Congratulations to Miller Center Fellows Maggie Menendez and Cate Ralph for being accepted into the prestigious Fulbright Fellowship program. Fulbright is considered the flagship of the U.S. State Department’s exchange program and sponsors a year of teaching, research, or graduate study abroad with a focus on building mutual understanding through education and cultural exchange. Cate will conduct research on the impact social enterprises have on gender perceptions in India, and Maggie will teach English to university-level students in Columbia.
As a freshman, Cate joined Santa Clara University’s student organization, Into the Wild, and it was there that she learned about Miller Center. The outdoor wilderness program was led by upperclassmen who were also Miller Center Fellows. Cate was intrigued by their work with social enterprises and working on the frontlines to eradicate poverty. “I watched them have real life-changing experiences, and I knew I wanted to be challenged in the same way.”
Cate applied for the Miller Center Fellowship and was selected, along with classmate Emma Sand, to work with Oorja Development Solutions, a social enterprise that finances and installs solar mini-grids in rural communities in Uttar Pradesh. Their fellowship project focused on expanding Oorja’s impact by increasing its number of female customers by 20%, hiring more women, and facilitating gender inclusion throughout the organization. Cate’s time with Oorja taught her new ways to effectively communicate with people from other cultures. She even had sticky notes next to her computer to remind her that American norms are different in other countries. She is taking this knowledge with her as she starts the Fulbright program and expands her research on gender perceptions.
As a freshman, Maggie was accepted to SCU as a Johnson Scholar and University Honors Student. She is fluent in Spanish and French, designed her own independent major, has earned a minor in Art History, and is an avid traveler. One of the first courses Maggie took at SCU was Preparing Fellowships and Graduate School Applications, taught by Professors Stephen Carroll and Naomi Levy. This course encourages students to extend their intellectual development beyond the classroom. Through these teachings, Maggie learned about Miller Center and the student fellows who help scale social enterprises in developing countries. The idea of working with people from other countries piqued her interest. “The social entrepreneurship words were new to me, but I realized it very much made sense and aligned with my interests.”
Maggie applied to the Miller Center Fellowship as a junior and was accepted, along with classmate Camryn Fischer, to work with Development in Gardening (DIG), a social enterprise that teaches the most uniquely vulnerable people how to plant regenerative gardens for better nutrition, health, and wellbeing. Their project focused on researching and creating a visually comprehensive, field-friendly guide to help farmers identify which crops best served the needs of the community. The team learned that local facilitators responded best to visual aids that were easy to understand, quick to use, and independent of technology. Maggie will use this experience to expand upon her work in Columbia. In addition to teaching English, Maggie is conducting research on the use of art as a form of cultural exchange.
Professor Carroll, who teaches Santa Clara University’s Fellowships course, is a Senior Lecturer and Miller Center Fellowship Academic Director. He taught both Maggie and Cate. “Their experiences working with social enterprises and the people those enterprises serve, in combination with the intensive vocational discernment work they did in the second half of the fellowship, have launched Maggie and Cate on a life path quite different from the ones they imagined only a year ago — a path characterized by an expanded vision of our global community and the needs of the diverse people that comprise it, a path that seeks to redress unjust social realities, increase agency, and give voice to those who have been voiceless. In pursuing these new paths, Maggie and Cate beautifully manifest the vision and values of the Miller Center Lewis Family Fellowship and demonstrate the courage that following your calling with a full heart requires and the excitement and joy that doing so brings.”
The fellowship program at Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, introduced in 2012, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. To date, the program includes 14 Fulbright Scholars, 3 SCU Valedictorians, 172 fellowship alumni, and 64 total action research projects. If you are a Santa Clara University student interested in applying to the fellowship program, please register your interest here. The Center also runs a student internship program.