Keeley Thomas

International Experience Country:
Cohort Year:
Home Institution:

University of Pittsburgh | Oakland

Keeley Thomas is currently a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in Economics with a minor in Film and Media Studies and a certificate in Geographic Information Systems. She is a member of the Women in Economics Club, Drama Club, and the League of Emerging Analytics Professionals. She also is an employee with Campus Recreation as an intramural soccer referee. In her free time, she enjoys working on and attending Pitt Stages productions, writing screenplays and short stories, and singing. Keeley finds interest in discussing how social issues and economics intersect each other, and her favorite podcasts to listen to are Up First and Marketplace from NPR. She is interested in studying the impact of economic policy in Latin America as well as the Spanish language. 
International Experience Summary:

Keeley Thomas had the opportunity to spend six weeks in Colombia with the School for International Training’s “Building a Culture of Peace'' program. Her experience in the country was divided between two locations and their corresponding rural homestays: the historic port city of Cartagena, Colombia, and the town of Sincerin in Bolívar, Colombia. She studied the process of peacebuilding in the historical context of the country as well as the Spanish language. Her time in Cartagena was split between Spanish classes at Centro Catalina Spanish School in the morning and seminars on the social dynamics of peacebuilding and reconciliation in the afternoon, where she studied with a small group of seven other students from the United States. During a weekend excursion to Santa Cruz de Mompox, a colonial town located along the Magdalena River, she and her group visited San Sebastián and learned about the history of violence in the area and the exploitation of land for the sake of said violence. Program excursions were facilitated by the Fundación por la Educación Multidimensional, or FEM, a non-profit organization based in Cartagena that works to dismantle historical inequities in the surrounding areas through sustainable development projects and the acknowledgment of salient stakeholders. 

During her rural homestay in Sincerin, Keeley attended multiple workshops facilitated by the town’s “consejo communitario,” or community council, a body advocating for recognition and aid from a municipal government that has otherwise abandoned them. Her group’s final project consisted of devising a community development plan and connecting the town of Sincerin with resources in the neighboring metropolis of Cartagena. Keeley left Colombia not only with a new understanding of the peacebuilding process, but also with how intersecting identities of gender, race, and ethnicity are paramount to the operation and success of such an endeavor.

Community Engagement Experience Summary:

CEE Title: “Who Am I?: Discovering Intersectionality”

Our CEE, a workshop titled “Who Am I?: Discovering Intersectionality” attempted to provide first-year students with an introductory understanding of intersectionality theory and spark conversation about intersectionality manifests in their daily lives. Intersectionality, though ubiquitous in our daily lives, is a topic often not discussed, if at all, until students enter college. We believe that an understanding of how social identities (ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, first language, physical, emotional, & developmental (dis)ability, age, religious or spiritual affiliation, and race) generate advantageous and disadvantageous situations with varying degrees of privilege is important for students to understand, especially at this transitional period in their lives. Intersectionality theory is a way of understanding how different social and political identities can intersect and sometimes compound one another, creating societal advantages and disadvantages. It is a way of understanding the world not only on an intrapersonal level, but also an interpersonal level.  

We began our workshop with an introduction of the facilitators and provided a content warning, as some of the topics discussed within the workshop could be considered emotionally triggering or awkward for some people. We asked attendees to write on a provided slip of paper what they believed the definition of intersectionality to be and had them set it aside for later. Then, attendees completed the personal identity wheel, which included identities such as favorite music, one skill you are proud of, favorite movie, favorite book, favorite food, favorite hobby, favorite color, personal motto, number of siblings, and birth order to introduce participants to the idea of self-identifying attributes. We then moved onto the social identity wheel, which contained much more serious and salient identities than the personal identity wheel, and we used guided questions to facilitate conversation. One facilitator then read aloud a series of questions and tasked participants with initialing the poster with the corresponding social identity such as, “What part of your identity do you think people first notice about you?” We then asked some debriefing questions before moving onto the privilege walk, where participants were to take a step forward or back depending on the statement that the facilitator read aloud. Finally, we asked the debriefing questions that corresponded with the privilege walk and concluded by having attendees reflect on their initial definition of intersectionality and whether they would amend it.