Admissions blog

Student club spotlight: SHIELD

Hertie School master's students and SHIELD club members.

Learn more about the club advocating for increased diversity in policymaking – the Society of Hertie School for Inclusion, Equity, Liberty and Diversity.

The Society of Hertie School for Inclusion, Equity, Liberty and Diversity (SHIELD) is a student club that advocates and pushes for diversity, both within our university and more widely across the policymaking field.

The admissions team spoke with three second-year MPP students active in SHIELD to hear more about what motivates them, how they are fostering change here at the Hertie School, and their tips on life in Berlin!

Lena Wagner, Senior Co-Chair of SHIELD, is German-Chilean and grew up in Germany. She previously studied business administration. Eduardo Campbell, also Senior Co-Chair, is from Panama. He previously studied a bachelor’s degree in International Areas and Studies with minors in Portuguese and Psychology. Carol Cavallari is from Brazil, where she has been working with education and health policies for the last five years. This year she’ll focus more on SHIELD’s research projects.

How and why did SHIELD get started?

Eduardo: Our Class of 2021 members co-founded SHIELD in response to a few things: First, the absence of discussions on diversity, race and intersectionality at the university. Second, the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, and third, some of the controversies that happened last summer around the Black Lives Movement within the university.

Lena: We wanted to create a specific space for students of colour – and of course also white students interested in anti-racism discourse – to gather, to find community, to exchange ideas, and to co-create the campus and learning environment we want to see in the future.

Carol: Finally, we wanted to put our policy knowledge to use and be able to propose evidence-based solutions so that we can make a change. We put a lot of what we learn in our policymaking courses into this and do a lot of research and data work.

What projects and activities have you organised this past year?

Carol: Our biggest event last year was on Black Lives Matter (BLM). We discussed the movement in the EU context, with Hertie alumna Emilia Roig as our guest speaker. She’s an expert on discussing race and intersectionality, so it was really, really amazing to have her with us. The event also had two more panellists, Jean-Marie Ayikpe who is an avid BLM activist and member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and Tiaji Sio who works in the German Federal Foreign Office and founder of Diplomats of Colour. We also had an event about the glass ceiling and gender inequality in the job market, another on unequal access for immigrants in the health system, and a third with guest speakers from Brazil on building diversity in organisations.

As for research, last year we spent a significant amount of time auditing the university curriculum: the authors we’re reading, the examples we’re using in class, and diversity in terms of countries, policy issues and challenges.

Eduardo: Currently, SHIELD is working closely with the administration to understand why we have a low number of African students at the university, at least in our cohort. We’ve also worked as student representatives with Emilia as part of the school’s Anti-Discrimination Task Force to understand where the university was in terms of data. We not only advocate for diversity but also put it into data and policy proposals. This is SHIELD’s uniqueness.

Lena: One of our biggest successes this semester was our proposal for a mentorship programme that is for all students but will be designed to meet the specific needs of students from traditionally marginalized groups – to help them succeed in the traditionally more elitist environment of academia and to help them navigate the job market in Germany and abroad after graduation. One of the coolest things is that Eduardo is now going to work as a research assistant for the university to get this started!

All Hertie School students are welcome to join the SHIELD General Assembly!

What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a part of SHIELD?

Eduardo: This touches me on a very personal level. I’m a Black gay man from Latin America, from a working-class background, who came to a school like Hertie. Finding spaces where I can advocate for more people like me and trying to make mechanisms work for people from disadvantaged backgrounds to be here are very rewarding. Being supportive and being there for people (for example for some of our fellow Colombian students during the protests in their country), has had a very special meaning for me.

Carol: One thing that makes me really happy is being part of building a community that not only is supportive of each other, but also discusses and rethinks power and privileges together. We put a lot of effort into bridging gaps so everyone can be part of a community that has as a focus empowering, supporting and advocating for and with underrepresented and marginalized voices. Many students here might someday work in governments, lead teams or even build a new organization, so it is crucial that all of us have a critical view of how the decision-making system was designed, of existing privileges and of our roles in building policies with and for everyone.

Lena: For me, growing up with a different background than many people in my immediate surroundings, I think I had been dealing with a lot of discomfort and questions that I had very little space to discuss properly. It has been a really rewarding experience to find a group of people with very positive energy who think about similar questions that I do, and who are committed to a shared goal.

How would you describe inclusion, equity, and diversity and why is it important to policymaking?

Carol: It is about creating spaces and organizations that are built by and for everyone. And I think it is important to emphasize "by" because we have to start building organizations, especially bureaucracies, that are representative of everyone. This will reflect on the policies that are being made and how people are actually being impacted by them.

Lena: I think diversity doesn’t mean just checking a category. On a global scale, I think we need to shift the focus away from including non-white people into white institutions and towards building institutions that centre on the people they serve.

Eduardo: When I think of diversity and inclusion in public policy, it’s to completely rethink, critically assess and reshape how policy has been done, to understand power dynamics, how systems are created, and how some benefit while others are harmed, whether in Europe, Asia or Latin America. How can we bring the people affected by these decisions to the table and include them in the whole policy-making process? It’s about understanding the impact of history and how it can be transformed into equity for voices that have been marginalized for so long.

How can future students get involved with SHIELD?

Eduardo: In the upcoming Academic Year, we’re opening four positions on the executive board. We’ll send a call for applications at the beginning of the semester and we’ll be at the club fair at the end of September. Being on the executive board requires approximately two to three hours of work per week. This is a bit more demanding than being part of the General Assembly, which meets once a month and is more relaxed. Anybody from the Hertie School can sign up for the General Assembly, and you can volunteer with the executive board on specific projects. Follow us on Instagram, where we’re very active, and our website!

What are some of your favourite things to do in Berlin?

Lena: Check out the many public swimming pools! I was about to take a dip in the Prinzenbad. Another tip I have (in non-pandemic times) are the inclusive hip hop parties organized by a group called Hoe__mies, who try to present a lot of non-binary, female and POC DJs.

Eduardo: During lockdown, I connected to the city through running. Berlin has many open spaces, parks and places to walk and run. Running in the Tiergarten is something that I really enjoy. Then you can just take a walk in Mitte and go by the German Parliament.

Carol: I really love cycling, and I recommend renting or buying a bike. Your relationship to the city changes a lot when you learn where to go and how to get there, and you see everything when you’re not in the subway. One tip: don’t ever trust Google Maps. Always add another 10 minutes to your travel time!

Four executive board member positions are opening in the new Academic Year. Join today!

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