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Millennium Campus Network co-founder to speak at Commencement

Duane Bonifer
MONMOUTH, Ill. – Sam Vaghar, a social entrepreneur who leads a dynamic and growing global non-profit organization with the mission to empower young people to effect change, will give the 2020 Commencement address at Monmouth College.

Vaghar will also receive an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree from the College.

Monmouth College’s 163rd Commencement exercises will be held at noon May 17 on the Wallace Hall Plaza.

Vaghar is co-founder and executive director of the Boston-based Millennium Campus Network, a global non-profit organization with a mission to bolster students’ civic engagement to tackle poverty, discrimination and climate change.

Founded in 2007 and collaborating with the United Nations Academic Impact, the non-partisan MCN trains students on college and university campuses through the innovative Millennium Fellowship.

“Sam is an impressive young person,” said Monmouth President Clarence R. Wyatt. “He has identified and is pursuing a cause that mirrors Monmouth College’s goals of empowering young people to see and realize the possibilities before them, and to create positive change in all aspects of their lives of work, service and leadership. He is a compelling speaker, and I know that he will provide an inspiring message to our students and community.”

Vaghar launched MCN from dorm rooms at Brandeis University as a platform to make a difference globally. Part of his inspiration came after reading two books: Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder and The End of Poverty by the renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs.

In Mountains Beyond Mountains, Kidder tells the story of a Boston doctor’s efforts to fight tuberculosis in Haiti, Peru and Russia. In The End of Poverty, Sachs, an economist at Columbia University and a leading expert on economic development and the fight against poverty, argues that extreme poverty can be eliminated globally through carefully planned development aid.

“I put down those two books and cold called Jeff Sachs … went down to Columbia University two days later and met with his team and said, ‘Look, I’m a 19-year-old college student. I don’t have the answers, but I know our generation can do more, and I want to figure out what role we can play in addressing extreme poverty,’” said Vaghar.

Vaghar started MCN on a small scale by first holding fundraisers in his area to raise awareness about extreme poverty. Then in fall 2007, he held a meeting of student leaders from Boston-area colleges to discuss the issue. In less than six months, Vaghar was helping to lead a conference of more than 1,000 college students from around the world who gathered at Massachusetts Institute of Technology to discuss global development issues.

The organization is now on college campuses in 15 countries with more than 6,000 alumni. About 75 percent of MCN alumni are now working in social impact careers in the public and private sectors.

“I’m excited to be with members of the Monmouth community at this year’s Commencement, especially because of the College’s values,” said Vaghar. “I am especially impressed by how Monmouth believes in the ambition of its students and their potential, and their potential to effect change in the world.”