, unfortunately, this is not the case.  I, personally, came to this realization when I found out that my friend was sexually assaulted.  After hearing this story, I knew I needed to do something to bring awareness about the issue of sexual assault on college campuses so that no one will have to experience what my friend and so many others had to go through.

When I found out that the Millennium Campus Network was giving an opportunity to students to create their own campaign about an issue that they were passionate about, I knew that this would be the best way to help those who have been sexually assaulted. I was overjoyed when I received the official email that my campaign was selected.  Immediately following the launch of my campaign, Silence to Sound, in August 2016, at the 8th annual Millennium Campus Network Conference in D.C. at Howard University, my team and I began working diligently to spread our message and promote the Silence to Sound campaign throughout our campus.  In order to reach out other individuals besides those who attend College of the Holy Cross, we have set up social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter. These accounts give the most up-to-date information regarding our progress and how to be involved in our mission.  We have launched our website On the website, one can find out about my team, global webinars we have done sponsored by MCN, a database filled with resources for victims of sexual assault, personalized for each college campus and much more. We are working with the BARCC, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, and they have graciously helped us with some of the resources available to survivors at different campuses in Massachusetts. As of right now, though, our resource list only consists of some schools in Massachusetts and is, therefore, not fully comprehensive because we lack the personnel to research for us. We are looking for volunteer researchers to help us with this database.  In April, we were able to partner with the Women’s Forum, a student-run organization at my school, in order to have a “Take Back the Night” walk where men and women marched in silence with lit candles around the campus in remembrance of survivors of sexual assault.

As we get closer to our first year mark since our launch, we have some new goals. We wish to have a team of researchers in order to have more of a complete list available for survivors of sexual assault so that they can get the support and help that they need. We are also hoping to begin partnering with other organizations that share our same mission of ending sexual assault on college campuses as well as students at other universities who share the same ideals.  In addition, we continue to seek funding in order to expand this campaign.  We are hoping to receive money from the Ignite Fund from the College of the Holy Cross, a program designed to give funding to student-based projects that can help the community, after we present our ideas and progress in the fall when school has resumed.  This will really help us to maximize the impact we can make on not only my own college campus but on others as well.

Men and women alike should be able to receive their education and receive a degree without the fear of sexual assault. We can be the ones to motivate people to take off the blindfold that shields them from the truth about rape on college campuses and make them see the horrible reality of it. We, young leaders of the future; however, must remember one thing: change is possible but our generation needs to have the passion, determination and perseverance to make that change happen. As our former United States President Theodore Roosevelt most eloquently said, "Great thoughts speak only to the thoughtful mind, but great actions speak to all mankind." We need our words to turn into action, but it has to start with us- the architects of the better and brighter future. People will hear our voice but only if we make a sound.

By: Jessica Russo

Strategic planning @MCN: first steps

By Yulia Lapina

This Saturday MCN held a special strategic planning session. The purpose of it was identifying and re-stating the core values of MCN, understanding at what point the organization is right now, and more importantly, planning and shaping MCN’s future. For the achievement of such ambitious goals, many bright minds representing different stakeholders were invited. We would like to acknowledge the importance of everyone’s participation at this meeting. Special thanks go to our amazing leader Sam Vaghar, the irreplaceable Raina Fox and the bright Abigail Kelble; amazing 2017 Boston Hub Site Director Simone LaPray, our insightful fellows and/or conference participants Muhammad Faraz Husain, Racquel Knight, Oye Ehikhamhen, and John Kotey; our hard-working interns Yulia Lapina, Hannah Cook and Wendy Chen; and, last but not least, the greatest moderator we could possibly have: Nina Chanpreet Kaur. Many different topics were discussed. The Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals remain the guiding principle of MCN. Starting from there, it has been acknowledged that students and young people, developing their leadership skills, can and must act in order to make a positive and impactful change in this world. MCN has always been and remains a support for young leaders. Having this in mind, the future of the organization, as well as its programs and possibilities have been discussed. It has been a very fruitful and inspiring day, with many innovative and brilliant ideas emerging. We would like to thank again everyone who participated; every person that sat around the table with us made a very meaningful contribution to our mission. This is just the first one of a series of conversations which will lead us to the finalization of our strategic project. We are all thrilled and excited to see where the future of MCN will unfold.

MCN Alumni Highlight: Meet John Kotey!

2015 Millennium Fellow John Kotey is a recent graduate of Columbia University with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. He was born and raised in Ghana and moved to the U.S. in 2012 for his undergraduate education. Always torn between his artsy side and his love for technology, he resolved to use tech for social good during his gap year between high school and college.


Tell us about your experience with MCN, how did it impact you? MCN’s MCC15 at the UN in 2015 was a major turning point in my life. I had been contemplating what to do after school and the urge to join corporate America was so strong. The pressure to just get a job to pay the bills and think about solving problems later came from all angles - family colleagues and mentors. Coupled with my frustration with higher education as “teaching students to be changemakers” but not giving them the necessary support to radically alter the status quo, I once again contemplated another gap year. Moreover, my perception of the UN as being all talk with little action made me skeptical of a conference geared towards grooming the next generation of global changemakers. MCC15, however, provided that much needed calm during my storm. The energy and enthusiasm of fellow delegates, driven to ensure that the soon-to-be launched Sustainable Development Goals were fully realized by 2030, renewed my faith in humanity. Learning about grassroots student movements centered around non-paternalistic and community focused development gave life to my desire of using tech to address humanity’s basic needs. After the conference, I convinced Columbia University's First-Generation Low-Income Partnership to apply for the Millennium Fellowship. The National First-Generation, Low-Income partnership was born during those transformational eight months during the fellowship.

What work are you currently involved in? Started with other Millennium fellows, the National First-Generation, Low-Income Partnership (FLIP National) is a non-profit which focuses on providing equal opportunity for first-generation and/or low-income (FGLI) students in institutions of higher learning. FLIP National aims to establish campus-based chapters and promote collaboration among institutions in addressing issues that first-generation and low-income students face. FLIP National has earmarked seven “Target Areas,” namely Food Insecurity, Student Homelessness, Academic Development, Student Wellness & Community Building, Financial Support, Professional Development and Awareness & Visibility. We hope to raise awareness about the issues that hamper the academic success and well-being of FGLI students and pursue sustainable solutions through establishment of initiatives and advocacy for policy change at the institutional, national and international levels. FLIP National currently has four chapters at Columbia, Emory, Lehigh and the University of Pennsylvania, with many more chapters in the works. Through its participation in the Millennium Fellowship, FLIP National gained significant insights into professional non-profit management including SMART planning and monitoring of key performance indicators which have since ensured our sustainable growth. So far, FLIP initiatives at the national and chapter levels have been overwhelmingly successful. FLIP at CU’s Book Lending library has over 2,500 textbooks in circulation, CU Meal Share has facilitated the exchange of over 1,000 meals swipes and Microgrants has awarded over $5,000 in emergency grants to students in need. We recently joined thousands of students worldwide in celebrating our 2nd annual Gen Day, the International Day of Visibility for First-Generation and Low-Income students.

What was most valuable to you about MCN programming? I cherished MCN’s commitment to addressing tough issues that many people in international development have avoided for decades. Issues such as the negative effects of "voluntourism," managing donor demands versus commitment to impactful change, and working to ensure the communities we serve become self-sustainable in the shortest possible time. Through my participation in MCN programs, I have formed life-long friends that are committed to real, demonstrable, sustainable change and found partners that are unafraid to challenge the status quo even when the act of doing so may threaten their livelihood. I have also cherished MCN’s focus on grooming grassroots student movements and working tirelessly to address pertinent problems worldwide. MCC15’s #sidekicksUNite hashtag has made me comfortable with being a support figure. I have since noticed that leaders are often more efficient when they serve in silence in a supporting role.

Any advice for current students? Take that leap of faith. Take that gap year. My most productive years have come during my years off of school. My most productive years have come during my years off of school. I have had the opportunity to synthesize what I have learned to determine how to put the skills I have acquired to benefit society. I wish gap years would be mandatory to allow students to unwind, refuel, and re-evaluate their life choices and career goals, but that’s another conversation.

Also, don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo especially while you are still in school. This is the time to ask tough questions about the systems that exist around us; to ask tough questions about access to food, healthcare, affordable education, equality. This is the time to constantly check your own privilege; to assess how much you’ve been given to know what’s required of you. Over time, I have adopted this ideology: "Privilege is not absolute but relative." Hence one does not need to be the richest, hold the highest position, or highest degree to spearhead the change he/she wishes to see. So go out there and start working for the world you wish to see now. Changemaking takes active habit forming. It doesn’t come with degrees or high ranking positions. You must go out there and be proactive. Seek to solve problems at every stage in your life, wherever you are in life. Only then will you become a true changemaker. 

Stories from the Ocean

At our 8th Millennium Campus conference, two terrific brothers, Pedrisson and Emmanuelson Bernard, won the Millennium Oceans Prize. The two brothers visioned an innovative and effective way to create proper waste management in their community of Carrefour, Haiti in order to reduce ocean pollution. Today, 10 months after the conference, here are some updates on their project.

During May, Pédrisson and Emmanuelson worked on some programs they wanted to launch. They visited the first coastal area in Carrefour, which is day after day becoming the new landfill for the municipality. They witnessed a man throwing waste on the coast while children were bathing in the sea. Also, they are planning some upcoming activities: 

  • They have been contacted for organizing a sensitization day in collaboration with an international mission active in Haiti for a very special audience: an orphanage. 
  • They planned a CleanUp Week for June 21-24 and have already started to meet with volunteers. 
  • They will soon start collecting information on the Production of Household Wastes in order to launch a profitable project. The survey will be realized by a specialized firm. The money from this project will be used to partially fund their social projects. 

We are extremely excited to hear about these amazing achievements and look forward to seeing the continuation of this success story. Good Luck Pédrisson and Emmanuelson!

Millennium Campus Middlebury Institute is First Graduate School in US to Earn Fair Trade Certification!

Millennium Campus Middlebury Institute is First Graduate School in US to Earn Fair Trade Certification!!

Calling it a “momentous achievement,” Fair Trade USA recently designated the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey as the first graduate school in the nation to be certified as a Fair Trade University.

“Fair trade” is generally defined as trade in which fair prices are paid to producers in developing countries—e.g. prices that will both support equitable wages and provide sufficient margin to generate capital for future reinvestment. In order to be certified as a fair trade institution, the Institute had to complete a process outlined by Fair Trade USA, one of several certifying entities. The process includes forming a team, auditing current practices across the organization, sourcing a minimum number of fair trade products, participating in fair trade education, and issuing a resolution.

“Fair trade is about meeting specific standards,” explains Celina Lima MBA/MAIPD ’18, who led a team of students and staff who worked to secure the Institute’s certification over the past eight months. “It’s a way to make sure the people producing the product are getting paid fairly for the work they’re doing, and have the opportunity to reinvest in their community.” With a smile, Lima notes while reviewing the requirements for certification that “MIIS was already doing all of these things – we just had to connect the dots.”

Lima adds that the Center for Social Impact Learning was “instrumental” in the Institute’s efforts to secure fair trade certification, supporting the initiative and helping to connect Lima and others with key officials at Fair Trade USA. The team’s efforts also led to collaboration with the campus Sustainability Council, including planning events for the upcoming Earth Week celebration. The team’s efforts were first showcased on December at a Pop-Up Market sponsored by CSIL that featured a number of fair trade vendors and a fair trade booth as part of the initiative’s educational efforts.

“The fact that students led the drive to achieve fair trade certification for the Institute underscores what makes this school so unique,” points out Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Institute Jeff Dayton-Johnson. “Our programs are designed to give students the skills and tools to make a difference from day one, and they often prove this out by achieving remarkable results before they even graduate.”

“It means everything to me to have MIIS be the first certified fair trade graduate school in the country,” concludes Lima. “This school has been such a leader in the whole area of sustainability and social impact investing. To me, this shows that we’re committed to looking at multiple ways of addressing problems, supporting developing economies with both aid and trade. I think fair trade embodies everything that MIIS stands for.”