On November 18, 2020, Emma Barbarette ’23 completed the Millennium Fellowship, a semester-long training program designed to cultivate leaders who will initiate positive social change. Facilitated by United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) and the Millennium Campus Network, the Millennium Fellowship works with undergraduates to help meet the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Barbarette was one of just 1,438 students chosen for the competitive program out of the more than 15,000 students who applied from more than 1,400 schools around the world.  

The cohort’s mission was to “Convene, Challenge, and Celebrate,” and Barbarette noted that the experience also fostered her personal growth as well: “I feel that my communication, outreach, and collaboration skills have improved as a result of advancing our project,” she said.

Over the course of 10 sessions — from September to November 2020 — Barbarette met virtually with 18 other Columbia students on the project NYC Restrooms4All, an initiative to expand access to public restrooms. They also learned about some of the most pressing problems facing international communities through peer-to-peer workshops with global fellows. Gaining local and global knowledge around sustainability gave Barbarette the tools needed to effectively address social justice issues, starting right at home in New York CityThey launched a multi-tiered effort to promote  their cause, including letter-writing and social media campaigns, while working closely with the legislature and officials in the Mayor’s Office. The students hope the City will incorporate their plan into upcoming budgets and provide funding for a public restroom system.

Even before Barbarette joined the Millennium Fellowship, she said she felt that Barnard had prepared her to take on the ambitious project. “My coursework at Barnard has involved extensive collaboration and teamwork, so I felt more than ready to help tackle our project as a group,” she said. “As a Barnard student, I am surrounded by so many brilliant, ambitious, and inspiring women. Being at a school like Barnard pushes you to want to extend yourself and make an impact on others.” 

After Barnard, Barbarette hopes to use what she’s learned from the Millennium Fellowship by joining the Peace Corps, where she can continue to enact inclusive and effective change in other countries. 

“From the Millennium Fellowship, I understand that when entering other communities, making the biggest impact often involves removing yourself from the center, and collaborating with and learning from community members who are more familiar with the issues at hand,” Barbarette said. “Barnard had already opened my eyes to the importance of social impact work, as well as to the most thoughtful and successful means of achieving it.”