Although, the academic year has drawn to a close, Brianne Ellis ’13, Jiangtao Gu ’13 and Samantha Strachen ’11 will remain hard at work. The three were recently awarded leadership fellowships for the summer through the Centennial Center for Leadership. Selected from a talented pool of applicants, the students presented compelling proposals that exemplify them as leaders and conscience global citizens.
Gu, a history major who was granted a Cohen Fellowship, will use his award to aid his organization Non-Profit China United in its efforts to plan a conference for grassroots non-governmental organizations in China. Through the conference, Gu seeks to help provide NGOs with the platform to share their experiences, resources and information with university students.
Three years ago, Gu aided another program dedicated to bringing the concept of a liberal arts education back to China. Following that program’s success, Gu contacted many of the friends he made during the project and proposed the idea for this NGO conference; they were eager to lend a hand.
“Social resources in China are tightly controlled by the government, and the idea of an NGO is a fairly new concept there,” remarks Gu. “I hope to make it easier for these organizations to operate legally in China. University students are so passionate, but they cannot yet talk about their experiences.”
Strachen, who is majoring in international human rights, also received a Cohen Fellowship. Utilizing the award, Strachen’s work will focus on the refugee community of Utica, N.Y. Coming from all corners of the globe, the city has seen an influx of refugees from Bosnia and Burma in recent years. In an effort to enhance community understanding of this growing population within her home region, Strachen plans to create a “zine,” a small, self-produced publication of text and images, to educate and inform.
Although the zine will seek to creatively illustrate the lives and stories of the refugee population through pictures and interactive features, the focus will be on community understanding and dissemination of information.
“When I first found out about this huge population, I realized I didn’t know what was going on in my own backyard,” says Strachen, who began to work at the Refugee Center located in Utica following her first year at the Colleges. “The refugees in Utica have so much to offer the community and there is a lot we can do to help them. They are so willing to share stories and make connections.”
Given a Centennial Leadership Fellowship, Ellis plans to utilize her fellowship to educate women in Roatán, Honduras by developing programs that promote health and HIV/AIDS awareness. “Honduras is really my home away from home,” says Ellis, who has traveled to Honduras three times and currently sponsors a Honduran citizen. “I have enjoyed helping, and in return, Honduras has truly helped me to grow.”
Through interactive lesson plans, based on the work of human rights organizations, designed to educate -and urge – women to make healthy choices, Ellis hopes to reach out to the 40 high school women she will be teaching through Hope for Honduran Children. “I’ve combined a lot of my own ideas and experiences in the plans,” explains Ellis, a sociology major. “I want to give these women a voice.”
As a requirement of the fellowships, all three will have to complete a weekly journal, reflecting on their experiences – detailing both challenges and successes. The students will also share their work with the HWS community in a public forum at some point during the upcoming academic year.
Cohen Fellowships are made possible by the generosity and commitment of Trustee Dr. Stephen Cohen ‘67, who wishes to ensure that extraordinary opportunities are made available to Hobart and William Smith students to grow and develop their leadership skills. Centennial Fellowships are made possible by the generosity and commitment of those who have donated in honor of the 100th anniversary of William Smith College.