Gifts making a difference

A two-year program builds women’s leadership skills through scholarships, internships and seminars with global leaders. 

By Carol Marcy

Since 2014, the SUNY Global Affairs Leadership program, established by Jewish Foundation for the Education of Women (JFEW), has awarded nearly $1.2 million in scholarships and stipends to 50 female scholars at Geneseo.

As impressive as that dollar figure is, however, the two-year program provides much more. It’s a comprehensive experience, including a seminar series with leaders and experts who discuss major issues in international relations, internships at New York-based global organizations, and a strong professional development component, which is infused throughout the program.

For Maydelis Minaya ’16 and current scholar Tashi Sherpa ’21, the program has been powerful. “I knew the experience was going to be a turning point,” says Minaya, who was a biology major. 

Maydelis Minaya '16

Maydelis Minaya ’16. /Photo provided

As a first-year JFEW scholar, Minaya participated in seminars with guest speakers from international organizations such as the World Bank and the Ford Foundation, researched global think tanks and foundations and developed her public speaking skills. As a second-year scholar, she focused on career development and women-oriented topics, such as gender equity. For her summer internship, Minaya helped the Global Health Foundation identify prospective companies to participate in a summit to maximize the impact of the private sector’s contributions to malaria control in Nigeria. 

Working with people from different nationalities, ethnic backgrounds and communities abroad, Minaya says, strengthened her communications skills and made her feel more confident when speaking with large groups of people. It also opened her mind to ways she could use her major. 

“The internship helped me to see that biology is very broad,” says Minaya. “It made me realize there are other things, like public health, that I can do.” Minaya recently graduated from Brown University with a master’s degree in pathobiology and is working as a COVID-19 case investigator and contact tracer in Rhode Island. 

Sherpa, an economics major and second-year JFEW scholar, is gaining skills in diverse areas. At Geneseo, she is working with Assistant Professor of Economics Pallavi Panda to research the economics of increased teenage pregnancy rates in the Philippines. The JFEW seminars have been enlightening as she explores career paths. “There are amazing leaders from all around the world giving us their valuable insights, advice on career trajectories, and important life lessons along the way,” she says.

Last summer, Sherpa explored her interest in fashion as a public relations and marketing intern with the China Institute, helping to put on their first virtual China Fashion Gala 2020. 

“The overall JFEW experience has been significantly life-changing. It has empowered and encouraged young women like me to be courageous leaders and make a positive impact in every way possible,” says Sherpa. “I appreciate the JFEW-SUNY Global Leadership Program for the financial and professional support that has allowed me to realize my full potential and make meaningful connections in my college career.”

Sherpa is one of 20 JFEW scholars currently at Geneseo—one of just three SUNY institutions in the Global Affairs program (the others are Binghamton and Stony Brook). All three share the workload to create professional development opportunities for scholars by hosting virtual seminars led by a variety of guest speakers and campus liaisons. SUNY Global Center also provides professional development throughout the program. 

“This program is truly transformational, providing mentoring, financial support and paid internship experience for these incredible scholars to make a difference in the world,” says Jessie Stack Lombardo, director of the Department of Career Development and coordinator of the JFEW program at Geneseo. “Through this program, scholars are able to overcome barriers and explore the endless possibilities for their future.”

Make a Difference: You can support Geneseo students through scholarships and research awards by making a gift today.