Elisabeth Gallmeier, ExComm Vice-President of Operations Letter

December 2020

Dear Caltech Y Friend,

As I stepped into the UN Human Rights Council chamber in Geneva, Switzerland alongside nine other Caltech students, I was overwhelmed with a sense of awe. I had heard of the UN’s Human Rights Council’s work many times in the news, but I had never consciously felt its importance before stepping into the chamber. The only thing I could think was: Am I really here right now?

I learned of the Caltech Y’s Global Science Policy trip while it was still in its infant phases. I had perked up when the Student ExComm President briefly mentioned planning a science policy trip to Geneva during an ExComm meeting. I became even more excited when the President invited me to join the group organizing the trip; here was my opportunity to not only learn how science policy is carried out globally, but also plan a trip to the city with the most international headquarters in the world!

During the six months leading up to our arrival in Switzerland, I and three other undergraduate and graduate students worked hard to set the trip up for success. We contacted science and technology policy experts in organizations headquartered in Geneva, organized a meeting schedule that took us around the city, and addressed all those miscellaneous, but painstaking details that could make—or break—a trip abroad. During the five days we spent in Geneva, we visited organizations such as the United Nations (UN), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and, as can only be expected from a group of budding scientists, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). We discussed with over 18 leaders in science policy how science policy is implemented in international bodies and how we could get involved. My most memorable experience was meeting UN science-policy expert Bob Bell, who uses his background in electric engineering to help developing countries craft programs to stimulate innovation. We could only laugh in exhilaration after the meeting ran over by 75 minutes, because as one group member put it: “I think we all know now what we want to do post-Caltech”.

I didn’t become interested in science policy until I had been involved with Y for about a year. In fact, as a freshman, I started out teaching underprivileged middle school and high school students with the Y’s off-campus Hathaway Sycamores tutoring program in Highland Park. I always looked forward to my weekly evening tutoring sessions because at Hathaway Sycamores, I was just a human being helping other human beings get through the world, one math problem at a time. It is this experience of being more than just a college student, that the Caltech Y has provided me with again and again.

Eventually, my involvement in Y programs and events expanded to participating in the Rise tutoring program and day hiking trips, organizing community service events like MLK service day, planning trips off campus to a Pasadena symphony concert, and starting a science-policy newsletter. I became a student program leader, member of the ExComm, and finally, ExComm Vice-President of Operations.

If you asked me what Y experience I treasured most, I wouldn’t be able to give you an answer. Choosing a single trip or program is like trying to choose my favorite book; it changes regularly with my evolving perspective. In fact, it is my involvement in the Y that has most developed my perspective, interests, and sense of greater responsibility while attending Caltech. The Y has helped me develop and implement my ideas in service projects and science policy awareness. The Y has welcomed all my diverse interests in music, politics, and outdoor activities—and also expanded them! Most of all, the Y has pushed me develop a sense of global citizenry that I could not have developed otherwise at Caltech.

I am honored to share my story with you, and I hope that it has helped you understand how the Caltech Y has shaped my perspective and purpose. It is only thanks to your generosity that the Y is able to have such a lasting impact on the undergraduate and graduate students at Caltech. Thank you for considering to support the Y in its mission to enrich our lives and to challenge us to grow into responsible citizens of the world.


Elisabeth Gallmeier,

ExComm Vice-President of Operations

If you would like to hear more about Elisabeth’s Science Policy trip experience, please click HERE.

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