While abroad in Morocco, Maria was able to travel the country, take a course on Islamic Politics, and a course discussing women’s rights in Morocco, as well as working at Al Amal pour le Développement et Formation, an NGO which focuses on women’s education and economic development. The time she speant at Al Amal was truly formative for her, as it combined her academic passions of Women and Gender Studies, and international studies, with real life experiences of how these two subjects intersect. This experience has only pushed Maria more to continue with her professional goals of working as a human rights lawyer, and eventually as a director of an NGO. In her classes and while traveling, she was forced to find a greater confidence in herself and her ability to succeed – even in much different environments and situations than she had known previously. While working as an English language instructor at Al Amal, she was able to practice her Arabic and French language skills while working with women and children involved with the center. This experience has had a lasting impact on Maria’s perception of her ability to lead, to grow, and to persevere through times of insecurity.
CEE Title: Kiss my HarASSment
Chatham's 2017 Vira I Heinz cohort presented their Community Engagement Experience (CEE) Kiss my HarASSment on January 12th, 2018. This event focused on the experiences of Kelly O'Donnell, Carina Stopenski, and Maria Taylor while studying and working abroad during the summer of 2017, and the types of sexual harassment they have witnessed both abroad and locally to Pittsburgh. O'Donnell opened the evening program thanking everyone for coming despite the weather, explaining the importance of our program, and giving a content warning to the sensitive subjects we would be discussing. Following her introduction, she spoke regarding her positive experiences studying abroad, and also of workplace harassment she experienced while interning at a marketing company Ireland. She then gave the audience constructive tips from Chatham's Career Development Office on identifying and navigating situations of workplace harassment. Following her presentation, there was a 10-minute round table discussion structured by questions left at each table on the topic of workplace harassment. The presentation resumed after the short discussion to Stopenski's presentation on institutional harassment they have experienced both in Pittsburgh and in South Africa, the location they studied in this past summer. Assisting Carina with local and campus resources on institutional harassment, Betsy Warren Chatham's Green Dot program coordinator spoke to her efforts within the university to address types of harassment. This was followed by again by a 10-minute round discussion on the participant’s experiences and thoughts on institutional harassment. Reeling in the discussion, Taylor spoke about her experiences studying and working abroad in Morocco and the street harassment she had witnessed during her time aboard, and the street harassment she has experienced in Pittsburgh. Sergeant Madison, a police officer who serves Chatham's campus assisted Taylor and gave resources to the participants on what to do when being harassed on the street. Following the format established by O’Donnell and Stopenski, a 10-minute round table discussion followed with questions provided at each table. Taylor concluded the evening with closing remarks, thanking all of the speakers, her campus coordinator, fellow awardees and the Vira I Heinz Program for continuing their mission in assisting underprivileged college age women become global citizens.