Northeastern University senior Madeline Seibert has concentrated much of her college experience on studying China and its culture, both through co-op and the Dialogue of Civilizations program as well as by learning Mandarin. She has focused on sustainability and the environment, particularly through the lens of food waste and environmental resource scarcity.
Last week, Seibert was named a Schwarzman Scholar, a prestigious program through which she will build upon this work. In August she’ll begin a yearlong, fully funded master’s program at the Tsinghua University in Beijing.
She is one of this year’s 129 Schwarzman Scholars, who collectively represent 30 countries and 75 universities worldwide. The program, which is in its second year, was formed in response to the geopolitical landscape of the 21st century and is “designed to prepare the next generation of global leaders.”
“I’m really excited about it,” said Seibert, who expects to focus on public policy in her graduate program, “and I’m thrilled to have the chance to go back to China.”
Earlier this year Seibert worked on co-op at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Beijing, where she led an independent study documenting food losses and waste through Chinese supply chains, a project that included literature reviews and on-the-ground investigations from farms to markets. “I’ve done a lot of work on those issues,” said Seibert, who received a Presidential Global Scholarship for her co-op, “and this will be a great chance to get more tangible skills in international relations and public policy to work on food systems challenges internationally.”
The different study abroad programs have been invaluable, and co-op has enabled me to build on each experience in a new way. Northeastern is full of driven, action-oriented people, and that environment is infectious.
—Madeline Seibert, SSH’17
Throughout her time at Northeastern, Seibert has seized opportunities to challenge herself academically, professionally, and personally. During her co-op in Beijing, Seibert—an avid bicyclist—began volunteering at Beijing Bamboo Bicycles workshops and soon had built her own bicycle out of bamboo. Another example: After taking French throughout high school and then teaching herself Spanish, she began taking Mandarin classes her freshman year—an experience that initially sparked her interest in China. “I took on Mandarin as a challenge, in recognition that I didn’t know anything about Asia when I came to college,” she said.
Studying Mandarin, she explained, piqued her interest in learning more about China. Later, in summer 2013 she participated in a Dialogue of Civilizations program to Beijing at Nanjing University, where she studied business, politics, and culture. While on Dialogue, Seibert’s group visited the Natural Resources Defense Council, an experience that inspired her to consider applying to work on co-op there. “As a Northeastern student, you always have your co-op radar on,” she noted.
Seibert added: “The different study abroad programs have been invaluable, and co-op has enabled me to build on each experience in a new way. Northeastern is full of driven, action-oriented people, and that environment is infectious.”
In a letter recommending Seibert for the scholarship, Jonna Iacono, director of the Scholars Program and Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, wrote, “The recurring theme of Madeline’s cooperative work experiences, study and research, and volunteer leadership is that she never treads water, never merely does what is asked, but always pushes the scope of her role and her organization forward, setting new benchmarks for effectiveness.”
Seibert is from Bedford, Massachusetts, and in addition to her global focus she has pursued various opportunities related to the environment, sustainability, and food closer to home. She spent her first co-op working at GreenerU in Watertown, Massachusetts, where she focused on community engagement and strategic planning to promote energy efficiency on college campuses. On Northeastern’s campus she’s been active in student organizations such as the university’s chapter of Partners in Health Engage, through which students support the organization’s mission of global health equity through advocacy, fundraising, and education.
Seibert also worked at the Roslindale Village Farmers Market, including for one year as its manager. During this time she led efforts to increase free programming and engagement with the community by adding new events and entertainment, nonprofit vendors, community partners, and even art installations.
Seibert will finish her coursework at Northeastern this month, and in January she’ll begin working part time as a writer for BeCause Water, a Boston-based social enterprise. She’ll also continue taking Chinese language courses before beginning her graduate program in August.
Seibert said that upon completion of her graduate program, she’s interested in pursuing another master’s program in environmental resource management. She aspires to work for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, in large part due to her first experience with the U.N. during a Dialogue of Civilizations program in Switzerland in summer 2014. The dialogue focused on researching disarmament diplomacy and humanitarian action, and during that time Seibert became the first undergraduate ever to testify before the U.N. Mine Action Service when she spoke about the environmental implications of mine disarmament.
This U.N. experience, she said—along with witnessing its formal processes and coalition building in action—left an impact on the young scholar. “Seeing those global processes of change was really exciting to me, and that’s a stage I will hopefully find myself on again.”