File this story under “other duties as assigned.”
Pitzer College graduate Ben Sievers ’22 recently completed a prestigious Fulbright fellowship, which involved researching attitudes toward measles vaccination in remote Cambodian villages. Little did he know what else awaited him during his 10 months in the country. Along with other non-measles-related research projects – including looking for viruses in bats and monitoring sporadic avian influenza outbreaks throughout the countryside – Sievers found himself on a runway modeling unique fashions for charity.
“On a lark, some other Fulbright fellows and I auditioned for a fashion show that was showcasing local designers who create clothes made from material rescued from the Mekong River,” Sievers recalled.
He and his companions had learned that leftover material from manufacturing plants was being dumped in the river, polluting the water in the process. A non-profit called Re-Made in Cambodia, funded by the European Union, Our Tonlé Sap and the Wildlife Conservation Society, was reclaiming the material and engaging designers to turn it into clothing for sale. The organization’s motto: Our Clothes Are Trash.
Sievers and his colleagues heard that the non-profit was hosting two charity fashion shows, selling the clothing on the runway to support its work.
“We never thought any of us would get chosen to model,” he said. “There were more than 150 people there to audition.”
So imagine his surprise when he was chosen as one of 19 models for the show.
“It was a blast,” he said. “I’m sure my parents were thinking at first, ‘for this we sent you to college?’ But they knew it was for an important cause to help protect the environment in a country that has seen its share of climate challenges.”
And actually, Sievers credits his dance classes at Pitzer as the possible reason he was selected as one of the models: “I chose to attend Pitzer in part because of its dance program–though my interest eventually turned to scientific research–but as a dancer I learned a lot about body movement.”
“Ben was a student of mine and I got to know him really well through his fellowship applications,” said Nigel Boyle, a Pitzer professor of political studies and director of the College’s Fulbright fellowship program. “I was not aware fashion modeling was one of his talents, but that liberal arts education manifests in all sorts of cool ways. Our Fulbright scholars are cultural ambassadors for the USA but also for Pitzer College. I’m thrilled that Ben’s journey has taken him from the halls of Pitzer, which fueled his interest in a career in science, to a most unexpected and fun adventure supporting efforts to reduce environmental waste in Cambodia.”