Vira I. Heinz Scholarship recipient Danielle Shellgren spent six weeks in New Zealand studying tourism, marketing, and communications. Danielle began her program in Christchurch before traveling to St. Arnaud, Auckland, Gisborne, Rotorua, and Tongariro National Park during her first two weeks abroad. In each city she visited, Danielle met with various marketing and public relations professionals within the tourism industry at companies such as Te Puia Maori cultural experience and Maori school, Tourism New Zealand, Christchurch Canterbury Tourism, and Weta Workshop. After the expedition across New Zealand's north and south islands, Danielle lived in Wellington for four weeks where she served as a communications and marketing intern for Dwell Housing Trust. Dwell is a non-profit organization that works to provide safe, affordable housing for individuals in need. During her time at Dwell, Danielle worked on a variety of challenging and exciting projects including writing web content, designing social media posts, developing Dwell's values and mission statement, and adjusting their communications plan. Interning at Dwell helped Danielle to gain valuable experience working in communications and marketing while learning about New Zealand's current housing crisis and homelessness epidemic. As Danielle engaged with her internship hosts and professors, she noticed that many Kiwis have a significantly more self-starting attitude than many Americans, encouraging Danielle to develop her creative thinking skills and take initiative rather than asking for direction. During her free time in New Zealand Danielle explored Wellington's surrounding beaches, rode the Wellington Cable Car up to the Botanic Gardens, swam in a natural hot pool, visited several art galleries and museums, and attended a rugby game. Danielle especially enjoyed learning about Maori history and culture, and the ways in which Maori symbols, language, and beliefs are incorporated into the broader Kiwi culture. Ultimately, Danielle returned to the United States with a wealth of knowledge in the field of marketing and communications, as well as a readiness to apply what she learned to her projects in a creative manner.
CEE Title: Human Library on Sexual Assault
The 2017 Washington & Jefferson College cohort hosted a Community Engagement Experience titled “The Human Library on Sexual Assault.” Sexual Assault is a prominent issue on W&J’s college campus, and unfortunately it is a problem that is not taken seriously by members of the student body. Sexual assault has influenced the lives of each member of the cohort—Danielle Shellgren, Alex Scalise, and Tara O’Toole—in a different way, therefore, they feel very passionately about ending sexual assault and supporting other survivors. The W&J cohort decided to use their CEE to start conversations about sexual assault on campus. Their goal was to humanize the issue of sexual assault and show students that it is far more than “1 in 4 women” who are affected—it is their classmates, members or their sororities and fraternities, their teammates, the people they see at the dining hall or at the library, and the people they see on our way to class. It is both the girl who is the life of the party and the boy standing in the corner keeping to himself. In order to accomplish their goal, the cohort gathered a group of strong, passionate survivors of sexual assault who were willing to share their stories, including two members of the W&J cohort. The human library was much like a real library in the sense that it was full of stories and information, but instead of books, the information came from people. The cohort organized three outstanding speakers and ten well-written, powerful letters at our event to show attendees that sexual assault is a real issue that can happen to anyone. Danielle, Alex, and Tara encouraged everyone to not be upset about the content of the event, but to allow it empower them and make them determined to end sexual assault on campus. In the end, the W&J cohort was able to create a positive atmosphere and supportive environment for people to tell their stories and enlighten others. The team received an outpouring of support and thanks after the event, and they feel like they were truly able to create a lasting impact on their campus community.