Category Archives: GSS

A Secular Age? Re-Enchantment in the Mosque

Are we witnessing the clash of civilizations, as predicted by Samuel Huntington? The rise of the secular and fall of religion in Europe and the United States? Or are we instead witnessing the growth of in-between spaces that take for granted a reality of multiple or fused identities—the secular as Charles Taylor (2007) envisioned it, as a space in which one may or may not believe? Don’t we all—whether traditionally faithful, agnostics or atheists—still seek enchantment in our daily lives?

Mosque communities across Europe and the United States have demonstrated fused spaces: whether of the mosque building itself (e.g. an eco-mosque in Cambridge, the UK); the material (e.g. a cultural building hosting art installations erected next to Berlin’s largest mosque); or notions challenging particular views, while upholding the foundations of Islam (e.g. a women-only mosque in Los Angeles, with another planned for London). Over two years of ethnographic research as a Sociology PhD candidate in European mosques, I meet someone who sees herself as a female imam; women wearing hijabs, nikabs or nothing to cover their hair. I witness religious ceremonies celebrating the wedding of young Muslim couples, matchmakers working within the mosques and unwed teenagers holding hands.

The media paints Muslims as singular, too often essentialized as dangerous or threatening. Diversity and innovation become lost in these accounts, in which the sensational (hook-handed imams, suicide bombers and Jihadi brides) displaces everyday activities within the mosques and Muslim communities more broadly. Many major academic accounts depend on these same sources (the media) for their own claims-making, further silencing the Muslims addressed, as objects, rather than engaged, as actors, in the project of modernity.   

Led by a sort of elite activist youth, themselves grappling with fused identities, mosques across Europe and the United States are undergoing site enormous transformations. Many have become not only dignified spaces for religious practice, but also centers for debate and dialogue.  These spaces allow Muslims to become agents of their own fates, forging paths to engagement and integration into mainstream society. They do not skirt difficult issues, rather face them head-on, grappling with how to address homosexuality, the always-looming Israel-Palestine conflict and expectations from the security sphere that they work against radicalization.

If we—academics, journalists, “outsiders”—enter into Muslim spaces, such as the mosque, we cannot deny the diversity of Islam. We cannot claim that Islam as a singular space, place or practice in this world exists. By entering into the mosques, attending tours, debates, dialogue, prayer, weddings, funerals or feasts, we will live diversity too. And we can show ourselves as, more than claims-makers or news-breakers, individuals engaged with the in-between spaces of modernity. We can show ourselves as truth-seeking, evading disenchantment, answering the longing that we too share: to find meaning here in this world, whether oriented towards another or not. 


Taylor, Charles. A Secular Age. Cambridge: Harvard University Press


Elisabet BeckerAbout this blog contributor | Elisabeth Becker,  MPhil 

Elisabeth Becker is currently a PhD student in Sociology at Yale University, studying mosque communities in Europe. She received her MPhil in Sociology from Yale, as well as MSc in Forced Migration, Development Studies and Latin American Studies from Oxford University. She completed her BA in Sociology/College Scholar at Cornell University. She is a 2005 Truman Scholar and 2006 Marshall Scholar.

Crafting Change Agents Through Dialogue in South Africa and the US

Over the past year, in collaboration with my friend, Isabel Morgan, we founded Crafting Change Agents (CCA), as a means to provide opportunities for civic engagement and leadership development for underrepresented undergraduate students. We envision a transnational social justice network of youth scholar‐activists that support knowledge-sharing of strategies to advance social justice efforts. With the #RhodesMustFall, #BlackLivesMatter, #SayHerName and many other youth-spurred movements challenging the status quo, this is an opportune time for us to create a network of talented visionaries and passionate youth voices. Our work focuses on the intersections of two communities and how their lived experiences converge and diverge.

Crafting Change Agents is a youth-led program that serves as a cross-cultural dialogue between black American (US) students and coloured* South African (RSA) students. This project aims to better understand the ways in which minority groups function within democratic societies and how greater participation in democratic processes can encourage peace. In order to promote social cohesion and the building of inclusive societies it is imperative that safe spaces be created where both intra- and inter -group conversations can be held.  The goal is for both groups to gain a better understanding of one another’s culture and to better define their position within their community and political activism spaces. 

CCA is structured into two phases. In April 2015, selected scholar-activists participated in Phase I of the program. In Phase I, six students from Spelman, Morehouse and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health engaged in weekly-structured digital conversations with seven students from the University of Cape Town and the University of the Western Cape to explore US and RSA history, critical race theory, and political and community activism. US students traveled to Cape Town to meet their RSA colleagues to participate in Phase II of the program.

During May-June 2015 in Phase II of the Crafting Change Agents program, six U.S. students embarked on a journey to Cape Town, South Africa to bond and create lasting friendships with seven South African students. Scholars had the opportunity to meet with an academic professor, the U.S. Consul General, a journalist, a filmmaker, instructors and school administrators and community youth activists to bring to life their scholarly understanding of the Black experience in South Africa. Scholars were challenged to question and embrace their identities; to dialogue about the social barriers that hinder progress toward true equity; and to empower one another and promote social justice in their respective fields, including but not limited to law, public health, public diplomacy and foreign relations. Likewise, American students shared their experiences as being black in America and what that means in 2015 to various South African audiences.

Additionally, students were able to explore these questions through an inter-disciplinary approach at our poetry event at the District 6 Museum. Perhaps, one of the most memorable moments of the exchange was during the Night of Reflection, held at the symbolic District Six Museum. The event attracted over 100 guests and showcased talent from local artists and screened a short film on displacement in South African flats, sparking a discussion about privilege and oppression. Our scholars led a rich dialogue with the audience using a participatory exercise, selecting 10 people from the audience to form a line. A volunteer was then asked to arrange the individuals by level of privilege in South African society, simply based on their appearance. This kind of exercise promotes genuine discussion about privilege and also allows for an exchange of how relative it can be given differences in lived experiences. Overall, the students used poetry and art to spark meaningful conversations about the topics in order to truly challenge their understandings of race, identity, and social justice.

Without genuine dialogue, the dynamic of change is not sustained, and diversity is lost as a result of self-enclosure. Through this program, youth were able to find similarities in the points of intersection between their lived realities, social justice spaces, histories, and nationalities. Isabel and I thought that the students would have been initially divided by these differences and needed time to “warm up” to each other. However, the students acknowledged their differences and quickly moved forward with their dialogues about race, identity, and social justice. The differences are the spaces “in between”, yet these spaces served as the heartbeat to the program. The points in between were the very points that served to unite.

Tayler Blog Image

About the blog contributors:


Tayler Ulmer is currently pursuing her masters in the Social Anthropology of Development at SOAS, University of London. Her research explores tourism as a tool for international development. Tayler is a Marshall (’15) and Truman (’13) Scholar. Tayler is a black girl without borders. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling the world and baking delicious treats!

Follow Tayler: LinkedIn


Isabel Morgan is a Master of Science in Public Health student at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, studying disparities in maternal and child health research. Most recently she served as a Healthy Equity Fellow in the Nemours Office of Health Equity and Inclusion. Her future career path will likely be guided by her commitment to improving health equity in communities of color, grounded in strong collaborations with community stakeholders. 

Follow Isabel: LinkedIn


Chronic community-level trauma in the context of urban poverty has been well documented (SAMHSA, 2014). Moreover, structural barriers to improve socioeconomic status and achieve gainful employment persist for Black communities in the U.S. More specifically, the 2013 U.S. Census notes that in Baltimore, Maryland, Black men ages 20-24 are about four times more likely to be unemployed compared to their White male counterparts (37% vs. 10%; Harris, 2013).

To address this pressing public health and social challenge, I am working with Holistic Life Foundation, Inc. (HLF) on a community-academic research collaboration entitled, “Advancing the Mental Well-Being of Baltimore through a Trauma-Informed Workforce Development Program” with funding provided by the Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute. For over 14 years, HLF has been addressing community-level trauma through a strengths-based approach focused on enhancing community members’ resilience through yoga and mindfulness. HLF also serves as a workforce developer for urban young people. Started in 2011, the trauma-informed Workforce Development Program trains emerging adults—many of them former youth participants in HLF’s programming—to become HLF yoga and mindfulness facilitators. The Workforce Development Program helps ensure sustainability of HLF by preparing future generations of facilitators who are dedicated to working with underserved populations. 

The GSS 2016 theme, ‘Spaces in Between: Innovation, Insight and Progress at the Intersection’ reflects the spirit behind this partnership. We are interested in developing effective, innovative solutions for addressing the chronic trauma that exists in Baltimore and in other urban underserved cities across the U.S. We use an inter-sectional approach to address trauma by drawing on our respective strengths as community leaders and public health researchers. Prior research on HLF’s yoga and mindfulness school-based programming suggests that it enhances adaptive responses to stress among disadvantaged urban students (Mendelson, 2010). There has been no research, however, on the organization’s Workforce Development Program. HLF is poised to expand its programming in additional Baltimore City Public Schools and in other U.S. school settings. The HLF founders are therefore interested in assessing whether the Workforce Development Program is adequately preparing its participants to meet the demands for expanded HLF programming, and if the trainees are personally benefiting from their participation. The aims of the current community-academic research endeavor are to evaluate the psychosocial impact of HLF’s Workforce Development Program on trainees and assess trainees’ perceived readiness to serve as instructors. This project utilizes in-depth individual interviews with trainees, as well as brief surveys on stress and resilience factors at the start and end of the training program. 

The challenge of using an inter-sectional approach to addressing trauma is that both parties, the community and academia, must enter a vulnerable space, the ‘space in between.’ This work forces us to pull away from what we already know, our comfort zone, and have an open mind that perhaps a better, more effective solution can be created at the intersection than in our respective silos. Thus, the benefit of a community-academic partnership is that the field of public health can develop a more nuanced understanding of the community’s identified needs, and in turn, public health research methodologies and tools can be applied to strengthen community capacity and to promote the sustainability of community-based programs.

The intersection between community and academia is important and hold great potential for catalyzing positive social change locally and nationally. Many trainees in the Workforce Development Program are emerging adults raised in low-income areas of Baltimore, where they were exposed to chronic stress and trauma, including community violence. HLF’s trauma-informed training program aims to provide these young people with skills that enhance their personal resilience and capacity for working effectively in low-resource settings. The program is thus anticipated to have positive effects on both the trainees and more broadly, on the trauma-exposed communities they serve. HLF will use research findings to refine the Workforce Development Program and subsequently, be better positioned to meet the ongoing need and growing demand for HLF programming in high-risk neighborhoods throughout Baltimore. More specifically, HLF will be able to expand its longstanding partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools and promote more trauma-informed schools, thereby facilitating the healing of Baltimore City youth dealing with chronic stress and trauma. At the national level, there is an established Federal investment to address the persistent opportunity gaps facing young men of color. Thus, our partnership will also have broader relevance because the Workforce Development Program has potential to serve as a model for how local and national nonprofit organizations can offer urban young people employment options that enhance resources in trauma-affected communities nationwide.

Acknowledgements: generic cialis cheapest price

April Joy would like to thank Dr. Tamar Mendelson, Associate Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of Mental Health, for her mentorship and support of the research collaboration with Holistic Life Foundation, Inc. April Joy also expresses her deepest gratitude to Mr. Ali Smith, Mr. Atman Smith, and Mr. Andres Gonzalez, Founders of HLF, for their openness to forge a community-academic partnership as a means of effecting positive social change, and to the Hopkins Urban Health Institute, for their generosity and belief in the significance of this joint endeavour to building healthy, resilient youth and communities.


Harris, L. (2013). Feel the Heat! The Unrelenting Challenge of Young Black Male Unemployment. Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). Washington, DC. Accessed on 21 May 2015 from


Liu, D. and Witter, D. (23 Apr 2015). Young Black Males’ Well-Being Harmed More by Unemployment. Gallup, Inc. Accessed on 21 May 2015 from


Mendelson, T., Greenberg, M.T., Dariotis, J., Feagans Gould, L., Rhoades, B., & Leaf, P.J. (2010). Feasibility and preliminary outcomes of a school-based mindfulness intervention for urban youth. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38, 985-994.


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2014). SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Rockville, MD. Accessed on 14 June 2015 from

April Joy Damian

About this blog contributor | April Joy Damian, MSc | Twitter: @apriljoydamian

April Joy is from San Francisco. She received a B.A in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley and Master of Medical Science from Harvard Medical School. She is currently a NIH/NIMH Psychiatric Epidemiology Training Predoctoral Fellow pursuing a PhD in the Department of Mental Health with a Certificate in Health Finance and Management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is also a Truman Scholar, Class of 2005.

The GSS 2016 team is looking for people, organizations, or groups who are working to address viagra 50mg or 100mg pressing issues in any field in their context (global, local, or national). We want to highlight how people, organizations, or groups use interdisciplinary or inter-sectional approaches to conceptualize the problem and develop strategies to address them. All we ask is for a 500-750 word blog submission along with any relevant media, quotes, or web links. 

If you’d like to have your work highlighted, please submit an entry to with subject line “GSS 2016 Blog Entry”

Guiding questions for Blog:

The theme for GSS 2016 is ‘Spaces in Between: Innovation, Insight and Progress at the Intersection’. What does this theme mean to you with particularly reference to the work that you’re doing? How do you use interdisciplinary or  inter-sectional approaches to gain insight into the local, national, or global pressing problem that you are working on addressing? How do you use interdisciplinary or  inter-sectional approaches to develop innovative strategies to address the local, national, or global pressing problem that you are working on addressing? Please discuss your strategy for addressing the main issue your focusing on. What are the challenges and benefits in using interdisciplinary or inter-sectional approaches to solve/address the pressing issues your working on?  Why is the space in between disciplines or the intersection between fields important in addressing local, national, and global pressing issues? 

The Student Vote: Why California Needs Automatic Student Voter Registration

In the 2014 general elections, California experienced a record low voter turnout when less than half of the state’s registered voters cast their ballot. Among these voters, the 18-24 year old population had the lowest turnout for all age groups, making up a meager 3.9% of those who voted. Democracy is not representative of the people when only a fraction participates in the process.

Voter registration continues to be a significant barrier to public participation in California’s democracy. There are an estimated 6.6 million Californian citizens who are eligible to vote but who are shut out of the political process because they are not yet registered. For young people in particular, the process for registering to vote in California can present structural obstacles that inhibit their ability to register and vote at greater levels. Young people, like minority and low-income communities, have higher rates of geographic mobility, which consequently affects how frequently they must update their voter registration information. When a young voter moves or their information changes, their registration records may not be updated at all, effectively keeping them off of the voter rolls.

This year, in an effort to find new ways to systematically introduce young people into the political process, student leaders have partnered with California Assembly members David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) to introduce Assembly Bill 2455, the “Student Voting Act.” This proposed legislation would serve to automatically register to vote any student who enrolls at any of the state’s public higher education systems, making California the first state in the nation to do so.

Under this new legislation, every time an eligible citizen signs up for or renews their enrollment at a University of California, California State University or California Community College campus, they will simultaneously be registered to vote unless they decide to opt out. If an eligible student does not decline to being registered, their information will then be securely transferred to the California Secretary of State who will verify that the student is eligible to vote and then add their information onto the voter rolls.

There is no single reason that can fully explain why there is low voter participation among young people, however, we believe that modernizing and reimagining the way we register voters can meaningfully reduce some of the existing obstacles that contribute to lower youth turnout. Moreover, by removing unnecessary barriers to voter registration for students, legislators, government agencies, colleges and universities and civic organizations can free-up and redirect the time and financial resources that currently go towards registration efforts, and use them instead for the more crucial purpose of encouraging greater voter turnout and increasing overall civic participation in California. Based on our experiences of conducting voter registration drives on universities campuses, we imagine volunteers can then focus on voter education and outreach to get-out-the-vote.

Today, the debate around voting opportunities is often framed as a battle between electoral integrity and electoral access. Here, we can accomplish both goals by ensuring that the Secretary of State has the most up-to-date voter records from students who want to vote where they currently live and by ensuring those who are eligible to vote are properly registered. The State has already allowed other public agencies to register voters (i.e. Department of Motor Vehicles, public benefit agencies). It is logical to extend this practice to another public entity: California’s public colleges and universities.

While voting rights are on the defense in many states with restrictive voting laws, such as cutbacks on early voting periods and the elimination of same-day registration, California continues to lead in modernizing strategies for voter engagement and removing obstacles to the ballot. When we asked civil rights leaders from the 60’s what they believed to be among the most pressing issues facing the next generation, they unequivocally responded, ‘voting rights’. It was as big an issue then as it is now.

As students of both law and public policy, we welcomed the opportunity to analyze and suggest ways of “what could be.” We submitted a proposal to Assembly member Chiu in “There Ought to Be a Law” contest and presented empirical data on the youth vote, conducted a political and administrative feasibility analysis and applied our legal understanding of precedents. In the next few months we’ll don our grassroots-organizer-hats as we travel the state to speak with civic non-profit organizations and student groups to gather feedback and earn their support. Introducing an automatic student voter website registration program through the UC, CSU and California Community College systems is another way through which California can demonstrate its ongoing commitment to expanding voter participation and creating a democracy that is more inclusive of the voices of young people.

GSS post

Cindy Dinh is in a joint degree program and is graduating in May 2016 with a JD and Master in Public Administration from UC Berkeley School of Law and Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She was selected as a 2010 Public Policy and International Affairs law fellow at UC Berkeley and as a 2010 Harry S. Truman Scholar from Houston, Texas. Follow Cindy: LinkedIn

Paul Monge was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area by immigrant parents from El Salvador. He holds a Bachelors from UC Santa Barbara, a Masters in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and is currently pursuing a JD at the UC Berkeley School of Law. Follow Paul: LinkedIn |Twitter: @paulmonge_SF

Cindy and Paul recently received the UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Public Service award for Graduate Students in Civic Engagement for their work.


We are thrilled to announce another amazing speaker for GSS 2015 – the Award-winning ‘wobbly’ comedian, Francesca Martinez!

Francesca is an award-winning wobbly* comedian, writer and speaker who has toured internationally with sell- out runs around the world including The Melbourne Comedy Festival, The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and the prestigious Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal. She has also performed in Ireland, France, South Africa, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, America (in Hollywood and on Broadway) and at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where she spoke alongside actress Emma Thompson. In 2012, she completed a hugely successful 50-date tour of Australia where she was nominated for ‘Best Comedian’ at the Perth Fringe.

A regular face on TV, Francesca is well-known for starring in five series of Grange Hill and a much-loved appearance on The Frank Skinner Show. Ricky Gervais is a big supporter of her work and wrote a starring role especially for her in Extras, opposite actress Kate Winslet. In Dec 2012, she made a storming appearance on BBC3’s Russell Howard’s Good News, and in April 2013 headlined The Jonathan Ross Show. Francesca has since debuted on ITV’s Lorraine, twice guested on ITV’s Loose Women and made three appearances in consecutive years on RTE’s The Saturday Night Show. She is currently developing her own sitcom project.

Francesca’s 50-date tour of the UK and Ireland with What The *** Is Normal?! won a Fringe Media Network Award in Edinburgh and a nomination for Best Show at Leicester Comedy Festival 2013. Her first book, also called What The **** Is Normal?!, was published by Random House in May 2014, with the paperback due to be published on 7th May 2015. The book, available on Amazon, is garnering rave reviews from both critics and the general public.

A regular newspaper reviewer on TV and Radio, Francesca continues to deliver motivational and after dinner speeches across the globe – in 2005 she was nominated for the ‘Motivator Of The Year’ Award along with Sir Bob Geldof. She gives speeches to a wide range of organisations including medical professionals, and runs comedy workshops for mixed ability performers and writers in the UK and overseas. Francesca won the Public Affairs Achiever Of The Year Award 2013. Last year she was nominated a Top Ten Game Changer in BBC 4’s Woman’s Hour Power List, recorded a TEDx talk, was nominated Hero Of The Year in the European Diversity Awards and collected 100,000 signatures for the WOW campaign, which led to a historic debate on welfare cuts in the House of Commons. This year she will receive an Honorary Doctorate from Bradford University.

Not one to shy away from the important issues, in 2008 Francesca made global headlines when she became the first Olympic Torch-Bearer to pull out of the London relay in protest against China’s treatment of Tibet. In January 2012 she took on Michael Portillo over the government’s welfare reforms live on BBC1’s This Week. Her appearance sparked huge public interest and the programme’s producers were bowled over by the amount of positive feedback – more than any of their previous guests had ever received. She followed this up with a much-talked about appearance on BBC2’s Newsnight, was voted most popular guest on BBC3’s Free Speech, and debated the legacy of the Paralympics with Jon Snow live on Channel 4 News. She has made several appearances on Radio 4’s hugely popular The News Quiz alongside Jeremy Hardy, and recently made a debut appearance on BBC1’s Today’s Politics.

*Oh yeah, she has mild cerebral palsy but she much prefers the word ‘wobbly’.


Photo Credit: Farhang Ghajar (CBC)

We are thrilled to announce our first speaker for GSS 2015 – renowned Canadian HIV advocate Stephen Lewis!

Mr. Stephen Lewis is the co-founder and co-director of AIDS-Free World (, an international advocacy organization that works to promote more urgent and more effective global responses to HIV and AIDS.

Stephen Lewis’ work with the United Nations spanned more than two decades. He was the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa from June 2001 until the end of 2006.   From 1995 to 1999, Mr. Lewis was Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF at the organization’s global headquarters in New York. From 1984 through 1988, he was Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations.

In addition to his work with AIDS-Free World, Mr. Lewis is a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University in Toronto. He recently served as a Commissioner on the Global Commission on HIV and the Law; the Commission’s landmark report was released in July 2012.

Mr. Lewis serves as the board chair of the Stephen Lewis Foundation in Canada, and he is a Senior Fellow of the Enough Project. He is an immediate past member of the Board of Directors of the Clinton Health Access Initiative, and Emeritus Board Member of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative.

Stephen Lewis is a Companion of the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest honor for lifetime achievement. In 2005, Mr. Lewis was named by TIME magazine as one of the ‘One hundred most influential people in the world’ (he was cited in the category which included The Dalai Lama, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and Nelson Mandela). In 2007, King Letsie III, monarch of the Kingdom of Lesotho (a small mountainous country in Southern Africa) invested Mr. Lewis as Knight Commander of the Most Dignified Order of Moshoeshoe. The order is named for the founder of Lesotho; the knighthood is the country’s highest honor.

Mr. Lewis is the author of the best-selling book, Race Against Time.  He holds 37 honorary degrees from Canadian universities, as well as honorary degrees from Dartmouth College and Johns Hopkins University in the United States.


We are thrilled to host Amy Goodman, journalist and host of Democracy Now! at this year’s conference.

More about Amy here:

Amy Goodman is the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, a national, daily, independent award-winning news program airing on over 1,300 public television and radio stations worldwide. The Neiman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard honored Goodman with the 2014 I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence Lifetime Achievement Award. She is also the first journalist to receive the Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’ for “developing an innovative model of truly independent grassroots political journalism that brings to millions of people the alternative voices that are often excluded by the mainstream media”. Goodman has co-authored five New York Times bestsellers and has received the American Women in Radio and Television Gracie Award; the Paley Center for Media’s She’s Made It Award and the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship.


Dr. Wole Soboyejo will also be joining us at GSS 2015 from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University. Read more about his background here:

Dr. Wole Soboyejo is a scientist driven by the needs of people. A guiding principle behind his research is to use materials science for the promotion of global development. His research focuses on experimental studies of different materials with applications in developing regions, and his group is involved in numerous development and outreach projects, both locally and abroad. His is also the Director of the U.S./Africa Materials Institute. Dr. Soboyejo describes his work as: “Technology, applied to change our world”. He is an alumnus of the University of Cambridge.


Medha Patkar will also be joining us as part of the GSS 2015 programme. Learn more about her work here:

Medha Patkar is a social activist and reformer. Born to social activist parents in India, she grew up to be highly motivated, exceptionally brave and fearless to speak out against social causes. While pursuing doctorate studies in the Department of Urban and Rural Community Development at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, she become involved with adivasis, farmers and others to be affected by the Sardar Sarovar Dam in the Narmada River Valley Project. She abandoned her doctoral work to plunge into the Narmada Movement, leading Narmada Bachao Andolan (the “Save Narmada Movement”), which won the Right Livelihood Award in 1991. She founded Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao (GBGB) in Mumbai and has helped to mobilize thousands of slum dwellers to challenge corruption, get private distribution systems for water and amenities in slums. The GBGB movement unearthed the Adarsh Housing Society scam in Mumbai, forcing the resignation of the Chief Minister. The movement has contributed to the evaluation of an alternative housing scheme, exposing the corruption and exploitation of slum dwellers and their land. She has significantly contributed to a process of alliance-building among various organizations working with the urban poor. Adding to her long list of awards, in 2014 she was awarded a Mother Theresa Award for Social Justice.