What began as an idea a few years ago became reality Nov. 12 when 25 science communicators from 10 nations graduated from the Cornell Alliance for Science Global Leadership Fellows Program.
The Fellows, who spent the past three months learning about science, biology, biotechnology and multimedia communications, will return to their own nations next week and begin implementing strategies aimed at improving public understanding of agricultural technology.
“You will succeed in obtaining your objectives, but someone will try to undo them, so remain committed for the long haul,” Daniel Otunge, coordinator of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa, told the graduates. “Please take this very, very seriously, because a tremendous investment has been made in you.”
Dr. Sarah Davidson Evanega, a Cornell University plant biologist and science communicator, first floated the idea of a global fellowship program a few years ago, while meeting with Otunge in Nairobi. “I immediately said yes, that is the missing plank in global biotech advocacy,” Otunge told the crowd gathered for the graduation ceremony at Clark Atrium on the Cornell campus. Evanega secured a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to launch the Alliance for Science, which welcomed its first cohort of Fellows in August 2015.
“This is Sarah's vision,” said Ronnie Coffman, Director of International Programs of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, after noting that “someone has not been adequately recognized.”
“This is a dream come true,” Evanega said, looking out at the Fellows, Alliance staff, course instructors and others who helped bring that vision to fruition.
“Let's make her proud so her work will not be in vain,” Consolata Acayo, a Fellow from Uganda, told her colleagues.
“This 12-week program has made me a born-again communicator,” quipped Nigerian Iro Suleiman, one of two graduation speakers.
“We have been given everything,” said Emmanuel Alparce, a Catholic priest from the Philippines who was the other Fellow chosen by his peers to speak on their behalf at the ceremony. “Let's go back to our countries and fill the world with love.”