Daniel Millenson, a senior at Brandeis University, visited campus on October 14th to present his lecture entitled “How a Handful of College Students Changed the World in Three Semesters.” This was his second visit to Colgate. Millenson was also invited as guest lecturer for the “Leadership: How to Change the World” seminar.
The seminar, taught by Professor of Psychology Carrie Keating, is part of the Sophomore Year Experience (SYE), which seeks to encourage sophomore leaders to incite change either on campus or on a larger scale.
“Each week we have a speaker,” sophomore Anna D’Alessandro said. “We basically have a diverse group of professionals who come in and talk about their leadership experience.”
D’Alessandro was one of the few students in the seminar who helped organize and host the events. Millenson’s first presentation was made in the O’Connor Campus Center (Coop), which D’Alessandro described as “very informal and conversational.” Later that evening, Millenson made a talk show style presentation in the common room of 94 Broad Street. As part of the seminar, each visiting leader brings their experiences to share with those sophomores present.
“The other part of it is each person uses leadership skills we learned from the speakers to create a project. Some people are working on changing the cruiser schedule, some people are doing things on multiculturalness on campus; it’s just individual or group initiatives to see whatever is missing on campus and try to fill that void,” D’Alessandro said.
The seminar has not limited its scope on just the Colgate campus, however. It has encouraged students to think on a much larger scale as well.
“One of the groups is working on having a Congo week; it’s all about the Democratic Republic of the Congo and what’s going on there, so it is applied to more than just the campus,” D’Alessandro said.
Millenson is largely known for being a leader of the Sudan Divestment Task Force. Sudan, which lies to the south of Egypt, has for several years been troubled by civil war. Some of the violence has occurred in the western region of the nation, Darfur. There, several hundred thousand civilians have been killed and many more displaced around Sudan and the neighboring nations. The United States government has proclaimed the inhumanities that have occurred in Darfur to be genocide.
As a first-year, Millenson organized the Sudan Divestment Task Force with students from Stanford University and aimed to persuade universities, states and other local governments to divest in Sudan. The object was that divestment would hurt the Sudanese government economically and put pressure on it to stop violence in Darfur. The initiative was similar to that of one in the 1980’s when college students began to lobby universities to divest in South African government and its apartheid system.
Within months, the group’s efforts began to pay off as universities such as Harvard and Yale started selling millions of dollars worth of stakes in their endowments that had connections to the companies that do business with the Sudanese government. Gaining momentum, the movement hit states and cities; Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Providence, RI and New Haven, CT were among the first to pass legislature ordering divestment with Sudan. The Wall Street Journal reports that New Jersey alone sold nearly $3 billion in Sudan-related assets.
“Ideally, I think the message was that as a college student you have a lot more potential than you think you do, because look at what Dan did as a college student,” D’Alessandro said. “However, I think most students [also] learned more about the situation in Darfur than they had before.”