Breanna Gleason

International Experience Country:
Cohort Year:
Home Institution:

Washington & Jefferson College

Heinz Programming Area:
Arts and Culture
International Experience Summary:

Breanna Gleason studied at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, with a focus on Irish Studies over the course of seven weeks. She developed a deep understanding for both historical and contemporary issues in Ireland. Through a series of lectures and seminars, her focus within Irish Studies concentrated on Economy and Society, History, Literature, Drama, Gaelic Culture, and Visual Culture. Apart from the lectures and seminars, her historical and contemporary understandings of Ireland were accelerated by cultural events and study field trips. These trips ranged from poetry and prose readings, theatre performances, film screenings, art gallery tours, traditional music sessions and a visit to Croke Park to attend a Gaelic football game. Both the cultural events and study field trips significantly contributed to her understanding of the Irish culture and were illustrative of the differences between the Republic and Northern Ireland. Breanna was able to gain better insight to the Northern Irish culture after spending a week studying at Queens University. Despite the short amount of time she spent there, it was during the most hostile moments of the year in Northern Ireland, known as the marching season. During this time there are various marches communally celebrating a symbolic assertion of Protestant power over Catholics. Thus, resulting in large amounts of protests, in response to these marches. After observing the ongoing tensions amongst the Protestant and Catholic communities, she inquired how the conflict would be resolved. Subsequently, chosen out of twenty-two students within her program, Breanna was then given the opportunity to pose her questions concerning the antagonistic environment in front of the Northern Irish Parliament, Stormont. This opportunity enabled her to gain great insights involving the Northern Irish people, culture, policies and lifestyle. Following her trip, she would be able to better distinguish between North of Ireland and the Republic by visiting the Irish Republic’s Parliament, Dial. Since her return, she has started preparing for mentoring a class focusing on the “Troubles” of Northern Ireland. Throughout the course, she will have the chance to incorporate her knowledge of Irish Studies obtained while studying at both Trinity College and Queen’s University. Beyond the academic aspect of Breanna’s international experience, both her leadership skills as well as her global mindset have greatly benefited due to the numerous opportunities provided.

Community Engagement Experience Summary:

CEE Title: Smash up the Stereotypes

The purpose of “Smash up the Stereotypes,” was to encourage local teens, college students and directors of diverse organizations and departments to realize that they have the power to change the environment in which they live in, locally and globally, by fighting against stereotypes. In order to motivate individuals that they have the power to do so, a workshop entitled "Smash up the Stereotypes" was held at a local teen center to address the harmful effects of stereotyping. The stereotypes addressed during the workshop included, but were not limited to, non-conventional body types, racial and ethnicity issues, individuals with disabilities, members of the LGBT community, and college students. Additionally, the workshop focused on the conflict and divide that arises between different groups and classes as a result of stereotypes. The event was able to have a significant impact locally by reaching out and actively engaging with local teens, college students, directors and coordinators of student organizations. The purpose of inviting each of these individuals to “Smash up the Stereotypes” was to create a diverse environment and to give participants the opportunity to learn through perspectives different from their own. Throughout the workshop, effective communication and stories of overcoming adversity inspired and encouraged participants that they have the ability to invoke change by working together. Participants worked together in a series of small-group discussions, which allowed them the opportunity to share personal stories in relation to stereotypes and in witnessing their harmful effects on a society. Through effective communication and in-depth conversations, resolutions were created, tensions were resolved and questions were answered. Moreover, shared goals and experiences were discovered amongst the attendees creating an open and accepting environment. Although “Smash up the Stereotypes” took place locally, the ideas, values and perspectives shared at the event are applicable to any society affected by stereotypes. After the workshop local teens that attended verbalized that they were encouraged to host a similar event in the future because they felt it was so empowering. In an attempt to continue the fight against stereotypes outside of the teen center, tie-dye ribbons were passed out at the end that represented “smashing” stereotypes anywhere. Additionally, the ribbons were meant to be a reminder to those who attended the event that they too were now part of the team to fight against stereotypes. Subsequently, by distributing ribbons at the end of the workshop, individuals were able to show what they learned and pass it along to peers, family and friends to help continue the efforts against the harmful effects of stereotypes.  “Smash up the Stereotypes” served as motivation for attendees because it encouraged each individual that they have the power to invoke change in their environment regardless of age, race, gender or religion.