Courtesy of the Fellows

On Oct. 16, the Kerry Initiative announced that five Yale College students received its fellowship.

The Kerry Fellows program allows students to collaborate and develop interdisciplinary research aimed at creating real-world policy solutions. Led by former Secretary of State John Kerry ’66 through the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, students work in teams to address the initiative’s core concerns such as authoritarian populism, climate change and global economic development. This year, five undergraduate students were selected — Kahlil Greene ’21, Akhil Rajan ’21, Teigist Taye ’22, Milan Vivanco ’21 and Namra Zulfiqar ’21. The 21 other fellows were selected from Yale’s professional schools.

“I think the Kerry Fellowship offers a unique opportunity to get involved in research, diplomacy and advocacy internationally,” Taye wrote in an email to the News. “It’s pretty cool to have the guidance of the former Secretary of State!”

Taye said her experience living in Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Kenya cultivated her interest in international development in the African continent, which compelled her to apply to the program.

Rajan said that the opportunity to learn from Kerry drew him to apply. He admires Kerry’s work in the State Department and is excited to contribute to the initiative’s research. He also said that he is excited at the prospect of working with other skilled fellows.

Kerry Fellows are selected based on their academic and professional merit with preference in the initiative’s core focus subjects.

Greene believes that he was chosen for his “passion for advocacy, project management skill set and demonstrated impact on campus.”

As the former Yale College Council president, Greene led efforts to raise over $57,000 for racial justice organizations through the Yale Together Movement, which consisted of multiple student groups. He also helped successfully advocate for universal pass/fail grading after most students were forced to leave campus in the spring.

Greene said that he looked forward to working with the initiative to develop projects in human rights and education access — his fields of interest.

The initiative’s focus on the rise of authoritarianism and failing states stoked Rajan’s interest. Particularly, he cited that he wanted to explore what institutional patterns exist in countries that have resisted authoritarianism.

As a director’s fellow at the Institution for Social and Policy Studies and as a policy fellow with Cory Booker’s 2020 presidential campaign, Rajan brings extensive expertise to his research team.

Taye attributed her selection to her “background, legal experience, or [her] passionate involvement in social activism.” Taye has worked on refugees’ access to social service in Belgium, as a legal intern in the Lowenstein Clinic at the Yale Law School and as a board member of Black Students for Disarmament at Yale.

Taye said she most looks forward to working with the initiative to research justice and policing, governance, human rights and mass atrocity prevention.

Due to the pandemic, Taye and Greene said that most of the fellowship’s programming will shift to virtual events with some possibility of socially distant in-person meetings in the future.

The Kerry Initiative was founded in 2017.

Razel Suansing |

Razel Suansing is a staff reporter and producer for the City, YTV, and Magazine desks. She covers cops and courts, specifically state criminal justice reform efforts, the New Haven Police Department, and the Yale Police Department. Originally from Manila, Philippines, she is a first-year in Davenport College, majoring in Global Affairs.