Four Princeton University seniors have been awarded a fellowship from ReachOut 56-81-06, an alumni-funded effort that supports year-long public service projects after graduation. Their projects focus on strengthening New York City’s preparedness initiatives in response to climate change, recording oral histories of Chilean refugee communities, and documenting sustainable farming practices in the Philippines.
Sarah Brown is the recipient of the ReachOut Domestic Fellowship. She will return to NYC Health and Hospitals' Institute for Diseases and Disaster Management, where she has previously interned. Brown will help to develop and strengthen preparedness initiatives related to climate change hazards, including extreme storms, heightened pathogen spread and heat waves.
“In considering how to spend my time after graduation, I wanted a job in which my efforts will be able to make meaningful change,” Brown said. “The ReachOut Fellowship will allow me to devote time to an important project. I believe that climate change will be the largest force in the production of inequality — both globally and locally. While at first, I struggled with how to choose a career that engages with such a large and seemingly delayed challenge, I found myself drawn to the direct, people-focused work: medical preparedness.”
While assisting residents of Staten Island who had been affected by Hurricane Sandy with her youth group in 2012, Brown first became aware of the compounding risks associated with intensified weather events, underserved populations and lack of preparedness in the context of New York City. This experience planted the seeds for her ReachOut fellowship project and her ultimate goal to pursue a career in emergency medicine.
Brown is from Ipswich, Massachusetts, and is majoring in anthropology and pursuing a certificate in environmental studies.
She is a recipient of Princeton’s Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence, was an Outdoor Action student leader, and has worked with the Religion and Forced Migration Initiative’s Princeton Asylum Project. She is also a member of the Princeton Running Club and Princeton Environmental Activist Coalition, among other activities.
Caroline Subbiah, of Dallas, Texas, has received the ReachOut International Fellowship. She will work with London-based Living Refugee Archive. As part of an oral history project, Subbiah will document Chilean communities’ history of exile following the Chilean coup d’état in September 1973.
“Through this project, I hope to harness the power of testimony to promote healing and progress in Chilean communities,” Subbiah said. “I also hope to establish a more complete public record of Chilean refugees’ experiences, both during and after exile, with the concept of transitional justice in mind.”
Subbiah will conduct interviews with the refugees now living in London and in Santiago, Chile, giving them an opportunity to reflect on their experiences. She also will lead creative writing exercises, encouraging the refugees to process their emotions through art. The resulting interviews and creative writing pieces will be collected and published on an archival platform for public viewing.
“When we think about large-scale human rights issues, I think it’s so important to center the individual stories and voices of the people experiencing them,” Subbiah said. “I’m honored to have the opportunity to speak with these survivors and hear their stories.”
Subbiah said she ultimately hopes to attend law school and become a public defender, finding ways to incorporate transitional justice and restorative justice into the criminal legal system.
At Princeton, Subbiah is concentrating in English and pursuing certificates in values and public life and in European cultural studies. She has interned at both the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York and the nonprofit Center for Appellate Litigation.
Marissa Mejia and Mandy Qua
Marissa Mejia and Mandy Qua will receive the inaugural Paschen Pair Fellowship. They will work together to document traditional and sustainable farming practices in the Philippines under the auspices of Global Seed Savers Philippines. The new ReachOut fellowship is funded by a recent bequest from Herbert C. Paschen, Jr., Class of 1956, limited to two-person teams.
Mejia and Qua’s goal is to provide more Filipino farming communities access to high quality educational programs needed to grow, save, trade and sell native seeds to support local ecosystems, preserve traditional agricultural practices and adapt to changing climate conditions.
The student team has complementary experience: Mejia has performed research on and is creating social-norm campaigns countering the endangered songbird trade in Vietnam and has directed, filmed and produced a short documentary featuring Indigenous elders and ancient fishponds in Moloka’i, Hawaii. Qua is an active participant in and research assistant for the Seed Farm at Princeton, where she works with community partners to help grow and save seeds of rare, culturally meaningful crops. She has also led webinars with agricultural experts for Ugandan farmers as part of Princeton’s International Internship Program.
Mejia, from Chesapeake, Virginia, is majoring in psychology and pursuing a certificate in environmental studies.
“As a mestiza (or biracial) Filipina American who is deeply passionate about sustainability, conservation, environmental justice, activism, social psychology, graphic design and filmmaking, I was immediately drawn to ReachOut as it would allow me to create a project that lies at the intersection of all my different passions and interests,” Mejia said. “Working with Global Seed Savers Philippines over the next year will not only provide me with a launching point from which I can pursue my future environmental career, but it will also allow me to understand environmental equity within the country of my roots.”
At Princeton, Mejia has received the Howard Crosby Warrant Junior Prize in Psychology. She has extensive experience with the Office of Sustainability’s Ecology Representative Program, and also is a member of Más Flow Latin Dance Company and BodyHype Dance Company, among other activities.
Qua, a sociology major pursuing a certificate in dance, grew up in Manilla and hopes to one day pursue a career in the realm of agriculture, farming, environmentalism and the food industry.
“The ReachOut Fellowship will provide me with the opportunity to get a step closer towards my goal of returning to the Phillippines for my career,” Qua said. “As I work with our partner organization Global Seed Savers Philippines, I will be able to build local connections, become a part of new communities, and expand my network and life in the Philippines outside of the city I grew up in. Learning more about Native and traditional agricultural practices will also increase my awareness of how to more sustainably and ethically approach farming in the Philippines in a way that encourages, preserves and celebrates Filipino culture and my own heritage.”
While on campus, Qua has been an academic life and learning consultant for the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, former president of the Princeton Filipino Community student organization, and a member of eXpressions Dance Company.