Cole sits with FM to talk about her dedication to public service.
Stephanie M. Cole ’11 is an avid scrapbooker. She has kept every ticket stub and postcard she has received since middle school. Cole’s scrapbook contains the normal fare—Harvard-Yale ticket, family vacation mementos—but then there’s also the boarding pass from Malawi after sophomore year, where she weighed malnourished babies in clinical trials, and airline tickets from Mali last summer, where she spearheaded the creation of a new clinic for malnourished children.
Leading both the Keylatch afterschool program and the Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship, Cole has dedicated her extracurricular life at Harvard to service. And outside of Harvard, she has traveled the past two summers to Africa with Project Peanut Butter, a nonprofit that combats malnourishment in children. After graduation, she will return to Mali to direct a new Project Peanut Butter outpost.
“A lot of people at Harvard talk about changing things, but Stephanie has taken proactive steps to enact change,” says Luci Yang ’11, her roommate since sophomore year.
The organismic and evolutionary biology concentrator spent last summer in Mali, navigating the diverse challenges of getting Project Peanut Butter set up to run there. “We had to meet with UNICEF and the people from [the] Ministry of Health,” she explains. “It took a lot of hanging out with the police and a lot of bureaucracy.”
Living alone in Mali was an adjustment for Cole. “You do get a lot of attention as a white female,” she says. “And day to day, the main difference is not having personal space,” Cole adds. “People just come up to you. And the heat. I was there in the ‘cold season,’ and it was 90 degrees every day.”
But it was a place she ultimately came to love. “At first, I thought it would be a very different culture,” she says. “I wasn’t sure what was culturally appropriate, but when I got there everyone was friendly and excited.”
Further afield, Cole hopes to go to medical school and return to Africa to practice. “She has a sort of mantra that she often says,” explains Jacintha G. Tagal ’11, her HRCF co-leader: “To live simply, so that others can simply live.”