The Millennium Fellowship, a four-month leadership development program sponsored by The United Nations Academic Impact, accepted nine fellows from UTD, including two campus directors, electrical engineering junior Sahi Chundu and international political economy senior Margaret Belford.
The Millennium Fellowship runs from August to November and is open to undergraduates worldwide. The program aims to help fellows pursue a project related to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. UTD founded the state of Texas’s third branch, others being at Baylor and UT San Antonio—however, UTD is the only active branch this year.
UTD’s Millennium Fellows are currently working on a data science-based carbon accounting project related to SDG Goal 12, which aims to “ensure sustainable consumption and protection patterns” in ways that are both environmentally friendly and economically feasible in the long run. According to Chundu, the process for starting a branch at UTD started in late February.
“To become a Millennium Fellow, you have to apply two times, so you have a first round and then you have a second round,” Chundu said. “The first round includes a Google form … about your academic interests, and it’s a very loose idea of the project. [In] the second round, you have to answer essay questions regarding your project. There is a rule that you have to have a minimum of eight people apply from your school in order to be considered, so we got that minimum and got back nine successful fellows.”
According to Belford, the fellowship project at UTD is open to students from all majors and uses data analytics to leverage emerging technologies to track emissions in North Texas. While the program is student-led, it works closely with the Office of Sustainability to contact potential clients and businesses.
“They’re always very available to students … and they’re helping us out in terms of contacts and networking because they know the region, they know who’s working on what,” Belford said. “They have given us several businesses to reach out to in the region if we wanted to go the private sector route and also some intergovernmental bodies. They’re providing invaluable perspective on projects like this and they’re just a great resource to go to.”
Belford added that the project is open to students who are not Millennium Fellows as well. Interested students can contribute to the project and gain work experience by joining their Discord server or contacting the campus directors via Teams.
“As for joining our project this year, it’s not an application,” Belford said. “We’re not asking you to fill anything out [or] to sit before a panel of judges. In terms of specific skill sets, I know we are looking in particular for people with data analytics experience or people interested in leveraging technology for emissions research. We’ve already gotten the fellowship. That is determined, and now it’s just a matter of implementing the project.”
Even though the fellowship will conclude in November, the Millennium Fellows are planning to recruit more underclassmen and continue the project after the fellowship ends. They also aim to give UTD students the opportunity to participate in the local community and contribute to environmental sustainability at the regional level.
“We are the first UT Dallas cohort, and that is important in terms of [the] legacy and responsibility that we want to have for future years,” Chundu said. “I do think we’ve assembled a really great group of people and resources that have enough experience in separate things so that we can mentor new people effectively. I think that we’re going to be collaborating on a really special project and I can’t wait to see who comes along.”