We connected with Pawan and Pooja, two Class of 2021 Millennium Fellowship alumni from the CHRIST University (Central Campus) in India. Pawan and Pooja also served as Campus Directors for their cohort, helping deliver the Millennium Fellowship and coordinate Fellowship activities on-campus. They shared their experiences, learnings, and advice to prospective Class of 2022 Millennium Fellows:
It is a pleasure to connect with both of you today. Please tell us a little bit about yourselves
POOJA: "My name is Pooja Anbu, a Final year student at the CHRIST University, Central Campus in India taking a triple major in Psychology, Sociology and Economics. I was a Class of 2021 Millennium Fellow and Campus director for my University's Millennium Fellowship cohort."
PAWAN: "I’m Pawan, also a final year student Studying LLB honors at the CHRIST University, Central Campus. I’m excited connect and share my experiences, learnings and takeaways serving as Co-campus Director during the Millennium Fellowship"
Coming off the back of what must have been a difficult year in 2020, what inspired you to apply and become a Class of '21 Millennium Fellow?
POOJA: "Candidly, when the pandemic started it gave me this sense of existential panic. I was wondering what the future would look like, unsure how my academic life would be affected, questioning whether I'd be able to do anything meaningful with my life. Around that time is when I came across the Millennium Fellowship, and it immediately resonated mainly because I felt it gave young people the opportunity to create impact amidst the gloomy global situation we were in. It all provides this huge platform and resources to help make social impact possible. Looking back now, applying to the Millennium Fellowship was one of the best decisions I made both for my personal and professional life."
PAWAN: "I think when you love to do something, you'll always find a way to do it. That is how I felt when I came across the Fellowship. I’ve always had a passion for social impact and for offering support to my community - so when the Fellowship application opened, I promised myself I wouldn't let Covid get in the way of my social impact plans. I was lucky to be connected with many of our prospective applicants before the application, including Pooja, with whom we decided to serve as campus directors. We've always been very like minded people with the same level of ambition and similar professional dreams - to become civil servants. So we offered each other much needed support and motivation to complete the Fellowship application."
"Getting myself out there was very helpful, being active, being seen and believing in myself made such a big difference in building my confidence and tackling my self-doubt"
The campus Director role is pivotal in the Millennium Fellowship as you’re tasked with ensuring the experience is delivered seamlessly to your campus peers. Is there anything in particular that made you want to take this leadership?
POOJA: "Applying to become a Campus Director was very intuitive. Reading about what a campus director does - one thing I liked was you get to interact with Fellows and Campus Directors from around the world, and that is something I deeply enjoy doing. Being within this network allowed me to interact with other young people passionate about youth leadership and opened up even more opportunities to learn and nurture relationships. I also knew a Campus Director helps coordinate and deliver the Fellowship, which is a challenge I wanted to take, having been involved in leadership and organising before. The fact that I knew who my co-director would be and knew a number of the applicants from school made the experience even better and more enjoyable. Those four months were an incredible journey of improvement and all-round growth."
PAWAN: "Applying for the Campus Director role was an internal challenge to myself. I wanted to consciously work on my leadership, which is an aspect of my life I always thought needed some improvement. The Millennium Fellowship was a wonderful platform for that. The prospect of getting connected to more people and serving my peers was also very enticing. I’d already been involved in lots of social impact work before but that was always centred around me, I never got the chance to work in community, where I could give and receive support as we embark on our social leadership. In my cohort, I found a truly inspiration and brilliant team that was also committed to personal improvement and social impact. I think I learnt something new everyday interacting with them, and whenever we made mistakes we would all consciously reflect and correct to ensure they weren't repeated. All the impact we created over those four months filled me with optimism and a genuine belief that whenever young people come together, they can make a difference."
"Do not underestimate the power you hold. No matter what anyone says, you can do anything you set your mind to. So go for it. Don’t second guess yourself. Be the change you wish to see in this world"
You both mentioned being very compatible in your leadership styles and mutually supportive during the Fellowship. How important was that collaboration and chemistry in doing your work?
POOJA: "It's vital! As I mentioned, Pawan and I knew each other well, and that understanding played a pivotal role in how we managed our projects and the cohort. Collaboration and mutual support were paramount for us. There’s times for example when one of us couldn’t be present, both physically and mentally, other times you have a lot going on at school and in your personal life and it's hard to keep up. A good partnership allows you to navigate these situations and ensure the fellowship is delivered seamlessly. There's also a lot of accountability involved - taking responsibility when you can, being honest when you can’t."
PAWAN: "We all need support in our lives and our work. This is something I found in plenty from my cohort, our faculty advisor, and my co-director. When I did something right they'd congratulate me, when I did something wrong they'd say let's fix it. If I’m able to lead any team going forward, it’s because of the wonderful example they set for me."
You all led wonderfully for 4 months, sacrificing a lot of time and energy to make your leadership a success. Are there any important learnings you picked up during this time serving your cohort?
PAWAN: "It is impossible to answer this question because there's so much I learnt through this period. To name a few, one would be the power and importance of planning. When organising our first event, a meditation session for students, we'd hoped 100+ students would attend, but we didn't take enough steps to ensure this. In the end only around 30 turned up. Although the session was still successful and additive for attendees, this made us reflect on how we planned our events and who we invited. We realised how vital it was to seek advice, ask questions, and make space for failure whenever we were planning a project. The next lesson was getting rid of self doubt, something I'd struggled with for a long time. Getting myself out there was very helpful, being active, being seen and believing in myself made such a big difference."
POOJA: "I learnt how to accommodate and manage diversity. We had a large cohort of students all with very brilliant ideas and project plans they were passionate about. But we were able to find a way to accommodate everyone and create a group project that respect their visions.
I also learnt the importance of servant leadership. Being campus director does not create a hierarchy in the work you do - it’s just a role created for administrative convenience. In the end you’re all Millennium Fellows trying to bring about positive change. In your work, you must set aside all points of differences. Here it doesn’t matter e.g that you’re someone’s senior at school. You’re all in a cohort together to achieve a certain objective. Let people take initiative, let people lead the things they’re good at, and create a culture of support."
Any advice for the incoming class of 2022 cohort and for prospective 2022 campus directors?
POOJA: "All I can say is, do not underestimate the power you hold. No matter what anyone says, you can do anything you set your mind to. So go for it. Don’t second guess yourself. Be the change you wish to see in this world"
Thank you Pawan and Pooja for sharing your Fellowship experiences with us. Do you have a story you think our community deserves to hear? Get in touch here.