Global Social Impact Fellowship

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  • The Global Goals for Sustainable Development...
  • ...are GLOBAL!
  • There is only one world. We are all in the same boat. We share messy problems and scarce resources.
  • Developing countries have billions of people...
  • who are brilliant, and, by the way, excellent fishermen)
  • and extremely hardworking, and happy and,
  • ...well, just like people everywhere
  • ...but bear a disproportionate burden of disease,
  • ...lack access to clean water, energy, sanitation,
  • ...and food security challenges, exacerbated by climate change.
  • While living the principles of Empathy,
  • Equity,
  • and Ecosystems,
  • Global Social Impact Fellows conduct original research and design innovative and practical solutions
  • that address challenges and create and bolster livelihoods.
  • Fellows work with partners in several countries
  • to build independent self-sustaining enterprises and solutions
  • that solve problems that matter
  • and have the potential to scale up
  • to multi-million smile enterprises.
  • So whats it like to be a Global Social Impact Fellow? In one word, INTENSE!
  • Fellows representing every college across campus
  • collaborate with professors in the classroom,
  • in the lab,
  • and in the field,
  • to develop these skillsets, mindsets, and portfolios and leverage them to do
  • whatever it takes to develop solutions and build social enterprises.
  • Students share knowledge in refereed journals,
  • build networks at professional conferences,
  • and cultivate life-long friendships with peers.
  • Global Social Impact Fellows pursue graduate, medical, or law school at the finest universities;
  • aspire for prestigious fellowships and service opps like Fulbrights, Peace Corps, and TFA;
  • and pursue careers in social innovation and sustainable development in the long-term.
  • UN, nonprofits, government, startups, social enterprises, industry, consulting, academia...
  • wherever they are, GSI Fellows get stuff done,
  • and deliver Impact.
  • Impact.
  • Impact.
  • Come on over. Pick up your bundle of sticks.
  • Lets build a world that works for everyone.
Applications for the 2021 GSIF are now closed. Thanks to all who applied!

Program Overview
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.  

**Fieldwork for summer 2021 is, of course, subject to change due to the pandemic. At this point, we anticipate fieldwork in the Philippines and Kazakhstan will occur during the latter half of July 2021, with fieldwork in Sierra Leone occurring in the first three weeks of August 2021.


Program Benefits: What’s In It for Me?

  1. An opportunity to work collaboratively with the most driven students from across the university on ambitious multi-year projects striving to deliver social impact.
  2. 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.
  3. Engage in fieldwork (in Sierra Leone, Philippines, or Kazakhstan) with faculty mentors with decades of experience conducting research, designing solutions, and building systems in developing countries.
  4. 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.
  5. Develop your life skills and build life-long friendships with peers at Lehigh and with some amazing people in the countries we work in.
  6. Distinguish yourself and become more competitive for prestigious fellowships and awards, graduate / professional schools, or that dream job.
  7. Impact! Conducting research and jumpstarting social enterprises is incredibly difficult but also deeply rewarding.

Global Social Impact Fellow Logistics:  


  1. CINQ 388-387: Inquiry to Impact Workshop Series [1 Credit]: Weekly hands-on workshops and interactive seminars for all Fellows across all the GI2I projects.

  2. 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 Kazakhstan. The team typically meets with the faculty mentor once a week; all project work is done outside of class times.

  3. All full-day workshops will be held on weekends or holidays; meals will be provided.

  4. 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 help students acquire funds for airfare, visas, vaccinations, and insurance from various sources. These expenses are estimated to total $2,000. In the application form, you will indicate the approximate amount of funds you can contribute. However, no one will be excluded from fieldwork for ability to pay. We have connections with various sources of funding to help you find the funds you need.

GSIF project teams are eligible to apply for the Langer Grant for International Creative Inquiry Projects, with funding
generously provided by Michael Langer '17, to help support their fieldwork activities.  

Unless marked as optional, GSIFs are expected to participate in all courses, seminars, and workshops. No exceptions.

Application Process

  • 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.

2021 Global Social Impact Fellowship 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 and middle-income 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 Fall 2020, Global I2I projects are being championed in Sierra Leone, the Philippines, and Kazakhstan, in collaboration with local university and non-profit partners.

Sierra Leone: Ukweli Test Strips to Improve Maternal Health (PI: Khanjan Mehta, Creative Inquiry)

Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. This team is working on inexpensive (2-cent) test strips to screen women for Urinary Tract Infections and Preeclampsia in Sierra Leone. After receiving regulatory approval for the device from the Pharmacy Control Board, the team hired their first employee in Jan 2020 to mobilize communities, train health workers, and distribute test strips. Over the next year, the goal is to strengthen and expand field operations, design and implement effective messaging strategies, develop stronger data collection systems, and demonstrate the ability of the test strips to save lives with the goal of convincing the public health system (and donors) to integrate the test strips into the national healthcare system. The team will also explore how these test strips can be introduced in Liberia, Madagascar, and other countries with similar challenges. All majors welcome. We specifically need students with 1) marketing / graphic design skills, 2) journalism / theatre / public speaking skills, 3) data management and analysis skills, and 4) business / operations and systems engineering skills.

Sierra Leone: Mushroom Production Systems (PI: Khanjan Mehta, Creative Inquiry)

Mushrooms grow fast! Commercial production of mushrooms can 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. After three years of work, the team has successfully jumpstarted oyster mushroom production with a local project manager now running operations. It’s time to figure out how to stabilize and grow operations from 10 kgs/month to 1,000 kgs/month. Further work includes 1) problem-solving on mushroom growth issues as they arise in Sierra Leone, 2) (re)designing facilities for larger production volumes, 3) developing business / operational models for larger production volumes, 4) developing the market and marketing strategies for mushrooms, and 5) writing grant proposals and finding partners to scale operations. All majors welcome. We specifically need students with 1) experience working with mushrooms, 2) business/operations and marketing strategy development and execution 3) solid writing skills to pull together a bunch of proposals.

Sierra Leone: Sickle Cell Anemia Diagnostic Device (PI: Xuanhong Cheng, Bioengineering)

Sickle cell disease is prevalent in Sierra Leone and contributes significantly to the high mortality rate of children. Current diagnosis of sickle cell in Sierra Leone is mostly symptom-based since standard diagnostic equipment requires too much training and infrastructure to be implemented in resource-limited settings. To tackle this problem, students will develop point-of-care test strips for sickle cell disease and study the impact of diagnosis on patients’ outcomes. The end goal of this project is to make the tests widely available in Sierra Leone as part of a program to identify and manage sickle cell patients. 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 and interest in prototyping imagers and processing images from the test strips, 3) experience and interest in health surveys, and 4) solid writing skills to prepare proposals and research papers.

Sierra Leone: Safe Motherhood in Sierra Leone – Documenting Stories of Healthcare Innovation and Community Resilience (PI: Michael Kramp, English; Co-PI: Fathima Wakeel, College of Health)

Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world, and the nation has responded with recent health care innovations that attempt to address this crisis. This team has focused on specific challenges and responsive innovations to confront the maternal health crisis. Our long-term goal is to produce a festival-ready documentary film. At this point, we are focused on relating three shorter stories that highlight both the extent of the problem and some of the innovations: (1) the impact of midwifery training, (2) the education of local surgeons, and (3) the operations of the weekly pre-natal care days. In 2020, we will return to Sierra Leone to conduct additional field work, engage the local health care system, produce additional shorter videos, and work toward the full-length documentary film. We will distribute these shorter videos in online formats to garner publicity and financial support for our project. All majors are welcome and you need not have filmmaking experience to participate. We are particularly interested in recruiting students pursuing careers in health-related fields.

Philippines: PlasTech Ventures – Empowering Women by Recycling Plastic to Produce High Value Products (PI: Ganesh Balasubramanian, Mechanical Engineering; Co-PIs: Brian Slocum, Wilbur Powerhouse Design Labs, and Don Morris, Environmental Sciences)

This project aims to provide income opportunities for women in a partnering local community (Malabon, Metro Manila, Philippines) by building a community-based, micro-recycling facility.  Now in year three of the project, some opportunities have been identified and but a good amount of work is needed to develop the equipment needed to make this practical.  Moving forward we need to further assess the market opportunities, continue development on equipment, and develop a path for 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.  We specifically need students with an understanding of mechanical engineering, materials science, and/or supply chain management. While the primary emphasis of this team will be on the Philippines, a two-person sub-team will collaborate with faculty and students from the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur, India. Subject to the travel situation improving, this sub-team will be conducting research in India during Summer 2021.

Philippines: Zero Hunger College (PI: Ganesh Balasubramanian, Mechanical Engineering; Co-PIs: Elmer Soriano, Civika Asian Development Academy, Fatima dela Cruz, Development Academy of the Philippines, and Dominic Ligot, Cirrolytix)

This project team will work closely with a team from the Civika Asian Development Academy and the Development Academy of the Philippines, both Philippines-based organizations that through projects develop public and private sector leaders throughout Southeast Asia. The direct focus of this project is the creation of a “Food Highway,” using data-driven and data-centric approaches to alleviate ongoing disruptions to food and medicine supply chains throughout the Philippines during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mindanao Food Highway, named for the second-largest island in the Philippines archipelago, aims to explore innovative, data-driven, and technology-based solutions to food security challenges during COVID-19 disruptions. Achieving this objective will result in reducing transitory food insecurity and increasing community resilience during this pandemic. All majors welcome, particularly those with strong interests in food systems, systems engineering, global studies, and data analysis. 

Kazakhstan: Air Quality Initiatives in Almaty (PI: Dinissa Duvanova, International Relations)

Students with interests in environmental issues will research approaches to assessing the environmental and social impacts of air pollution. This team needs students with diverse academic backgrounds, such as majors in environmental studies, health medicine and society, earth and environmental sciences, chemistry, sociology, economics, and chemical and environmental engineering. Students will work with local stakeholders in and around Almaty, Kazakhstan to collect data and design and implement a locally sustainable system for monitoring air quality. They will evaluate the costs and benefits of alternative approaches to monitoring air quality, test and assess the proposed solution, and produce the technical and public reports detailing the results of their research. They will also write policy briefs for the Department of Green Economics and local environmental NGOs. 

Kazakhstan: Save Tuba (PI: Khanjan Mehta, Creative Inquiry)

Almaty, the commercial capital of Kazakhstan and a major hub in Central Asia, is facing enormous challenges with sustainable urban development. Uncontrolled migration burdens the housing infrastructure, outdoor air quality, access to clean water and waste-water management systems at the constantly-growing periphery of the city leading to negative environmental consequences which compromise economic growth. For example, despite investing over $500M over the last 15 years in recycling systems, only 11% of municipal solid waste is actually recycled. Tuba is a critically-endangered saiga antelope native to the Kazakh Steppes. ‘Save Tuba’ is a sustainability education platform for Almaty’s youngest citizens that connects knowledge, inquiry and action to help students build a healthy future for their communities and the planet. Kazakh students, with guidance from their teachers and families, start recycling, reduce litter, educate their peers, use public transportation, etc. to earn points in a friendly competitive setting. Save Tuba enables K-12 students and their teachers to embark on a series of real, relevant, and meaningful sustainability actions with the goal of long-term behavioral change. The Lehigh team is collaborating with diverse partners to develop and validate the app and pilot-test it with schools in Almaty. We are seeking students from all majors across campus with a deep interest in sustainability education and action. Students with graphic design skills and app design/development skills are particularly welcome.

Sierra Leone: Diagnosing Autism in Africa (PI: Kristi Morin, Special Education)

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is considered a global health concern; however, nearly everything we know about autism comes from research in high-income countries. The dearth of research on ASD is particularly problematic in countries across Africa. A recent review revealed that Africa had the least amount of autism research conducted in the world, likely due to the lack of a culturally appropriate screening and diagnostic tool to identify individuals with ASD. Through this project, we will evaluate tools commonly used in the United States to diagnose autism in order to assess their feasibility and cultural appropriateness. We will also collect qualitative data during a trip to Sierra Leone to inform the development of a freely available, culturally appropriate screening and diagnostic tool for use in West Africa. **NOTE: This project is not recruiting new students for the spring 2021 semester**

Sierra Leone: Food Product to Fight Malnutrition and Stunting (PI: Lori Herz, Bioengineering)

Malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are common in Sierra Leone, especially among children under five years of age.  This often results in stunting, wasting, developmental delays, and mortality. Over the past year, we have developed several nutrient-dense foods at Lehigh, which were prepared and tested in Sierra Leone last summer.  The next phase of the work includes improvement of the recipes, investigating methods of preservation and packaging, analysis of the products for nutrient levels, shelf-life testing, designing a clinical study, and creating and executing a business plan. Students on this project should have a passion for global health and experiential learning. **NOTE: This project is not recruiting new students for the spring 2021 semester**