It Was a Night to Celebrate Students Learning by Doing
Friends, family, students, and faculty gathered to celebrate the 2022 Miller Center Lewis Family Fellowship cohort of 14 talented undergraduates who spent nine months conducting action research projects alongside Miller Center’s global social enterprise partners. Through the generosity of Carolyn Lewis and her late husband, Jack, and others, the fellowship combines Santa Clara University’s commitment to make the world a more just and sustainable place with Miller Center’s mission to eradicate poverty around the world. The result is Miller Center’s flagship undergraduate fellowship program providing students with a transformative learning experience.
This year’s cohort was accepted from diverse academic departments, including Public Health, Political Science, Marketing, Sociology, Child Studies, Environmental Studies, Neuroscience, Biochemistry, Bioengineering, Biology, Spanish Studies, Art History, and Economics. Each student is paired with an action research partner and assigned to a Miller Center social enterprise. The interdisciplinary teams take part in a two-course series and learn about social entrepreneurship, impact measurement, and participatory action research methods. Then, fellows spend the summer gathering information in-country, analyzing data, and sharing the results. This year’s research projects ranged from developing impact measurement tools for inner-city entrepreneurs in Baltimore, to conducting comparative product studies for smallholder farmers in Nepal, to creating an apprenticeship retention report for a vocational school that trains vulnerable women and youth in Uganda.
It’s been a gift to watch these students flourish. Some ventured into urban cities and some into rural villages, often with interpreters, experiencing socio-cultural differences in education, religion, food, and wealth distribution. Others worked remotely — still subject to COVID travel restrictions — using digital technologies to communicate with social entrepreneurs in last-mile communities. For many, this experience of learning by doing has transformed them — expanding their worldviews and affirming their vocational paths.
“It has been an eye-opening experience to work with Business for Health Solutions,” said junior Linnea Rothi, who partnered with classmate Amber Persson. “Each year, 11,000 women in Tanzania die due to complications from pregnancy and childbirth. And over 56,000 babies do not survive the first month of life. Our team analyzed the best methods for increasing affordable healthcare access. Now, I have a better understanding of what I am meant to do in the world. It’s helped me recognize my purpose.”
The fully endowed fellowship supports a robust value exchange between students and social enterprises and is just one part of Miller Center’s commitment to make Santa Clara a destination university for social entrepreneurship and impact investing. Miller Center’s team works with faculty across every department to leverage connections with students and incorporate social entrepreneurship into the curriculum. We plan to engage more than 500 undergraduates through fellowships, internships, research, and classes this academic year and introduce them to the field of social entrepreneurship.
“I see a bigger world now,” said Judi Li, a junior who worked remotely for Solageo with classmate Riley Casey. “In East Africa, women and children spend more than two hours each day finding safe water for their families to consume. Solageo delivers solar-powered safe water filtration systems to these last-mile communities. We worked with the University of Rwanda and Heifer International to design and deploy a field study. After gathering and analyzing the data, we created two deliverables to help Solageo better qualify franchisees and improve payment methods. We had a super rewarding experience. Now, I see more potential in myself as I go forward.”
“The students here are very intelligent, and they combine that with care, compassion, and commitment for the world. I know the best way for students to learn is by doing. And, the best thing we can do for our students is to give them opportunities to be in the world.”
— Julie Sullivan, President, Santa Clara University
Miller Center welcomes the opportunity to work with faculty and students from all disciplines. If you are a faculty member interested in becoming a Miller Center Scholar, or a student interested in the Miller Center Lewis Family Fellowship, please contact Linda Gentry, Senior Manager of Campus Engagement. If you are a student wanting to apply for a Miller Center Paid Internship, please reach out to Anthony Sampson, Campus Engagement & Operations Coordinator, for more information.
- Fellows Lily Evans-Riera and Lexi Gomez (center) share their project working with Someone Somewhere
- Jeff Miller presents Carolyn Lewis with Miller Center’s Social Impact Legacy Award for her support of the fellowship
- Fellows Judi Li and Riley Casey showcase their work with Solageo