John Abdulla

2008 MCN Conference | Undergraduate University: Curry College

My MCN Story:

"As the leader of the ONE Chapter on my undergraduate campus, I discovered MCN and the first Millennium Campus Conference, hosted at MIT. It felt incredible to connect with students around the country who were similarly passionate about ending poverty and who faced the same challenges of engaging a campus of students. And I remember being so impressed by the line-up of speakers, including Paul Farmer and Jeffrey Sachs. I became a quick fan of MCN’s work and connected more with the leadership, soon thereafter joining as a director. My work with MCN helped connect me with more of the student activism that fueled my remaining time in college, giving so much more meaning to my education. I was pretty sure I knew this was going to be a career path for me.

Days before I graduated college, however, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. It was during this perspective-shifting time that I think my path towards doing work to benefit others became clearest. The idea that I could be cured of cancer but at the same time, in the same world, a child could die for lack of a simple malaria pill, for example, was--and remains--insane to me. And so once I finished treatment, I looked for a job in the international development field."

Student Leadership:

"My time as a student leader was filled with mistakes and fails. I remember several events we planned where we were lucky to get even some of our friends on campus to attend. It was difficult to engage an audience of young people who were already deeply engaged in education and college life. We stuck to it, however, and planned some wildly successful events including a talent benefit show on campus. That persistence, even in the face of some fails, was critical. I think another lesson in that, however, is to stop chasing the idea that you will engage a mass audience and instead focus on the deep connection with each and every person--even if they are fewer. In my years as a student leader and professional in the nonprofit space, I have been fortunate to meet many passionate individuals who have accomplished way more than you’d think one person could ever accomplish. They each have stories where they caught the activism bug. It can’t be forced, but once you catch it, it doesn’t go away!"


"As Web Manager at Oxfam, I oversee our web strategy and manage a team that develops and maintains web properties to engage and activate the U.S. to end the injustice of poverty. I studied communication at Curry College and through my experiences developed a specific interest in global poverty. The more I came to understand the issue, the more compelled I felt to do something about it, until finally I started a chapter of the ONE Campaign with fellow students, including Peter Nhiany, who was a “Lost Boy” of Sudan. His story rallied us to raise funds to build a well in his village. And that work gave focus to my interest in communication--I knew I wanted to apply my skills with digital media in particular, to spread awareness and activate people in the same way that I was activated."

*The "quotes" above were edited for concision and clarity.