Summer 2015

What the World Needs

Gift will support humanitarians in their work and education

Previous Next

Cristiana Falcone Sorrell, N01, F01, has created the first endowed scholarship for students in the Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance program. Photo: Robert Caplin

There are no quick fixes when it comes to major world crises and humanitarian aid. But we can—and should—make our efforts to alleviate suffering more evidence-driven and effective. That’s the premise behind the Friedman School’s Feinstein International Center. And it just received a big boost.

Cristiana Falcone Sorrell, N01, F01, has pledged $937,500 to support the center’s work to improve humanitarian responses. Just over half of the gift, $500,000, will create the Dignitas Scholarship Fund. This fund is the first endowed scholarship for students in the Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance (MAHA) program, a joint-degree program of the Friedman and Fletcher schools. When matched by the university through the ongoing Financial Aid Initiative, the fund will total $1 million.

The remainder of the gift will support the annual fund and establish the Dignitas Research Innovation Fund, created to spur research that helps vulnerable populations faced with emergencies such as famine, earthquakes, conflict and catastrophic weather. The gift aims to stimulate innovation and allow researchers to test new concepts.

“When I was thinking how to give back in a meaningful way, I thought first about the Feinstein International Center, because what it does is so important,” says Falcone Sorrell, who is a graduate of the MAHA program and is a member of the Board of Advisors to the Friedman School. “It is forging a professional culture of humanitarian aid, and now more than ever we need more of that expertise.”

“We cannot imagine the kind of pressure a war zone can impose on a human being, but we must fully understand that context to provide aid without making the situation even more unbalanced.” —Cristiana Falcone Sorrell

The Feinstein International Center brings multidisciplinary research and professional rigor to how the world approaches humanitarian aid.

“The MAHA program has been equipping students for leadership in humanitarian action and policy for more than 15 years,” says Professor Daniel Maxwell, Ph.D., who directs the MAHA program. “Greater scholarship support, particularly for international students from developing nations—who comprise the majority of our students—has always been a major constraint. This generous donation helps to start an enduring source of support for our students.”

Most MAHA students are midcareer professionals with limited resources for further education. Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., dean of the Friedman School, points out that “MAHA graduates often pursue careers with international NGOs, humanitarian aid agencies and foreign governments. Scholarships will allow the best and brightest students to come to Tufts and will be critical for their future success. And the research funds provide freedom and flexibility to test new, high-impact ideas and work even more collaboratively across multiple disciplines.”

Falcone Sorrell, senior advisor to the executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, says her MAHA experience—including writing a thesis on the role of media in the war in Kosovo—allowed her to “marry the practical with the academic” for the first time in her education. It also helped solidify her professional path.

As an inaugural member of the Feinstein International Center’s development committee she hopes the new funds, which were pledged through the JMCMRJ Sorrell Family Foundation, will help train leaders and support research to solve future problems.

“What the world needs is leadership that values long-term, ethical goals,” she says. “Humanitarian programs have been short term for a long time; there is no sustainability angle. But the long-term approach is possible with a multidisciplinary education.” —Laura Ferguson

Top Stories

Shifting America’s Diet

Factions continue to duke it out over what the nation’s dietary guidelines should be, but the scientists have had their say: less meat, less sugar, and please, eat your veggies

Breaking the Veiled Ceiling

Yasmin Altwaijri is blazing a trail for epidemiology and for Saudi women in science

Enough Food for All

The answer to how to feed the growing global population has to include small-scale agriculture, not just factory farms

Feed Your Stem Cells

Is nutrition the future of brain health? Neuroscientist Dennis Steindler says yes

Editor's Picks

Not Supersized, but Still Not Good

A hundred extra calories a day can pile on 10 pounds in a year

Eat, Sleep and Be Healthy

Well-rested adults tend to eat better, study finds

Scared Straight

Inmates take a hard look at their delinquent diets

Me and My Study

Research volunteers embrace life in the cohort

Why So Good?

The science behind yogurt’s aura of health