Zivya Sutton

International Experience Country:
South Africa
Cohort Year:
Home Institution:

Washington & Jefferson College

Heinz Programming Area:
Economic Opportunity
Zivya Sutton is in her second year at Washington & Jefferson college pursuing a double major in International Studies and Economics with a concentration in Conflict Resolution Studies. In addition to her studies, Zivya is an involved leader on the W&J campus. She is a member of the Student Government Association as the Secretary and student liaison to Academic Affairs, serves as a Matthew Brown Fellow, and was the Student Coordinator for new student orientation for the Fall of 2020. She is also involved in Greek life as well as several clubs and organizations. Zivya has always had a passion for growing as a leader and helping the community in which she lives. In 2011 she had her first experience volunteering by helping to create a therapeutic horseback riding program assisting individuals with disabilities. This experience inspired her to seek opportunities to become involved in community activities and organizations, some being Habitat for Humanity, Produce to People, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Her deepest passion is working on issues related to immigration rights and advocacy. This interest stemmed from a two-week travel course in Arizona during which Zivya participated in humanitarian aid training and worked with nonprofit organizations assisting migrant communities. Combining her academic interest and passion for enhancing the experience of others, she strives to continue to find opportunities to learn and grow.
International Experience Summary:

Zivya Sutton spent six weeks participating in The School for International Trainings (SIT) virtual course and internship in South Africa. The program was focused on International Relations, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolutions, all of which are topics that Zivya is passionate about. She selected this program because she had an initial curiosity to find commonalities between the north-centric customs she has grown up around and those in non-western societies in which she has less familiarity. However, the curiosity to find commonalities was quickly replaced by a curiosity to identify differences between the institutions she is accustomed to and those she knows less about. Zivya believes that identifying these differences can then allow individuals to appreciate unique qualities, see the beauty in diversity, and acknowledge that the western way of conducting politics and international relations should not be boasted as being dominant over others. The internship component of the course was through a partnership with the Institute for Global Dialogue (IGD), a think tank organization that explores how emerging southern powers relate to South Africa. IGD also analyzes South Africa’s position on the world stage. During the internship, Zivya researched one of Africa’s largest social, economic, and political development initiatives known as Agenda 2063. Following her, in-depth research, she then interviewed a youth civil society leader in South Africa.

The purpose of the interview was to gain insights into how well Agenda 2063, a policy that relies on youth cooperation is understood by young leaders within South African communities. The course with SIT and internship experience with IGD was enlightening and vital to her understanding of fundamental information regarding Africa’s current continental development initiatives as well as some of the country's political and economic challenges and triumphs. Learning about the context of South Africa and the country’s international as well as intercontinental relationships positioned students including Zivya to challenge their biases and engage with novel material.

Zivya's study abroad experience has helped her explore different career paths in which she can work to help others and bridge gaps. While she is unsure of what her future will hold, Zivya is passionate about finding ways to give back in a way that creates sustainable, equitable, and positive change no matter the scale.

Community Engagement Experience Summary:

Think Globally Act Locally: A Review of Diplomacy, International Relations, & Conflict Resolution in Political Unrest 

Shayla Watkins and I created a CEE program that involved an informational pamphlet as well as an in-person table on Washington and Jefferson Colleges campus. We talked with students, peers, and community members one on one about diplomacy, conflict resolution, and foreign relations. The VIH scholarship allowed Shayla and I to take the same course and internship over the summer of 2021 virtually in South Africa. Through our CEE discussions, we drew from our experiences over the summer virtual course centered around diplomacy and foreign relations. The course and internship taught us to reflect on how world events have the potential to shape local situations. It further showed us the need for and importance of being informed citizens to participate in politics through voting and to have meaningful discussions. In the planning stages of our CEE Shyla and I quickly noticed that the current events happening abroad connected to many events occurring within the United States. The Pandemic and challenges around getting various populations vaccinated is an issue that transcends borders. Although it has impacted communities in different ways, some more so than others, it is something that has both a large and small community effect. Wanting to connect our experiences over the summer to our local community we used our CEE to teach our peers about how understanding current events nationally and internationally can shape how they interact within their communities on a local level.  

During the CEE we further discussed the political and social unrest that took place in South Africa over the summer of 2021 due to South Africa’s former president, Jacob Zuma’s arrest. The United States like South Africa also saw unrest unfold in 2021 on separate occasions from the protests following the murder of George Floyd to the insurrection at the US Capitol Building in January. Our CEE was heavily focused on reflection and encouraging individuals to become active and engaged in their communities whether it be politically or socially. Our pamphlet provided individuals with thought-provoking questions that allowed them the space to ponder why being an active citizen, reading news objectively, and giving back to the community is not only important but also vital today. During our CEE I was able to connect with students I have not met before and share information regarding how those who are less familiar with reading the news and staying up to date with current events can inform themselves in an unbiased manner. I then transitioned to talk with those individuals about how understanding current events can make them informed and active members of society when it comes to voting in local elections, volunteering, or connecting with community members and organizations. There is a great need for younger generations to familiarize themselves with current events for them to become the leaders of today and tomorrow and our CEE sought to inspire our peers to act and find ways to become more engaged in both local and global affairs.