Global Social Impact Fellows are a highly self-selected cohort of undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines across Lehigh University focused on addressing sustainable development challenges in low-income countries. GSIFs advance Global Inquiry to Impact (GI2I) projects in the Spring and Fall semester (total six credits) and engage in faculty-guided fieldwork with diverse local partners in the Summer session. The courses, workshops, retreats, and immersive experiences of this program integrate experiential learning, research, and entrepreneurial engagement with students leading original and ambitious projects with in-country partners in diverse countries. A select number of GSIFs have the opportunity to participate in the Mountaintop Summer Experience to advance their project.
Through engaging in such meaningful, authentic, and incredibly alive projects, Fellows develop skillsets, mindsets, and portfolios to solve complex societal challenges. Fellows build sustainable enterprises, publish their works in peer-reviewed journals, integrate their insights into national policies, and champion social movements that influence the lives of millions of people. The quest for sustainable impact drives the philosophy, pedagogy, and operations of this program with the objective of preparing students to lead lives of impact.
Program Benefits: What’s In It for Me?
- An opportunity to work collaboratively with the most driven students from across the university on ambitious multi-year projects striving to deliver social impact.
- Work across disciplines, cultures, language and time barriers to develop practical, innovative, and sustainable solutions with in-country partners - through virtual teaming in the Spring and Fall semester and on-the-ground fieldwork in the Summer session.
- Engage in fieldwork (in Sierra Leone, Philippines, or India) with faculty mentors with decades of experience conducting research, designing solutions, and building systems in developing countries.
- Conduct original research and get your work published in journals and conference proceedings. Travel to conferences to present your work and build your professional network.
- Develop your life skills and build life-long friendships with peers at Lehigh and with some amazing people in the countries we work in.
- Distinguish yourself and become more competitive for prestigious fellowships and awards, graduate / professional schools, or that dream job.
- Impact! Conducting research and jumpstarting social enterprises is incredibly difficult but also deeply rewarding.
Global Social Impact Fellow Logistics:
CINQ 388: Inquiry to Impact Workshop Series [1 Credit]: Weekly hands-on workshops and interactive seminars for all Fellows across all the GI2I projects.
CINQ 389: Inquiry to Impact Projects[2-4 Credits]: Separate sections for each team working on sustainable development challenges in Sierra Leone, the Philippines, or India. The team typically meets with the faculty mentor once a week; all project work is done outside of class times.
All full-day workshops will be held on weekends or holidays; meals will be provided.
Each team has the option of having a two-person team take a deep dive into the project for the Mountaintop Summer Experience. Additional students might be funded depending on project needs and availability of funds.
Fieldwork funding: As a fellow, the in-country fieldwork is mandatory. The GSIF program will cover most in-country expenses for students including local transport, lodging, most meals, communication, and coordination expenses. The GSIF program will support students in acquiring funds for airfare, visas, mandatory vaccinations, and insurance from various sources. These expenses are estimated to total $2,000. In the application form, please indicate your funding needs.
- Unless marked as optional, GSIFs are expected to participate in all courses, seminars, and workshops. No exceptions.
- We don’t expect applicants to know how to do these things. Just come prepared to learn.
- Certain skills matter and are needed, but what we are looking for is passion, deep commitment, and work ethic. GPAs don’t matter...much.
- You should have the time in your academic and personal schedule for this commitment - don't overload just to do it.
Spring 2019 Global Inquiry to Impact Projects
Global Inquiry to Impact projects are multi-year projects with interdisciplinary cross-functional teams engaging in the research, design, field-testing, and implementation of projects and social enterprises in low-resource communities and markets. These ventures aim to deliver practical, sustainable, and scalable solutions to complex challenges including those related to food, energy, water, and health. Sustainability, in this context, refers to the notion that real solutions must be technologically appropriate, socially acceptable, environmentally benign, and economically sustainable. There is a recognition that ideas, presentations, and prototypes do not solve problems; the real challenge is in the implementation, assessment, and fast-paced pivoting to reach a higher sustainable equilibrium. The challenge is in the execution - getting the job done in partnership with diverse actors in an ethical, harmonious, and self-determined manner. As of Jan 2019, Global I2I projects are being championed in Sierra Leone, the Philippines, and India in collaboration with local university and non-profit partners.
1. Sierra Leone: UTI Test Strips to Improve Maternal Health (PI: Khanjan Mehta)
Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. This team is working on extremely inexpensive (2-cent) test strips to screen people for Urinary Tract Infections (and Diabetes) in Sierra Leone. While the science/engineering sub-team will focus on chemistry and product design issues, the social science and business sub-teams will work on on-the-ground distribution and education aspects. All majors welcome. We specifically need students with 1) marketing / graphic design skills, 2) chemistry / biomedical engineering / lab experience, and 3) journalism / theatre / public speaking skills to design a radio program.
2. Sierra Leone: Mushroom Production Systems (PI: Khanjan Mehta)
Mushrooms grow fast! Commercial production of mushrooms can help improve local food security, reduce malnutrition, and augment livelihoods. After tremendous success in Cambodia, this team is designing a commercial mushroom production ecosystem in Sierra Leone. Further work includes 1) labwork with different kinds of mushroom spawn to establish a spawn production system, 2) design and field-testing of mushroom houses, 3) writing grant proposals and finding partners, and 4) developing educational materials on mushroom production for aspiring entrepreneurs. All majors welcome. We specifically need students with 1) lab experience to work with spawn, 2) woodworking / fabrication skills, and 3) solid writing skills to pull together a bunch of proposals.
3. Sierra Leone: Sickle Cell Anemia Diagnostic Device (PI: Xuanhong Cheng)
Anemia is highly prevalent in Sierra Leone and sickle cell diseases are one important cause of its prevalence. Current diagnosis of anemia in Sierra Leone is symptom based and no diagnostics are available for sickle cell disease. To tackle this problem, a team of students is expected to develop point-of-care diagnostics for sickle cell disease and anemia. The end goal of this project is to make these tests available in clinics in Sierra Leone, and ideally also available to health workers for delivery to remote areas. All majors welcome. We specifically need students with 1) wet bench experience to work with biological samples such as proteins, DNA and blood, 2) experience in prototyping analytical devices and flow channels, and 3) solid writing skills to pull together a bunch of proposals and research papers.
4. Sierra Leone: Food Product to Fight Malnutrition and Stunting (PI: Lori Herz)
Malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are common is Sierra Leone, especially among children under five years of age. This often results in stunting, wasting, developmental delays, and mortality. The focus of this project is to study the causes of the problem and identify potential solutions, such as developing highly nutritious foods that are appealing to young children. Students on this project should have a passion for global health and experiential learning. The project will include both technical and business components, such as identifying nutritional needs, developing products, exploring methods of manufacture at multiple scales, and creating and executing a business plan. All majors welcome.
5. Philippines: Project Plastikan – Empowering Women by Recycling Plastic to Produce High Value Products (PI: Ganesh Balasubramanian; Co-PIs: Brian Slocum, Don Morris, Wesley Heiss, Khanjan Mehta)
This project aims to provide income opportunities for women in a partnering local community (Malabon, Metro Manila, Philippines) by building a plastics recycling facility based on the design of David Hakkens, founder of Precious Plastics. The facility will house various recycling machines with open-source designs to be built by students. The project involves three phases: (1) needs assessment and market research, (2) fabrication of appropriate machines, and (3) technology transfer and training. Through this project, women in the community will be manufacturing up-cycled products themselves, thus emphasizing gender equality and empowerment. Aside from finished goods, useful raw materials may also be made and supplied to local manufacturers to turn into high-value products. All majors welcome.
6. India: Corporate Social Responsibility, Development, and NGOs (PI: Nandini Deo)
The 2013 Companies Act in India introduced new provisions requiring companies to give annual donations under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). All firms with net worth above $75 million, turnover over $150 million, or net profit over $750,000 are required under Section 135 to spend at least 2% of their annual profits (averaged over 3 years). This is a major innovation with the state brokering a partnership between the private sector and civil society organizations, and the first law of its kind in the world. This project aims to understand how the law is shaping the development sector in India by examining the partnerships between corporations and NGOs. Students will be able to conduct some research initially through video conferencing and online, followed by in-country research to study the particular projects that offer exemplary potential. Close observation and participation in these projects will be used to develop best practices in this new development arena. All majors welcome.
7. Sierra Leone: Safe Motherhood in Sierra Leone – Documenting Stories of Healthcare Innovation and Community Resilience (PI: Michael Kramp)
Although Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world, the nation has also built a resilient health care system in an attempt to address this crisis. This team will be researching how Sierra Leone has worked to confront this issue and establish a functional health care system. Our goal is to produce a festival-ready documentary film. All majors are welcome and you need not have filmmaking experience to participate. We are particularly interested in students with Sociological, Health Studies, Journalistic, Global Studies, and Humanistic training.
8. Sierra Leone: Assessing Socioeconomic Factors Underlying Ebola Infection (PIs: Paolo Bocchini and Javier Buceta)
Sierra Leone was one of the countries more affected by the 2014 Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa, and only in 2016 did the WHO declare the country Ebola-free. Still, the problem is latent in a region that is under the risk of a new outbreak due to the lack of advanced health infrastructures and different social and cultural factors (e.g. burial rituals, bushmeat markets…). In this project, the final goal is to develop and implement a cellphone app that doctors can use to register socioeconomic factors and habits of Ebola patients. Students will first conduct interviews with local doctors to determine the right questionnaire to address those factors and then develop a phone app. In phase two, students will meet with health officials to help the distribution/ implementation of this tool among doctors in the country. We expect that because of the information obtained with this project, we can learn the relative importance of different socioeconomic factors and integrate that in models to predict the risk of Ebola outbreaks. This effort is part of a larger project funded by the National Institute of Health to model Ebola spreading and mitigate the risk of outbreaks. While students from all majors are welcome, this project specifically needs students from social sciences (any discipline) and engineering/computer science with a minimal knowledge of programming.