Paul D

Walking the footsteps of greatness

By Lydia Platt

Walking the footsteps of greatness

By Lydia Platt
UM junior recalls his experience as a Frederick Douglass Global Fellow

Well done.”

These are the words the United States Vice President Kamala Harris uttered to Paul Douillon at the conclusion of his speech at the celebration of the Frederick Douglass Global Fellows ceremony.

Douillon, a University of Miami junior who is a double-major in sociology and criminology with a minor in music, is the first UM student to be awarded the distinguished title of Frederick Douglass Global Fellow.

Eager to create a positive change in the world and travel abroad, Douillon began searching for opportunities that met both needs. His search led him to the Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship program, which explores the impact that effective leaders have had on social justice movements and critical peace and conflict resolution efforts around the world. The fellowship, which honors the legacy of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, also offers fellows a summer abroad experience in Ireland.

“I’m eligible, I fit the description, let me just apply,” recalls Douillon. “I cried when I got that call. I had no clue I was going to be selected.”

Douillon received personalized congratulatory messages from President Julio Frenk’s office and Assistant Dean Devika Milner, the director of study abroad at UM. Not only was Douillon selected for this prestigious honor, but he was one of three fellows asked to speak at the ceremony in which both Vice President Harris and Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheál Martin were in attendance.

Douillon was surrounded by family members when he delivered his speech. “My entire family just erupted. They were laughing, some of them were tearing up. It was quite the experience of a lifetime; those moments are something I’ll never forget,” says Douillon.

In the summer of 2021, Douillon journeyed to Dublin, Ireland.

“We literally got to walk in the footsteps of Frederick Douglass,” recounts Douillon. “Some of the fellows gave speeches exactly where he stood. Not only were we getting to see places where history happened, but we were also able to create our own version of history in those same places. 

Douillon says his experience abroad was a true “expansion of my mind, thoughts, and ideas.” Douillon and his fellow fellows learned about “transformational leadership, how to be a better agent of change in communities abroad, and how to think bigger than just our own cities, states, and countries” during their time abroad.

Born in Jacksonville and a lifelong Homestead resident, Douillon is a self-described “Floridian through and through,” he says. He transferred to UM in the fall of 2020, the beginning of his sophomore year.

At UM, Douillon dove headfirst into extracurricular activities on campus. He previously served as Speaker Pro Tempore of the SG Senate and Commuter Senator and he is also the Vice President of the Sociology and Criminology Club, a member of the Executive Board of United Black Students, and a member of the Executive Board of Tau Sigma Transfer National Honor Society on campus.

As to his minor in music, Douillon plays seven instruments and considers music one of his greatest passions. “I keep busy, but I like what I do,” Douillon emphasizes.

Through it all, Douillon keeps close to all that he learned through his experience as a fellow and his trip to Ireland.

“I am an ambassador for something bigger than myself,” he says. “I represent Frederick Douglass and his legacy and take it as a personal responsibility to ensure that I am representing his legacy in a way that will bring honor to him.”

After graduation, Douillon plans to attend law school and become a practicing attorney. He also envisions a campaign for public office in his future.