Students from around the world wrote essays as part of their application for leadership positions with END7 for the upcoming academic year. Two students were awarded scholarships to attend the Millennium Campus Conference in Washington, DC. We are publishing the best essays on our blog during the Millennium Campus Conference this week. Scholarship winner Beth Poulton of the University of Glasgow (Glasgow, Scotland) wrote this essay in response to the prompt “How do you think students and young people can be agents of meaningful change contributing to the fight against NTDs?:”
By Beth Poulton University of Glasgow
My experience on the END7 Campus Leaders Council this year has been exceptional. I set up the first END7 student group in the UK and to my surprise it has been very successful. I think young people, especially students can have a real impact in fighting NTDs as we have the potential to create change in attitudes and policy – and hopefully instill others with a passion for this cause.
Universities – environments dedicated to learning and improving our society – provide many opportunities to educate large numbers of people about NTDs. They also have some of the most diverse populations in the world, enrolling students from hundreds of countries and backgrounds with a range of experiences, interests and plans for the future. Additionally, are filled with experts on a wide range of subjects who are almost always willing to talk about their work or interests. END7 at the University of Glasgow has an array of NTD experts at our fingertips due to our university’s large parasitology department, and we plan to make even more use of their expertise over the next school year.
Last semester, we held two different professor guest lectures, one by Professor Michael Barrett as an introduction to NTDs, and a second by Dr. Sylvia Taylor who discussed the seven NTDs targeted by END7 from a biological perspective. Dr. Taylor also brought along some specimen samples from the zoology laboratory for our audience to see and discussed some of the work she had done to tackle schistosomiasis on a plantation. I think these talks were very successful in highlighting the importance of END7’s mission.
In addition to professor guest lectures, next semester, I would like to plan a conference to focus on the work END7 does from a less biological perspective featuring some of the University staff who deal with global health or have had personal experience with tackling NTDs, which would be a more inclusive opportunity for students outside of the hard sciences. I think an event like this would open up the topic for discussion and allow students and staff to communicate different ideas.
I think the internet and in particular social media is one of the most lucrative tools at our fingertips, due to the potential for something typed in the UK to be viewed by thousands if not millions of people across the globe. As part of a generation that has grown up with computers and mobile phones, I think that many students have the ability to establish a real presence online for a cause like END7. This is something I have started to do this year for GUEND7. Our Facebook page has 175 likes, and sometimes our posts are viewed by over 800 people! This is just the beginning, though. We are a very new group and I would love for us to expand outside of the University of Glasgow and have an impact further afield.
When I attend the Millennium Campus Conference, I believe that I could inspire other students to set up END7 groups at their own universities as I am passionate about END7 and think I can use this to encourage others to join the fight against NTDs. I am also a fairly outgoing person who is very comfortable talking to people I don’t know, which I think would be important at a busy conference.
The students at the conference will be flooded with information about hundreds of opportunities and causes that they could be involved in, so I would look to produce a flyer with information about END7, student leadership opportunities, and website, social media and email details. I think this will allow students who are interested to learn more details after the conference and consider applying for a leadership position with the campaign.
I would also design a t-shirt and a badge to wear at the conference with END7’s logo, and think of a hashtag to use to promote END7 on my own social media throughout the week while sharing information about the conference. I think this would encourage people at the conference to ask me more about END7.
As a student myself, I can understand the pressure of choosing between many different opportunities. In recruiting students to join END7, I would try to emphasize the benefits of getting involved, like CV building, leadership development, and the opportunity to interact with students from all over the world. I think this would encourage students to undertake the responsibility of launching an END7 chapter and joining the fight against NTDs.
Beth Poulton is entering the final year of her undergraduate parasitology degree at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. She learned about END7 while researching for an essay on Mass Drug Administration last year, applied to join the END7 Campus Leaders Council, and subsequently set up the first END7 student group in the UK, The GU END7 Society. This year, she will serve on the END7 Student Advisory Board.