leadership

Silence to Sound: Combating Sexual Assault on College Campuses

group photo.jpg

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 www.silencetosound.net. 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

Millennium Fellow Spotlight

By Beth He

UN Sustainable Development Goal #4: Ensure quality education for all and promote life long learning

amelia-2.jpeg

Prior to beginning undergraduate studies at Columbia University, Amelia Colban had been immersed in various different cultures. She grew up in Norway, and as a teenager, avidly traveled Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and Spain. Intrigued by Wanderlust, she realized “that ‘culture’ existed in more forms that [she] could be aware of, both internationally and in the nuances of individual identities within any geographic confines.” Such conceptualization of cultural definitions attracted Amelia to an American university education because wanted to “engage worldly concepts from a [similar] theoretical, but intellectually immediate, approach.” Columbia gave her the opportunity to not only be surrounded by diverse individuals with interesting backgrounds, but also the thought-provoking education of“learning” by way of uncomfortable, but necessary conversations.

Driven by exploration and intellectual growth, Amelia has fully integrated herself in the world of academia. Such enthusiasm for trying everything has lead her to discovering a wide range of subjects from international human rights to the history of crime and policing in the U.S.

First Generation Low Income Partnership (FLIP) at Columbia became a large part of her life through a friend. As Amelia remembers, “I overheard someone I knew mentions ‘students who have experienced homelessness.’” Homelessness? Here? At Columbia? An elite Ivy League school? It was the first time she had ever heard “homelessness” in the Columbia culture, in their vernacular. Amelia became quickly engaged in FLIP as homelessness turned out to be a more common than expected at Columbia, but often hidden in the shadows.

FLIP at Columbia was conceived through the realization of the marginalized, often invisible, issues of homelessness, food insecurity, and feelings of misplacement in an elite, sometimes privileged environment, common amongst first-generation and low-income students. Amelia now serves as the treasurer of FLIP Columbia and is among the founders of FLIP National, whose mission is to reach many more U.S. university campuses. Through bringing these issues to light and encouraging an open dialogue, FLIP hopes to redirect the conversation away from stigmatizing financial hardship to fostering resources and a community of empowerment to first generation and low-income students.

Since its inception, FLIP at Columbia has received tremendous support from the university, alumni, and other supporters from gaining national attention. With this, Amelia plans on helping FLIP at Columbia grow to include more students in the conversation, creating a more aware, open, and respectful campus environment.

Through each member, FLIP at Columbia is creating a revitalized community of empowered students to “advocate for and create resources for an often marginalized group and increase the consciousness of the specific challenges that emerge on an institutional and campus wide level.”  They have implemented incredible projects that demonstrate the mission, value, and impacts of the organization in providing previously unmanaged, often inaccessible, resources.

Food Insecurity Initiatives: New York is Expensive! Columbia University (CU) Meal Share, a dining hall swipes-sharing platform, was one of FLIP's earliest initiatives. It quickly gained a lot of traction and the student group recently expanded it into a three-pronged system. Now, CU Meal Share is accompanied by the Emergency Meal Fund, a swipes-bank program operated by Columbia Dining Services, as well as a mobile app, Swipes, that connects students in various dining halls with students who need access.

Columbia University Class Confessions: CUCC is a social media forum in which students can anonymously share their experiences and challenges. These emotionally stirring confessions have educated the student body and the administration alike about complicated facets of low-income students' issues so they are better equipped to address them. Many students have written how food insecurity, homelessness, imposter syndrome, illegal work, and a lack of institutional support is a part of the reality they live in order to make it through Columbia. The content from this page has sparked extensive media coverage as well as extended conversations on campus between students, administrators, and faculty.

Textbook Lending library: FLIP at Columbia collected over a thousand commonly required textbooks through a book drive to then redistribute otherwise expensive reading materials.

Coat Drive: Collection and redistribution of high-quality winter coats to students who have yet to acquire the necessary outerwear for living in the Northeast.

Q-FLIP: This is a co-sponsored program by QuestBridge and FLIP at Columbia. It pairs incoming students from underrepresented socioeconomic backgrounds with more seasoned peers to help them navigate struggles related to being first-gen/low-income, including financial restrictions, feeling out of place (imposter syndrome), and feeling underprepared by their (relative to Columbia) nontraditional academic backgrounds. Though in its first year, the program's enrollment is already in the hundreds.

Homelessness Initiative: This program just launched to connect students in need of housing for a time period with others who have extra space, while we work with the school to implement institutional housing security protocols. (Barnard, Columbia's sister school, closes dormitories during winter break. Students who cannot afford to go home, or who do not have a home to return to, lack affordable housing options between semesters. This has been the focus of the initiative in its first few days.)

Being a college student is stressful enough; no student should have to worry about a finding a safe place to sleep. Directly connected to the UN’s 4th Sustainable Development Goal, everyone should have the opportunity for quality education without worrying about basic necessities.

Amelia became an MCN Fellow because she was “enthralled by the prospect of engaging in a dialogue with other students and with experts advocating for equal opportunity in higher education.” With the initiation and development of FLIP National, the MCN Fellowship has given Amelia the platform for dialogue about social issues and the formulated the skills to be a better leader. She is more encouraged and determined than ever to resolve inequality within institutions of higher education for years to come.

Interested in donating? Want to learn more about FLIP at Columbia? Contact: info@flipnational.org

Millennium Fellow Spotlight

By Beth He 

“Gear up and Make Change”

Wali Sabuhi is a junior at Boston University (BU) studying Biomedical Engineering. Like millions of freshmen across the United States, Wali entered university wanting to make a local difference, and eagerly sought opportunities to expand and develop his skills and interest. As a freshman at BU, he joined Engineers Without Borders (EWB) as it seemed like the perfect opportunity to apply the skills of the classroom to real world issues. Wali did not anticipate how much EWB would impact his undergraduate experience and understanding of global development. Throughout his time at BU, Wali has become more involved in the leadership of EWB-BU, as he, after serving as a Hygiene & Sanitation Team Technical Lead, now serves as the Networking & Social Chair. Driven by student initiatives and inspired by the complexity of global development, Wali is committed to contributing to the UN’s Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Through support from BU College of Engineering and corporate sponsors, EWB-BU is able to employ small teams of students to travel to their community partners abroad and help implement the project designs. For the past four years, EWB-BU has been working closely with Naluja, a community in Zambia, on developing projects that have recently begun focusing on water sustainability. Wali was a member of the team last summer and spent three weeks in rural Zambia. He speaks of Zambia with such fondness, genuine joy and respect.

“It is beautiful,” a way Wali describes not only the scenery, but also the people and culture. It was in Zambia, traveling through the rural communities, that Wali discovered more to EWB than being a great engineer. It is of equal importance that partnerships and locally driven motivation are fostered to ensure sustainability and long-term efficacy.

EWB-BU students work throughout the calendar year to create, plan, and design successful projects for their partnering community in Zambia. During the twelve months in Boston, there is a major emphasis on building leadership, broadening student’s horizons, working across disciplines, and sharing resources throughout the project development process. Through the stress and chaos of college life, it is often difficult to see the bigger picture of their organization.  In Zambia, Wali notes: “Everything you have worked toward is right there in front of you.” It is a moment of reflection, appreciation, and tremendous purpose that can be brought back to BU’s campus.

Community ownership is very important to EWB-BU. They are committed to ensuring that their projects are not only wanted by the community, but also feasible in rural Zambia. As such, EWB-BU is dedicated to valuing projects as a shared initiative and collaboration between its students and the members of Naluja.

Cultural Exchange: During Wali’s time in Zambia, he was able to interact with the chapter’s partners is Zambia. He remembers a nurse at the maternal health clinic who is the most “inspirational person [he’s] met.” Wali is always excited and passionate to share his experience in Zambia with other MCN fellows and his peers at EWB-BU. Experiences in Zambia have not only created inspiration but have also educated the EWB community on the importance of its projects and how they can be optimized for positive impact.

Sustainability of projects is significant to EWB-BU. After EWB-BU’s recently receiving a corporate sponsorship from Boeing (the second corporate grant awarded to the chapter), Wali is excited to work on growing EWB-BU by expanding water-related projects, solidifying local contacts, and empowering local change-makers to monitor projects. Wali and EWB-BU have set no ceiling to the chapter’s goals and continue to create bigger impact plans.

EWB-BU and time in Zambia have encouraged Wali to pursue a career in global development. He is in particular interested in global health and progress toward achieving the SDGs. For now, Wali is a key member of the ground network of university students dedicated to international development. As Wali eloquently put, “in 15 years, we [university students] will be the professionals playing pivotal parts in global development, whether it be through technology, advocacy, or policy.” Wali and MCN share the belief that investment in college students is the future for creating a more equitable world. 

For more information about BU EWB, and how to donate: http://www.ewbbu.com/