Friday, May 30, 2014

Slow Down, Breathe and Reflect

How Does One Make History?

                                           After all the rain, a rainbow appears above Boston.

Today, Delegates and Student Ambassadors alike embarked on a trolley tour around Boston. This tour was one of two particular events that really allowed everyone to bond together. The first activity today was a dance in which we all learned a few easy steps to a dance led by a faculty member. I did not catch her name but she was delightful and everyone really enjoyed themselves.

As we rode through the city, we passed Columbus Park and our driver, John, told us the story of why there are 104 roses planted there. He told us that President John F. Kennedy's mother, Rose F. Kennedy, lived to be 104 years old (wow!) so 104 flowers are planted in her honor. This got me thinking, how does one make history?

This question does not have a definitive answer, but as we drove through Boston, I thought about it. History books most commonly document white men who have made an impact, whether it be positive or negative. Women and minorities are mostly excluded from the history books and, depending on the region in which the history book is published, there are biases in how history is reported. For example, in history books that were published in southern states of the United States, the Civil War is referred to as the War of Northern Aggression. I found this to be particularly interesting. In my opinion, reporting history through various lenses can sometimes divide a society. However, it is important to have other perspectives on history to understand the depth and influence of events. 

Having said this, a big theme that has come up in many of our sessions at Mount Holyoke College and Simmons College is women's role in history. We have talked about how women are just breaking the surface in their ability to make an impact on society. However, this is not to say that there are not plenty of women who have made incredible contributions to society during ages that were not as accepting of women in society.

Women have been climbing up the ladder, whether it be corporate or personal, for many years and they will only continue in this upwards direction. I have no doubt in my mind that women will continue to make progress in the world to change societal norms that exclude women from public service. 

Therefore, it is important that more women become involved in public service to both promote and mentor younger women to further other generations of women leaders. If more women become involved in public service, we can change the history books. No longer will history books be overcrowded with the faces of men. Instead, the history books will include, and have already begun to include strong women leaders who are paving the way for younger women leaders. 

As a disclaimer, I am a feminist who believes in equality for women, but I do not place the blame on men. As a society, we all have to work towards equality and to do this, we cannot just blame the opposite sex and expect to achieve our goal. We need to work together and this is something that is already starting to happen at both local and state levels.

At the end of the day and even during the day, it is important to step back and reflect on what you see. For me, I periodically do this because of my love of writing and poetry. But this act of reflection is a good habit to get into because it allows you to begin to appreciate the world and the people around you, or at least it has had this effect in my own experience. 

Also, sometimes reflections come to people at various times of the day. For me, I am most creative at night, or rather 12:45 a.m. today if I want to be exact... What I have learned is that I should not take my time in this life for granted and I think that is something we can all live by. (Also, I promise that this is not my application to become a preacher. ;) )

Goodnight (or technically good morning) and don't forget to look for the often times hidden rainbows in life.

Now is When We Make History...

Women Unite!                                                                              

Powerful women from 20 plus countries standing up and speaking out against injustices in Nigeria, where Nigerian girls are being held prisoner.                                                                                                                                                                  
Photo credit: Anyone who took a picture of us... too many to count or identify!

Nu and I standing in front of the Massachusetts State House for the release of Nigerian girls
Photo credit: Nu Myat Theingi Oo

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of traveling with Ashli Edwards, our Simmons Liason, and Maria Correa, one of the four Student Ambassadors from Mount Holyoke. We got up bright and early - we left around 6:15 a.m. - and got on the road headed to the Massachusetts State House to prepare for the delegates and speakers to arrive.

We stopped at Dunkin Donuts - THANK GOD ALMIGHTY FOR CAFFEINE AND BAGELS WITH CREAM CHEESE - and continued on our way with all sorts of materials and supplies. We met up with Judge Lynda Connolly to finish setting up before everyone arrived. When the delegates and student ambassadors arrived and gathered in front of the State House with our "Bring Back Our Girls" signs, that is when we began to make history.

Yesterday, four of the Nigerian girls who were abducted by Islamist gunmen on April 14 in their home village of Chibok in Nigeria escaped. The girls were taken by Boko Haram, a terrorist organization in northeastern Nigeria. Boko Haram originally abducted 276 girls but since then, 57 escaped, including the four girls who escaped recently, leaving a total of 219 girls still missing. The search is still on and people from all around the world continue to work towards the release of the remaining 219 girls. 

It was a solemn demonstration and the message was clear: as women from all around the world, we stand up for our fellow sisters in other countries, especially those in Nigeria who are being held prisoner. We are their voice. Bring them home.

Today, we continue our journey at Simmons College and it will be a slower, more low key day than yesterday, but learning will continue to happen and connections will continue to be made.

That is all for now. Until tomorrow...

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

As We Continue Our Journey...

Today was the last day that we spent at Mount Holyoke College (MHC), as we will be moving on to Simmons College tomorrow to continue our journey. I had never visited MHC prior to coming here for the Institute, but I am so happy that I had the opportunity to do so. The campus is incredibly beautiful and spacious and reminds me of my home back in Exeter, New Hampshire. (Also, Mount Holyoke's library looks like Hogwarts, the magical school that J.K. Rowling's fictional character Harry Potter attends.)

After finishing up my shift at 1 p.m, I finally had the opportunity to visit Abbey Chapel, which is this tall (again, Hogwarts-looking) building next to the library. I decided to walk in and check it out, feeling the tourist in me and I am really happy that I acted on that impulse to walk into that chapel.

I walked in and, after having been in the cold and breathing really heavily, I immediately felt a sense of peace fall over me like water might fall on one's head in the shower. My breathing was calmer. That was when I realized that no one else was in the chapel. I was alone.

As a disclaimer, I am not overly-religious. In fact, I struggle with my faith. I was brought up Catholic and I have a hard time connecting with the religion, but spirituality is something that I think I have a handle on. (Don't worry, this whole post won't just be on me going into the chapel.) I entered the chapel and felt as though my feet were closer to the ground somehow, as if I were in the process of being planted inside of the building.

Coming to the chapel really centered me. The concept of being centered is difficult to explain. In fact, I don't think that I even quite understand it, but to me, it means feeling a sense of wholeness in the moment and having control over that wholeness.

My trip to the chapel reminded me that even with all the various and numerous tasks we have floating around in our brains and all of the people who demand so much from us, it is important to make sure that we are feeding our own souls. We need to take care of ourselves, whether that be retail therapy or having a Snicker's bar, because you aren't yourself when you're hungry (and yes, that was a plug for Snicker's).

As we move forward to the next part of our journey together, it is important to reflect on all of the connections we have made so far and will continue to make throughout the course of the Institute. Although not everything always goes according to plan, I know that all of us Student Ambassadors work together to make things work and to problem solve when we need to. We have each other's backs and that is what is important. We are a team. We are Simmons, Smith and Mount Holyoke, but together we are one.

Tomorrow morning we begin our Simmons portion of our journey (HOORAY!). Since Erin O'Connor, Ashli, Maria and I have to leave here by 6:15 a.m. tomorrow morning, there will be a mandatory coffee run.

Goodnight and sweet dreams (no pun intended) of iced mocha coffees and glazed donuts...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Welcome to My Blog!

Greetings and Welcome to the Women in Public Service Project

                                    Photo credit:

If you are reading this, it means that you have found my blog, which is about the Women in Public Service Project Institute: Reconstructing Societies in the Wake of Conflict - Transitional Justice and Economic Development. I am a Student Ambassador representing Simmons College and I have decided that it is important to record my experience in working with such incredibly talented women for the next few weeks.

To start off, I will give you a brief background on myself. I am a rising sophomore at Simmons College studying Communications with a concentration in public relations and marketing communications. I entered Simmons believing I would major in journalism because of my love for writing but I changed gears when I realized that I could put my analysis skills of literature to use in the public relations field.

Since I came to Simmons, I have realized that I can be a leader. Being a part of this institute is very important to me because I am learning about other leadership styles while developing my own. I am indeed the youngest Student Ambassador out of the 12 students from Smith College, Mount Holyoke College and of course Simmons College.

I have been assigned five delegates and I could not be more happy to be their Student Ambassador. I have helped other delegates as well in many different ways, from troubleshooting their computer problems, helping them into their rooms to, for many of the women, welcoming them to Boston for the first time. Prarthana, from Mount Holyoke College, worked with me to meet and greet the first two batches of delegates in the airport, which was an amazing experience. These women are so accomplished and have so much passion in their hearts for justice. They are compassionate and I feel so blessed to work with them.

Among the other Student Ambassadors, I feel like there is a sisterhood that has formed. We work very well together and even thought we come from different colleges, four from each college, we come together seamlessly. I feel very honored to work with each and every one of them.

Stay tuned. More to come...