The UC Haiti Initiative — a joint effort between the UC and Haitian universities focused on rehabilitating the nation in the wake of the 2010 earthquake — was awarded the UC President’s Award for Outstanding Student Leadership on Wednesday.
UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang collaborated with chancellors from UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC Riverside to nominate co-founders Nicolas Pascal and Noah Stern to receive the honor. Comprised of students from all 10 UC campuses, the program aims to emphasize the role of higher education in the country and provide relief through social innovation.
Pascal, a UCSB alumnus and graduate student in the global & international studies program, said the award recognizes UCHI’s potential as a starting point for other similar relief efforts around the world.
“Receiving one of the President’s highest honors is a humbling gratification; not only does it reflect how far UCHI has come as a student-founded organization, but also where it can go,” Pascal said. “With the proper organization and support, the UC system can be one of the most powerful development clusters in the world.”
Yang said he is proud to support the nomination as it demonstrates the effectiveness of collaboration across all campuses.
“The UC Haiti Initiative is a wonderful example of students reaching out across all the UC campuses in a sustained effort to respond with compassion and commitment to the tragic 2010 earthquake and its devastating impact on the people of Haiti,” Yang said in an email. “UCHI has gone beyond providing relief and aid to Haiti; it has also become a means and opportunity of engaging students, faculty, and staff in education in a global context. As our nomination form stated: UC Haiti is a shining example of the ‘power of ten.’”
Sierra Griffin, chapter director for the UCSB branch of UCHI, said she credits the organization’s system-wide solidarity as a major part of its success.
“I think UCHI is being awarded for Outstanding Student Leadership mainly for our ability to collaborate across campuses and with [Université d’État d’Haïti] (state university of Haiti in [Port-au-Prince]),” Griffin said in an email. “We recognize that working together makes us much stronger and ten times more effective than working from just one campus alone, and I think that is something that really distinguishes us.”
However, according to Griffin, the organization’s far-reaching ties initially presented a struggle.
“As far as successes and harder moments for the organization, this multi-campus characteristic can be said for both,” Griffin said. “It is our most impressive attribute, but also the hardest thing to coordinate. Obviously when something this large is being put into motion, communication is difficult (especially because it is statewide and international). However, I think that the way we have been able to effectively mobilize, mostly successfully, really speaks volumes about the initiative and its student leadership.”
According to Griffin, UCHI was founded on the principle of applying academic knowledge to dire world issues in a collaborative format.
“We really try to link higher education to sustainable community development in every single [project],” Griffin said. “Most of the time they usually fit hand-in-hand, but if we see a lack of connection between the two, we will work together and re-evaluate the project with the Haitians to make sure both goals are being met.”
Griffin said university students play an important role in advocating for underprivileged Haitian students’ right to education.
“Using the resources on our campus to even educate oneself about issues in developing countries often makes a huge difference,” Griffin said. “I find that once people hear that information, most are compelled to become involved in some way or another, whether it’s joining an organization like UCHI or just using your knowledge to help spread awareness.”
According to Griffin, UCSB students are currently working to implement a new dental project as well as a secondary healthcare education project in Haiti.