Three students from the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) have been chosen for the 2021 Millennium Fellowship, a joint leadership development program between the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) and the Millennium Campus Network (MCN). The Fellows – who are among 17 Georgia Tech students selected – include William Abdallah, Anjana Chamarthi, and Aashni Patel.
The Millennium Fellowship is a semester-long program with an experiential curriculum designed to cultivate core values such as empathy and inclusion, hone hard and soft skills like creating SMART goals and team management, and engage in peer-to-peer feedback. Throughout the fellowship, students work on a project that supports UNAI goals as well as UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
About the ISyE Fellowship Recipients
William Abdallah is a fourth-year student who is part of the Anchor Institution task force, a division of the Georgia Tech Strategic Plan. Prior to receiving the Millennium Fellowship, he has worked on a project focused on sustainable infrastructure in West Atlanta with Georgia Tech Research Institute and a connected VIP class. The VIP instructors encouraged him to apply for the fellowship, and after reading more about the program, he was excited about the opportunity.
Abdallah’s fellowship project is focused on SDG 9 – helping to empower community-driven sustainable infrastructure projects – and SDG 16 – peace engineering, with a focus on gun violence projects in West Atlanta. He hopes to help with the process of developing Georgia Tech into a better anchor institution, the idea that Georgia Tech is a lasting entity in the Atlanta that uses its resources and research to provide support for the surrounding community and provide growth in areas like jobs, education, and equity.
His favorite aspect of the program has been connecting with the other Millennium Fellows on campus. “It’s always encouraging to meet like-minded people my age trying to make a difference,” said Abdallah. “There was one exercise we did involving thinking about our specific leadership styles; it was nice to speak with other students who share similar strengths and talk about how we can be better leaders.”
When asked what makes ISyE students suited for the fellowship, Abdallah highlighted the ability to understand and work with complex systems, especially having the skillset to develop insights from data extracted. He encourages other students to apply to the program as well.
“A lot of the time, we are pointed in fixed directions, whether it is general manufacturing or supply chain,” he noted. “While there are social issues that can be solved in those areas, there are many more places where we can make a large impact. ISyE students should apply to the program because they will have the opportunity to explore those areas and make an impact in the community.”
After graduating, he plans on continuing to work in the space of urban design and community development, with a future goal of owning his own design firm.
Anjana Chamarthi is a third-year student who was drawn to the resources, mentorship, and global community the fellowship offers.
“I thought it was a great platform to share my project with other driven individuals from all over the world,” said Chamarthi. “I think there is power in numbers: The more people who see a flame of social impact, the more widespread the fire of positive change can be.”
Her project supports SDG 12, sustainable development, and consists of the research and development of a simulation – an augmented reality/virtual reality rendering of the whole life cycle of an article of clothing – from manufacturing plant to store shelf. By applying this research, the project aims to optimize sourcing and distribution channels for local Atlanta thrift stores.
“Due to its convenience, the fast-fashion industry has become a titan, feeding into the frenzy of the consumer, while endangering and causing environmental devastation,” said Chamarthi. “However, repurposing and thrifting clothes can help save billions of gallons of water, decrease rates of deforestation, and prevent excessive waste production.”
Her favorite part of the experience has been learning from the other Fellows' projects and broadening her perspective of different approaches to social impact. “The fellowship opened my eyes to several pressing challenges our world faces today, and I think ISyE has provided the toolkit for a unique approach to solving these real-world problems,” said Chamarthi. “Mathematically modeling traditionally qualitative variables and then coding these models for forecasting the future is what makes ISyE practical and impactful.”
Aashni Patel is a second-year student who is passionate about creating social impact.
“I wanted to apply for the fellowship because I’ve gotten to work with a couple of nonprofits recently and really wanted to learn more about how people start doing social impact work themselves,” said Patel. “Since it’s not a class, there’s no pressure to get a good grade. Instead, the focus is entirely on trying to start a project and improving it as you learn from the training sessions.”
Her project supports SDG 17, partnerships to reach the goals, and focuses on connecting organizations with students that want to help make change and don’t know how to start. Students can choose one-time or short-term ways to help organizations around them and even receive incentives, helping organizations reach audiences and volunteers they couldn’t previously connect with.
The program focuses on the background of the Fellows’ projects and why they want to work on them.
“We did an activity on the unintended consequences of past projects, and it helped a lot of us figure out what parts of our projects were helpful and what should be modified to avoid causing more issues than they solved,” explained Patel.
After graduating, she wants to stay involved in the nonprofit space and says that the fellowship taught her a lot about managing and organizing nonprofits that she can leverage in the future to work with causes she is passionate about.
“I think industrial engineers are well-suited for nonprofit work because the main goal of ISyE is to improve things – which is an ongoing goal in most social impact projects,” she said. “Projects are only as meaningful as the impact they make, and industrial engineers are trained to optimize the results of initiatives in a way that perfectly complements nonprofit work.”
H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering