University of Pittsburgh | JohnstownHeinz Programming Area:
As a Vira I. Heinz Scholarship recipient, Halee traveled to the island of Sicily, Italy for four weeks. In Italy, Halee took courses in Greek archaeology and masterpieces of classical literature. She studied the relationship between ancient Mediterranean epic poems and the composition of archaeological remains found in these regions. From this, she gained insight into how works of art are often a product of the most influential events of a given time – just as it still happens today. Halee befriended numerous locals in the small city of Ortygia and found herself becoming part of a diverse network of travelers, scholars, and musicians. She chose to use her interest in music as a tool for further immersion into Italian culture. At an event titled Ortigia in Folk, she experienced a rich presentation of old Sicilian songs accompanied by explanations of their traditional significance and even had the honor of participating in one of the dance numbers with the troupe of performers. In her free time, Halee found additional ways to engage with the musical community of Sicily. She spent several afternoons at a family-owned music shop where she conversed with the owner about the business’s history and learned how to play a part of a classical Sicilian song on guitar. In the evenings, Halee frequently attended live music events at a local jazz club called Punto G. The people here came to feel like an extension of her family as stories were shared about adventures had and dreams wished. On two occasions, she was given the opportunity to perform small solo sets – playing guitar and singing – for the audience of the establishment. Because of these experiences and the lasting friendships made, it’s no wonder that Halee wants to return to Sicily in the future with hopes of continuing to assimilate the complex and intriguing social system of Italy.
CEE Title: Privilege Walks & Talks
The Privilege Walks & Talks event, held on November 29, 2018 at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, was hosted by VIH awardees Kayla Soltis and Halee Sesock. The goal of this Community Engagement Experience was to bring together different groups of people from the Pitt-Johnstown campus to collectively discuss and interact with the concept of privilege. By bringing together a diverse pool of participants, the hope was that a dialogue would be opened about this under-discussed topic. The activity was conducted in a manner that allowed for all opinions to be considered equally. Prior to the privilege walk, a brief description of privilege was provided. At the onset of the privilege walk activity, individuals were asked to form a single-file line across the center of the conference room in which the event was being hosted. Then, participants were instructed to step either forward or backward depending on how their personal history related to the statement about privilege that was being made. 30 such statements were made, and, by the end of the activity, people were spread out across the floor space. This created a visual representation of the abstract concept of privilege. After everyone involved returned to their seats, a discussion began to debrief the activity. The main goal of Privilege Walks & Talks was to illustrate how privilege, or the lack thereof, can take on many forms and affect people's lives in a variety of ways. The anticipated impact was to allow people to practice acknowledging privilege in themselves and others so that they may be more considerate of it as they encounter new experiences throughout life.