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Elizabeth Prager

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Bio Summary
Cohort Year: 
2016
Home Institution: 
University of Pittsburgh-Bradford
Heinz Programming Area: 
Environment
Study Abroad Country: 
Bonaire
International Experience

Fully submerged in the Dutch Caribbean, Elizabeth Prager spent eight weeks scuba diving on the island of Bonaire studying its marine ecosystem. Living at the housing sight of her field station, Elizabeth spent countless hours underwater surveying, studying, and learning about all the organisms found in the Caribbean and how they affect the economy around them. By living in an area with ten other individuals for this extended period of time she learned how to better herself and become more open and patient to many new cultures and people from all over the world, not just Bonaire. During her time there she conducted a research project with two other students, which they then presented to the community. Elizabeth also learned about how much of an impact diving and tourism has on the economy and environment of Bonaire. During a camping trip that Elizabeth and her fellow researchers took, they camped at the national park. Here they climbed to the highest part of the island, learned about its rich culture and history, met the governor of the island and his family, and spent an evening hunting for fluorescence scorpions. One the most enjoyable moments of Elizabeth’s experience was when herself and fellow students volunteered to do ocean cleanups. During one particular clean up, at the main pier, Elizabeth and 121 other divers collected over 9,000 cubic feet of trash under the pier. For her, this was one of the most eye opening moments of her trip. She saw so many people helping each other instead of judging each other. She saw this as a time when there was no negativity only passion to work towards a common goal of improving the environment. During her stay in Bonaire Elizabeth not only learned about how special it is to be a female diver, but also how unique it is to be a certified scientific diver in the marine community. In the free time that she had, Elizabeth spent learning about the native language, Papiamentu, helping spread shark and sea turtle conservation awareness, and exploring the rich culture and areas on the island.

Community Engagement Experience
CEE Title: 
Fabrications in Films

My cohort and I presented our CEE titled, Fabrications in Films and Shows, to many students, faculty, and staff on our campus. Our event was presented in a round table style with short videos and prompts to spark discussions with our small groups. We discussed six major types of cultural stereotypes and how they impact each of us, those around us, and the culture and community we live in. Before each prompt was given a short informational slide was shown and discussed so that participants would have background information. Additionally, this information was discussed so that each person would have time to understand, adjust, and take a moment to reflect on the struggles of individuals who are stereotyped or oppressed. Next, the prompt was given and a video that portrayed a specific stereotype was played. For many individuals, the stereotypes we presented resonated with them; the personal connection these individuals had led the groups into very in-depth and emotional discussion. Furthermore, the personal atmosphere that the small groups created helped solidified our message by giving each person an emotional connection rather than having someone talk at them while pointing at a power point slide. At the end of our CEE we had a whole room discussion to let individuals talk about what they learned and if they felt our CEE was effective. During this time, we got very serious and positive feedback about how many participants felt that a curtain had been lifted and the world of film had been exposed as harsh, unrealistic, and manipulative. Everyone walked out of the CEE with a new perspective and a goal to think deeper about what they were watching on television and take an extra second to think critically before judging someone else.

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