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Emily Sterk

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Bio Summary
Cohort Year: 
2015
Home Institution: 
Washington & Jefferson College
Heinz Programming Area: 
Arts & Culture
Study Abroad Country: 
Cuba
International Experience

Emily Sterk spent the past summer in Havana, Cuba and enrolled as a student at a satellite campus of the University of Havana. Her coursework focused on social revolutions across Latin America and the influence of revolution on the diverse Cuban culture. These courses inspired Emily to further investigate the form of censorship that has resulted from the Castro era and its effect on the country’s media outlets from print journalism to social media. She spoke with professors and students of journalism at the university about their media consumption and she had the opportunity to interview a journalist from El Granma, the main newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party. She observed that the national media and the government are closely intertwined and that the press oftentimes distorts the country’s true living and working conditions. The influence the government has on journalism restrains journalists from editorializing both domestic and international affairs and leaves the Cuban people with very little access to comprehensive reporting. Emily formed a better understanding of the role of the press within the Cuban government, and by comparison, the role and effect of the media in the United States. Emily was fortunate to be in Cuba during a pivotal time when relations between the island and the United States were slowly being reestablished. She discussed the complicated relationship between her home country and study abroad destination with local Cubans and saw connections start to rebuild, beginning with the formal reopening of embassies. The connections Emily formed with professionals within the field of journalism, her professors, and other students strengthened her ability to actively listen and connect with people across varying viewpoints. After speaking with individuals with differing beliefs and ideologies, she has developed a broader perspective and has become more willing to learn and understand new experiences that may not originally be within her comfort zone. Emily’s experience provided by the Vira I. Heinz Program for Women in Global Leadership has served as a building block for her as a Spanish speaker, a writer, and a global citizen. 

Community Engagement Experience
CEE Title: 
Until All of Us Have Made It

In December of 2015, the Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) cohort held a panel discussion entitled, “Until All of Us Have Made It.” The discussion focused on the concept of privilege based on a number of factors including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status. The panel also touched upon how privilege plays a role on women in leadership roles. Panelists included Eva Chatterjee-Sutton, Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students, Dr. Tara Fee, an associate professor of English, and Dr. Candy DeBerry, an associate professor of Biochemistry. To start off the event, the audience and panelists participated in an activity called the Privilege Walk. This activity enabled the audience to recognize the varying levels of privilege within W&J and to understand that privilege is based on a variety of factors. The Privilege Walk also provided a concrete and personal example for attendees new to the topic of privilege. Afterwards, the panelists engaged in an hour long conversation about privilege and how it has affected their lives as women in the workplace, home, and in their everyday lives. Together, the women panelists discussed some of the biggest obstacles they have faced throughout their lives as a result of privilege and stereotypes and responded to audience questions. Using their prior experiences and insights, the women offered advice to the audience on how to overcome obstacles in a professional manner. The panelists sparked conversation amongst the audience members, and they discussed how privilege shapes the college experience and the need for exposure to diversity as undergraduates. The students put forth ideas on how to make campus life at W&J more diverse both socially and academically in addition to being more conscious of the effects of privilege within modern society. 

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