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Acting Director of Service Learning
4200 54th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711
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Profiles in Service
Graduation Year: 2008
What types of service/volunteer activities are/were you involved with at Eckerd?
I volunteered around St. Pete and traveled with a Service Learning course to Southeast Asia - Burma, Thailand, and Laos. While there, we heard from a number of organizations on the economic and sociopolitical situations in the three countries. We then worked in villages to repair a road, dig a water reservoir, plant a mangrove orchard, aid a literacy project and build a health clinic. For my Quest for Meaning project, I worked in the office of a Nicaraguan aid organization.
In what ways did your service experience change you or cause a transformation in your thinking, values or degree/career choice?
My trip to Asia had a huge impact on my thinking and my life choices. Upon returning, I changed my major from Theatre to Economics and began working toward a career in ending poverty, the exploitation of people and the planet. I got involved in a lot of activism, including the effort to secure fair wages for the maintenance and hospitality workers on our own campus. Service Learning illuminated the interconnectedness of lives and actions that seem disparate, and embedded that understanding in all of my choices.
Please describe your most significant or important service experience while at Eckerd.
The moment I carry with me today is when my classmates and I were boarding a boat on the Irrawaddy river in Burma, and waving goodbye to the village children that we had been playing with for the past few days. We had taught them how to hold up two fingers, tilt their heads to the side, and say "Peace!" just like we did. They probably thought that just meant goodbye, but did it over and over as it never failed to earn them laughs from our entire group. As we boarded the fishing boat, we yelled "Peace!" to these kids, sharing with them the only word we both knew. But later I realized that some of these village children would likely learn all the implications, and shortcomings, of the vision in that one word. That cheerful goodbye we taught them would forever be a disappointment if we didn't work with them to achieve it. I have a perfect mental picture of one young girl, and her small hand making a little peace sign, that sits as a reminder in my mind of why I do all of the work I've since chosen.
If you are a graduate, what sort of service do you now do?
I'm currently completing my masters degree in Global Affairs and Peace Economics at NYU. My work explores how to unite peacebuilding and economic development in the many places that need it, including here in the US. I just returned from a trip to Cuba, I'm about to embark on another to Mexico, and I have plans to start an organization that will build peaceful economies in the Americas. I'm also an activist for economic and environmental justice. I see everything I do, from direct action at Occupy Wall Street, to what food or clothing I buy, to my research, as being in the service of a better shared world. And this understanding is a direct result of my time at Eckerd.
What advice would you give to other current or entering Eckerd students about participating in service?
I went abroad with Service Learning because I was feeling lost about my own life choices. If you feel confused or out of ideas, service can introduce you to things you can't imagine on your own. Or if you feel really sure about what you know and believe in the world, try a service learning project to see if you're right. Working with new people, on a project you know little about, and entering a world you're unaccustomed to can really challenge you. You'll probably realize that you didn't know what you don't know. If you think that people are people no matter where they come from, you'll probably find that you're right. If you think you know how to solve the world's problems, you'll most likely find that you're wrong. But either way you'll learn something, and it will change you for the better.