Manny Benitez – Fortune Society

Manny is a second year student at Columbia College studying Economics and Psychology. He is very excited to participate in the GTE this semester, as a way to help his community and gain valuable career experience even while studying from home. Born and raised in Connecticut, Manny has always been hopeful of studying in New York City and making contributions both on and off of the campus. Aside from the GTE, Manny is involved at Columbia as an avid member of the ultimate frisbee team. He is eagerly awaiting his return to campus, but looks forward to this unique remote experience in the meantime.


Peter Chen – African Services Committee

Peter Chen is a 2nd year student in the Dual BA program between Sciences Po and Columbia University. He enjoys learning about economics and how it ties to rational and irrational behavior, as well as sharing intriguing (but trivial) anecdotes such as how the island of Yap considers a stone on the bottom of the sea as currency. In his free time, he enjoys rock climbing, playing piano, jamming to Taylor Swift, and binging Netflix.


Sofia Downing – Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson

I am Sofia (she/hers), a first-year student at Columbia College still unsure of what I want to study, but certainly looking forward to exploring different paths. I have recently become fascinated by urban studies and sociology and am hoping to explore these subjects further. I am half Salvadoran, half Nicaraguan, with some Brazilian genes as well!

One of my main intentions is to always contribute to my surrounding community. So I am looking forward to working with an organization that works to address pressing issues affecting Hudson Valley. In the past, I have worked with global NGOs such as Habitat for Humanity and Operation Smile as well as with small local organizations —including daycares, retirement homes, and disability centers— as well as with public schools in my area. These experiences have sparked my interest in the not-for-profit sector and I hope that participating in the Global Thought Experience will expand my passion for helping others!


Elan Ganeles – African Services Committee

My name is Elan Ganeles, and I am a junior at General Studies studying sustainable development and neuroscience. I grew up in West Hartford, CT, and always wanted to be in law or politics when I was in high school. After graduating, I spent a year studying Jewish religion and ethics in Israel, and a half year living on a kibbutz working on the dairy farm, before I decided to join the Israeli Defense Force, and serve as a computer programmer for 2 and half years.

Upon return to the US, I became involved with China-Israel Connection which was a club built around cultivating cross-cultural relationships, and my first summer of college, I went to China to work for the summer. It was a meaningful experience to be in a place so different from what I was used to. I was interested in learning more about the unique experiences people from all around the world live through, and where those experiences intersect. Academically, I am interested in geography and urban design, as it relates to these ideas, and last year I started working as a research intern through the Earth Institute on geospatial projects. I hope to continue to explore these areas, and in the future work at the juncture of public policy, urban planning, and intercultural community building. I am thrilled to join the GTE and continue to discover more about many of these issues. I am looking forward to pairing up and working with the African Services Committee to help new immigrants navigate the challenges that come with being in a new environment, and I am excited to learn and help in any way I can!


Olivia Grinberg-Philips – Children’s Defense Fund

Olivia Grinberg is from Mendocino, California and is a junior at Columbia College majoring in Political Science and concentrating in Human Rights. She is a Research Assistant and Student Scholar with the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies in Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. She also volunteers as a Peer Advocate for Columbia’s Sexual Violence Response office. Recently, Olivia completed her paralegal certification and plans to apply to law school, during which she hopes to explore children’s rights in international human rights law and refugee resettlement policy. She enjoys running, photography, participating in climate activism, and the Oxford comma.


Bridgette Lee – Fortune Society

My name is Bridgette I am a junior from New Jersey majoring in political science and French in Columbia College. I have always loved learning languages like French, and I am curious about learning American sign language as well. I have also always had an interest in politics because it is something that impacts every part of our lives more than most people think.

I am particularly interested in prison reform because I believe that the rates of mass incarceration and prisoner abuse in communities of color are some of our country’s greatest atrocities. I wanted to be a part of the GTE program because I think organizations like the Fortune society have the potential to both give those individuals a second chance at life and to change attitudes towards incarceration for the better.


Lancy Lopez – Children’s Defense Fund

Lancy Lopez is a sophomore (Class of 2023) in Columbia College studying Mathematics and Philosophy. She enjoys the challenge of both combining these disciplines and letting them guide her approach to problem-solving. As an FGLI student herself, Lancy enjoys giving back to youth of similar backgrounds through mentorship and tutoring.


Cameron Nelson – African Services Committee

Cameron Nelson is a Sophomore at Columbia University intending to major in Economics-Political Science with a minor in Psychology. He is twenty years old and was born and raised in Needham, Massachusetts. Cameron is on the Men’s Heavyweight Rowing Team at Columbia and has always loved participating in sports and staying active.

In his studies, Cameron is specifically interested in looking at social issues through an analytical lens and seeing how markets affect their global impact. Cameron is also interested in studying the science behind human behavior and how it drives decision-making in our economy. He is excited to apply the knowledge he has learned in the classroom to his work with the African Services Committee this coming Spring.


Claire Schweitzer – African Services Committee

Claire Schweitzer is a freshman at Columbia College studying Middle Eastern Studies and Political Science. She is particularly passionate about diplomatic relations between Israelis and Palestinians, political polarization in America, and voter rights. She has traveled to Turkey to volunteer with Syrian refugees and conducted research into creative ways to ameliorate this crisis. Another interest of Claire’s is improving financial literacy, and she is the managing editor for Mrs. Dow Jones LLC, an internet startup that attempts to imbue financial education with humor and popular culture references to make it more accessible and engaging. When she is not engrossed in her Arabic homework, you can find Claire debating current events with her friends, reading mystery novels (especially Agatha Christie), or writing for the Blue and White, Columbia’s literary magazine. She is also an avid baker and pasta fanatic.


Xan Vessels – African Services Committee

Xan Vessels is a third-year student at Columbia studying French & Francophone studies and public health. In her free time, you can find her collecting books, writing or drawing, and learning whatever she can get her hands on.


Ana Valeria Vazquez Navas – African Services Committee

Ana is a rising sophomore Dual BA student between Columbia University and Sciences Po. At the moment, she is discovering her true passions and academic interests. She is half Cuban and half Puerto Rican. She loves editing, cooking, and watching some good Netflix shows. Also, she loves exploring Puerto Rico and spending time with her family.