Northeastern students earn fellowships to advance UN sustainable development goals

Students walk though Centennial Common in November 2016. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Twenty Northeastern students have been named recipients of a global fellowship program through which they and hundreds of other students worldwide will develop leadership skills while tackling projects focused on addressing society’s greatest challenges, including climate change, poverty, and education.

The 2018 Millennium Fellows were announced Wednesday. The fellowship is a semester-long leadership development program that is the result of a partnership between the Millennium Campus Network and the United Nations Academic Impact initiative.

This year’s Millennium Fellows comprise 530 students from 30 campuses across 13 countries. Fellows are leading projects that advance the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the UNAI’s principles in the students’ communities and beyond. They will meet regularly throughout the fall with their campus cohorts to network, learn from each other, and develop a range of leadership and professional skills such as grant writing, strategic planning, and managing teams through conflict.

The Millennium Campus Network, a Boston-based, global nonprofit focused on training students  to tackle the world’s biggest challenges, launched the fellowship program in 2013. This year, the organization partnered with United Nations Academic Impact to significantly expand the program to include more  fellows from around the world and align the fellows’ work with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Northeastern student Keyon Rostamnezhad is among the university’s Millennium Fellows. His fellowship project is focused on getting college students more involved in climate change policy.  Rostamnezhad was drawn to the subject after attending a climate change conference in Germany and studying the effectiveness of the Paris climate accord in Geneva. Networking with climate change experts at the conference who were discussing ways to combat global warming was particularly inspiring, he said.

Keyon Rostamnezhad is one of 20 Northeastern students who have been selected to be 2018 Millennium Fellows. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

“It opened my eyes to how active people are in climate policy and to opportunities to get involved and pursue careers in this area,” said Rostamnezhad, who is studying international affairs and economics. “It provided a great outlet for me to learn, speak out, and network.”

As a result of that experience, Rostamnezhad co-founded the University Climate Delegation Coalition to support students at U.S. colleges and universities who want to help shape climate change policy at the local, national, and international levels. As a 2018 Millennium Fellow, he’s focused on expanding the number of campuses with climate delegations.

Northeastern’s cohort of Millennium Fellows also includes senior Miranda Martone, who is working on a nonprofit she founded called the Sexual Violence Prevention Association, and third-year student Ava Gallo, who is expanding the work of an initiative called EcoScholars to educate Boston youth about climate change and everyday habits to help the planet.

Patrick Hernandez, a fourth-year bioengineering major, volunteers at the Boston chapter of Peer Health Exchange, which trains college students to teach health classes at under-resourced high schools. As a Millennium Fellow, Hernandez will explore opportunities to expand this work and bring health education to even more young people.

Northeastern’s Social Impact Lab will work closely with the university’s Millennium Fellows to provide workshops and events that align with their goals and the fellowship’s mission.

In 2012 and 2013, Northeastern hosted the Millennium Campus Conference, which brings together world leaders and more than 1,000 college students to discuss issues including sustainable development, extreme poverty, and combating disease. Last fall, Northeastern student Jodi Robertson received the Millennium Oceans Prize to launch a campaign called Raising Fins, which helps divers protect themselves and the marine environment while diving.

“When it came to this program, Northeastern students demonstrated strong commitment to localizing the Sustainable Development Goals in innovative ways,” said Sam Vaghar, the executive director of the Millennium Campus Network. “From an impact investing initiative to a program teaching STEM education to a food recovery network, the Northeastern cohort is holistic and diverse. We are confident they will excel in this program and create meaningful social impact.”