Home News & Stories Reminiscing the dawn of a new millennium (1997-2001)

Reminiscing the dawn of a new millennium (1997-2001)

As the Melton Foundation entered a new era, it continued to grow, incorporating into its fold Social Service Projects, New Melton Fellow Orientations, and our first Alumni Meet while strengthening the practice of Symposiums, cultural presentations, and cross-boundary collaborations!

The Melton Foundation derives its strength from organic growth, deep collaborations, and most significantly, its ever-expanding community of Fellows. Beginning in the late 90s, Junior Fellows embarked on a cathartic experiment that soon transformed into an innovation: local Social Service Projects. The first campuses to implement these Projects were UFRO (Chile) and ZU (China), followed by all our other partner regions. Opting for education as a field to focus upon, Fellows at UFRO worked on a project involving the construction of a greenhouse in a rural school. In addition, they channeled their newfound energy to provide medical and dental care and started classes for budding sportspersons. Take a detailed look at their project in the video below!

In 1996-97, the UFRO campus organized its first Symposium. Situated at the scenic Araucania region of Chile, the event was marked with a festive fervor, commemorating the very first congregation of Melton Fellows in Chile! What followed was a lot of dancing, smiles etched across faces, and the unfolding of the process of bonding and building camaraderie across cultures. Javier Sepulveda recalls:

“My experience at the symposiums opened my eyes and mind to a new world of intercultural communication and learning for life. The activities such as group discussions, outings, cultural events, informal sharing during meals, and other events truly influenced my experience as a Melton Fellow and imprinted my life as a university student and young man in southern Chile.”

The year 1997 witnessed yet another campus hosting its inaugural Symposium – Dillard University in the USA. With the Melton Foundation being steered by Directors Dr. Charles Semke and Harriet Semke and Alumni Director Dr. Debb Vanderhaar-Arens, the week at Dillard University comprised presentations, cultural sessions, workshops, city tours, just to name a few!

1998 Symposium unraveled in FSU (Jena), Germany

The 1998 Symposium unraveled in FSU (Jena), Germany. Fellows undertook journeys to Weimar and Erfurt, besides exploring the alleys of Jena. Set amidst the backdrop of teamwork, selection for the new Lead Fellow, workshops, and cultural presentations, the Fellows recollect a time that allowed them to deepen their bonds and create memories together!

Brian Wilson has the following words to say about the spirit of camaraderie between the Fellows and the cultural environment :

​​”Looking back as a senior fellow, the Melton Foundation was such an amazing experience. To go to Europe was such a big thing for me, I remember just how excited I was. People from all over the world who essentially were so similar to me. The people that I met and the experiences that I had in Jena changed who I was and who I am today. It is really difficult for me to express the appreciation that I have for so many people who impacted my life more than 20 years ago and who I still count as friends today.”

The Melton Foundation organized the very first Alumni meeting in Berlin, Germany in 1999. Organized and led by the Alumni Director, Dr. Debb Vanderhaar-Arens, the Melton Foundation’s alumni were invited to participate in the congregation. Alumni from all around the globe assembled together to talk about the alumni network and enrich ideas of creating a closely forged impactful community in the future. Siddhart Yedur recollects:

“While all the symposiums I attended were memorable in one way or the other, the one gathering that I found interesting was the Alumni meet in Berlin – a great setting for the conversations that followed. This was a gathering where we had the privilege of hearing some known voices in the fields of world affairs, human development, financial inclusion, etc.”

On being asked to share her experiences, Melton Fellow Jana Leidenfrost reminisces:

“Our First Alumni Meeting was the perfect Moment for Co-Creation and Learning, Learning, Learning … I remember us sharing our professional experiences, discovering worlds of Finance, IT, Psychology and Others. With Great Humor and of Course our Cross-Cultural Collaboration we Designed the world new !” 

Melton Fellows gathering at the India Symposium, 1999.

The very same year, the BMSCE (Bangalore) campus organized its second Symposium in Bangalore, India. It has been fondly remembered by Melton Fellows as a symposium of color and multicultural experiences.

A snippet from Bangalore during the 1999 Symposium

The Fellows were treated to a specially curated experiential session on Indian culture by the host of the Symposium. Their itinerary included traveling to interact with people who were deeply involved with the art of handicrafts, a visit to an orphanage amongst other discoveries of the city. 

Kicking off the start of the new millennium, the ZU campus organized its second Symposium in Hangzhou, China in 2000.

At the 9th annual Symposium held in Hangzhou, the members of the Melton Foundation crafted the following statement for the Guiding Principle with the aim to orient the organization’s development and growth. 

Our first Guiding Principle: “The Melton Foundation is committed to bringing positive change in the world through a network of people from diverse cultures empowered by lasting bonds of friendship, open communication, and mutual respect.”

Developed by general consensus, the statement was the result of work done by the fellows in a collaborative and participative atmosphere. 

The Symposium offered the Fellows the opportunity to experience many cultural activities, each delivered by a professional artist. A visit to the West Lake served as the icing on the cake, bringing down the curtains on a landmark event in the evolution of the Melton Foundation.

The first New Fellow Orientation took place in Washington, USA, in 2000. The brainchild of Executive Director Santiago Ramirez, Program Director Jose Manuel Abarca, and Alumni Director, Siddharth Yedur, the New Fellow Orientation (or the NFO) aims to provide a platform for fellows to understand each other better prior to attending the Symposium. The Fellows also participated in workshops that served as useful tools in the near future for them to develop their skills and contribute in an impactful manner.

2001 saw the UFRO campus organize its second Symposium in Temuco, Chile. The Symposium was marked by intercultural bonding, dancing, and going through a steep learning curve. The fellows undertook visits to rural areas and local fellows took initiatives to organize daily workshops, teaching their comrades cultural dances first-hand! The Fellows traveled to Pucón, a lake, and a hot spring, exploring the cultural fabric of Chile in the process! 

Although the Melton Foundation has undergone a metamorphosis in the two decades since, its core values, enthusiasm for collaboration, and its authentic, open intercultural platforms remain its foundational pillars, holding together the family, community, alumni networks, and fellows together! Throughout its journey, collective social projects and cross-domain interactions have shone through to project the aspirations of young Fellows and elevate their ideas onto a global platform!

Concluding with a reflective quote from Claudia Risopatron on her experience with the Melton Fellowship:

“A unique experience imagined in years where didn’t have Instagram or Facebook, only the possibility to communicate electronically by email. An amazing opportunity to meet people from other places and an unforgettable experience of being in touch by email for an entire year with fellows and finally, one day having the chance to meet them  face to face.”


Curious to know about the genesis of the Melton Foundation? Explore our history here!