Engineers Without Borders: An Honors Duo’s Trip to Uganda

Author: Stephanie Albert, junior

Honors students Kelsey Vinzant ‘20 and Meg Whelan ’21 first connected with each other through the Honors Mentorship Program, which pairs incoming Honors students with upperclassman peers. In one of their first conversations, Kelsey mentioned her involvement with Fordham’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), which has since become another shared experience for the pair.

Kelsey, the current president of the club says, “At Fordham, EWB is a group of students of many disciplinary backgrounds and we are partnered with a community in Uganda through an NGO there called “Selocoffi” which stands for Serere Local Community Fish Farming Initiative. Through their partnership, we are linked to communities that are interested in building fish farms. Our task is to visit and survey land, then design a suitable fish farm for their community.” Thus far, the Fordham chapter of EWB has successfully built two fish farms.

This past August, Kelsey and Meg, along with several other Fordham participants, visited their partner community in Uganda. The trip lasted for 10 days and involved almost 48 hours of travel to get from the United States to the small villages in Uganda. The main purpose of their trip was to oversee construction to make sure things were going well. Three people who went on the trip were very involved technically so they could help with any issues or any necessary deviations from their designs that arose. They also met with the community to sign contracts and assign roles, such as a security guard, for the new fish farm. The Fordham group also was able to briefly look at land for a new breeding center project location, which is the third stage of Fordham’s EWB project. It will allow the club to have a more widespread impact because more Ugandans will have access to the center, making the project more sustainable for the communities. The Fordham students were also able to go visit a full-scale fish farm that is funded by numerous organizations including the UN, so they were able to get to see how a larger-scale project operated and what their project could possibly grow into in the future.

While visiting, the group stayed at the home of the man who operates Selocoffi. “His family was really wonderful and his daughter Lucy was always cooking for us and bringing out these amazing meals.” “The trip didn’t seem as busy [while we were there] but looking back on it, we were able to do quite a lot.”

Both Meg and Kelsey noted that community interactions were the most memorable parts of the trip. A particularly special interaction was meeting the Ugandan students who benefit from the portion of farm proceeds that goes to local education and healthcare initiatives.  They interacted with the students by exchanging language lessons — the Fordham students shared some English phrases with the kids, who then taught them some words in Ateso, their native dialect. This was Meg’s first ever trip abroad, so a lot stood out to her but learning about the culture of the people they were visiting was the most impactful.

For each Fordham EWB delegation, there are a few students who have participated in previous visits. Their leadership helps facilitate introductions and interactions with their host community. The most rewarding aspect of the trip was the meeting with the host community because they presented gifts to the returning Fordham delegates. “We have an adult professional engineer who travels with us and they gave him a live chicken which is a big deal,” shared Kelsey.

In reflecting on taking this trip with her Honors mentor, Meg spoke about how grateful she was to have Kelsey to help orient her in addition to orienting the whole group. The last three presidents of EWB have been Rose Hill Honors students and numerous other members of the club have also been Honors students. Although there were cultural and communication barriers as well as a variety of stakeholders for the Fordham team to coordinate with, Meg and Kelsey used the skills they’d learned around the Honors seminar table to discern when to speak up and when to listen, in order to collaborate well for this global partnership.

Honors Summer Internship Fellows: Kat

**This is the final post in a series of four posts written by the Summer 2018 Honors Internship Fellows. The students received a stipend that enabled them to work at non-profit organizations for the common good.**

Author: Kat Martucci, senior

Summer Internship Fellow Kat with one of her students.

This summer, I was awarded an Honors Summer Internship Fellowship to be an Education Intern at Children of Promise, NYC (CPNYC). The experience was challenging, unpredictable, and often times exhausting – but more than anything, it filled my summer with incredible joy and love.

Last year, I attended the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) Honors Conference as a representative of the FCRH Honors Program. There, I participated in a teach-in on criminal justice and spoke with both currently and formerly incarcerated people. The teach-in sparked a desire in me to further learn about and work towards criminal justice reform.

Because of this, I was instantly drawn to Children of Promise. CPNYC aims “to embrace children of incarcerated parents and empower them to break the cycle of intergenerational involvement in the criminal justice system.”  Its innovative model of a combined after-school/summer camp program and mental health clinic provides children with holistic support and exciting opportunities.

Throughout the summer, I could be found in many different roles. Primarily, I led a ‘Science Club’ for groups of 8 and 9 year-olds. Other days, I helped with ‘Read-aloud’ for 6 and 7 year olds, accompanied children on trips throughout New York City, and directed volunteers at CPNYC’s Saturday Resource Center. Regardless of the role I was in, every day I developed relationships with the children and grew to love their unique traits and bold attitudes.

Although my internship has formally ended, my relationship with CPNYC has not. I plan to volunteer there during the school year and am currently helping to design and implement a youth Council of Promise to provide leadership opportunities for the children.

2.7 million children in the nation, and 105,000 children in New York State, have a parent in prison. CPNYC is the beginning of a movement to support these children, whom the odds are against, and create opportunities for them to succeed.

For me, this internship has emphasized the importance of building relationships with the individuals who are affected first-hand by issues of injustice. In becoming a part of their community, their struggle becomes my struggle, and I am all the more committed to a career in solidarity with these communities.

Thank you to the FCRH Honors Program and its donors for this fellowship as well as the opportunity to attend the 2017 AJCU Honors Conference. These experiences have been critical in my formation at Fordham, and I so grateful for the continued support of the Honors Program as I enter my final year at Fordham.  

Honors Summer Internship Fellows: Kelsie

**This is the second in a series of four posts written by the Summer 2018 Honors Internship Fellows. The students received a stipend that enabled them to work at non-profit organizations for the common good.**

Author: Kelsie O’Leary, sophomore

Kelsie tutoring with City Year

This summer, the Honors Summer Internship Fellowship allowed me to work for City Year New York, an education nonprofit whose mission is to provide quality education to students in New York City’s most underserved schools. City Year employs AmeriCorps members in 28 cities and hundreds of schools across the country to combat the dropout crisis.

As an intern for their Corps and Site Operations department this summer, I managed day-to-day office tasks as well as helped prepare incoming AmeriCorps members for their year of service. I developed content for training, collected and organized compliance forms, and helped coordinate events in the office. This was my first time working on the administrative side of nonprofit, and I gained valuable experience for my future plans in nonprofit management.

Although I did not work directly with students this summer, I understand the impact that City Year has because I served in City Year Los Angeles for two years before attending Fordham. The AmeriCorps members serve not only as tutors to students but as mentors and role models. I witnessed firsthand the tremendous impact of having a positive adult role model in a student’s life, and the City Year AmeriCorps members provide that to hundreds of students in NYC’s schools. I am grateful that the Honors Program gave me another opportunity to serve such an important cause.

Kelsie and her colleagues at the City Year Corps and Site Operations Team.

Honors Summer Internship Fellows: Julia

**This is the first post in a series of four posts written by the Summer 2018 Honors Internship Fellows. The students received a stipend that enabled them to work at non-profit organizations for the common good.**

Author: Julia Hammond, junior

Julia and her co-workers take a day trip to the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center to attend a discussion about racism and white supremacy in light of the one-year anniversary of the violent rallies in Charlottesville.

This summer, I was lucky to work at an organization called the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund as the Development and Communications Intern. CWEALF works to advocate for and empower women and girls in Connecticut, particularly those who are underserved or marginalized. They pursue this mission by providing free legal information (including individualized, bilingual community advocacy) and advocating for public policies that support Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens.

As the Development and Communications Intern, I was able to translate fundraising skills I’d learned at larger nonprofit organizations to a smaller-scale organization with a different donor base. I spent time creating informative and emotionally engaging content for social media and email blasts, as well as taking photos and creating video content for the website. I was also able to write several articles about important events and their policy implications, such as the anniversary of Title IX and the significance of Black Women’s Equal Pay Day.

In the spring of my sophomore year, I worked as an unpaid intern at a larger organization called charity: water, and fell in love with nonprofit work. However, I knew that I couldn’t spend the summer continuing to work as an unpaid intern, so I was incredibly grateful to receive this opportunity; the Honors Fellowship enabled me to learn about a different part of the nonprofit sector and solidify my passion for nonprofit work. Working for CWEALF helped me to see firsthand the difficulties our laws and justice system often present to individuals who face language or income barriers, and it has inspired me to continue working with nonprofits in the future.

Inaugural Service and Social Justice Newsletter

We are excited to announce Volume I, Issue I of the Service and Social Justice Newsletter.

We hope you all enjoy reading about some of the great Service and Social Justice work that’s going on in Honors and at Fordham.

Many thanks to our SSJ Committee Chairs, Katie DeFonzo and Olivia Jones, for their work on the newsletter!

 

Click the link below for the Newsletter:

Inaugural Service and Social Justice Newsletter

Senior Spotlight: Katie DeFonzo

Katie DeFonzo is a graduating senior in the current Honors class who is incredibly involved on and off campus.  Double majoring in History and Spanish and minoring in Medieval Studies, Katie works as a research assistant for The Bronx African American History Project through Fordham’s history program.  She also gives tours of the Fraunces Tavern Museum in Manhattan, acts as an ESL tutor at St. Rita’s Immigration Center, works on both the Copy Editing and Peer Editing staffs of the Fordham Undergraduate Research Journal, leads retreats through Campus Ministry, plays second violin in the orchestra, and sings in the Schola Cantorum.  Finally, she has been involved with the Honors Service and Social Justice Committee since its beginning and has become one of the committee’s chairs, passionately helping to plan events that allow Honors students serve their community.

I had the chance to speak with her about Honors, her role in the Service and Social Justice Committee, and her post-graduation plans.

 

From your time in Honors, do you have a favorite event or a favorite thing about the program in general?
I really like sophomore year, being able to go to the [AJCU] Honors Conference.  In terms of my favorite part about the program in general, I like how cohesive it is and how you can see a lot of continuity between classes; I love when something we are talking about in literature comes up in my history class.  I’m really looking forward to the Last Lecture tomorrow and I love the community and the events we have, like the Christmas party and the barbeque. I like how it’s more than just a learning community — it’s a community of friends in a lot of ways.

So you mentioned that you’ve been a chair of the Service and Social Justice Committee basically since its beginning.  How did you become involved with that project?
Sophomore year when Dr. Keller became the director of the [Honors] program and started the Student Advisory Council, she asked us what we wanted to see, which was really nice.  Someone put forth the idea that there should be a committee for service and social justice and that seemed really interesting to me so I put my name on the list. My junior year I became a chair [of the committee] and started to help plan the events that we do.  It’s been really rewarding and I’m happy that I became involved with that subcommittee in particular.

What is your favorite event that you’ve done with that group?
We’ve done a lot of different things, but I really like one program we did earlier this year, which involved distributing food to residents in an apartment complex in the Bronx with Meals on Wheels.  That was really special because we got to meet and deliver food personally to each resident so we could see immediately where our help was going.

What are your post-grad plans?
I’m going to Catholic University in Washington, D.C. for their dual Masters degree program in history and library science.  I chose [that program] really because of the internship I had over the summer at the Museum of American History in D.C.; I realized how important not only a knowledge of history is, but also how being able to make that history accessible to people really matters.  I think that this dual Masters degree program will be a great way to do that.

Honors Summer Internship Fellows: Rosalyn

**This is the third in a series of four posts written by the summer 2017 Honors internship fellows. The students received a stipend that enabled them to work at non-profit organizations for the common good.**

Rosalyn and a cooperative that works with Mercado Global

I am honored and extremely grateful to be an inaugural recipient of the Honors Fellowship. This new program is another indication of the commitment of Fordham and the honors program to supporting the intellectual and professional endeavors of their students. The fellowship enabled me to live and work abroad in Panajachel, Guatemala as the Community Outreach Intern at Mercado Global. Mercado Global is a non-profit that is dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty for indigenous artisans in rural Guatemala.

Lake Atitlan, where Rosalyn was based

My work entailed keeping track of the donations and fundraising efforts of our network and facilitating donor visits to our office in Guatemala. The most interesting aspect was being a part of the company’s biannual Social Impact Assessment. With the help of local interviewers, the company gathered data on their 200 artisan partners. I learned the demographics of their artisans and witnessed a process that enabled the company to better support the women in the future. I then was able to use this information and other interviews I collected to create a research project about the effectiveness of social enterprises in the lives of indigenous artisans. As a result of this fellowship I was able to live abroad, develop my foreign language skills and learn a significant amount about nonprofit management and the value of research.

Honors Summer Internship Fellows: Olivia

**This is the first in a series of four posts written by the summer 2017 Honors internship fellows. The students received a stipend that enabled them to work at non-profit organizations for the common good.**

Author: Olivia Jones, junior

This summer, I was proud to receive the Honors Summer Internship Fellowship. The fellowship was an incredible opportunity for me, since it allowed me to pursue my dream of working at a nonprofit organization. Many nonprofits only offer unpaid internships, so the fellowship was crucial to my being able to accept the position.

“Pulse of Morning” sculpture outside my office building

I interned with the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), an international association of reproductive health care professionals, including researchers, practitioners, and clinic administrators.  During my internship, I worked with the Education and Training Department to prepare educational materials for dissemination and prepare for their annual conference. I spent much of my summer reviewing presentations that doctors has submitted to present at the conference, so I learned a lot about medical writing and terminology.

As an EMT with Fordham University Emergency Medical Services, I’m familiar with patient care, but less familiar with all the work that goes on behind the scenes in the medical field. This internship allowed me to explore possible careers in medicine that wouldn’t necessarily be hands-on. I’m excited to continue exploring new career fields as I continue my time at Fordham, and none of this would have been possible without the support of the Honors Program.

Honors Service Week 2016

The Honors Program started the semester focused on service and social justice with and the inaugural Honors Service Week. The week began with the annual Mentor/Mentee dinner, where first year students meet their upperclass mentors and hear from Fordham service partners about volunteer opportunities. The rest of the week featured events for all of the students in the program.

img_1289Inaugurate the New Alpha House with Service and Snacks: The first event of the week was an opportunity to spend some time in the newly refurbished Alpha House. Students brought books to donate to local shelters and wrote notes and colored pictures to send along with the books.

img_1293Conversation about Structural Injustice in the Bronx: Dr. Mary Beth Combs, a beloved Economics professor in the Honors Program, presented on the history of housing inequities in the Bronx. Students were able to reflect on this history and their own desire to make a difference in situations of injustice.

good-eventVolunteer Event with the GOOD+ Foundation: A group of students traveled to the GOOD+ Foundation in Manhattan to pack donations for needy residents of NYC.

 

 

 

 

img_5437Habitat for Humanity Build: On Saturday, a group of students worked on a Habitat for Humanity apartment build in Brooklyn. In between helping to put in ceilings, the students took a lunch break photo.

 

 

The Honors Service Week was both a lot of fun and a great opportunity for students to learn more about and engage in service and social justice here in New York. Thanks to the Service and Social Justice Committee in SAC for making the week such a great success!