Monday, November 8, 2010

Final Reflection on the 2010 Symposium for Social Action

I got in bed last night at about 12:20 AM Eastern Time after doing some homework and writing my blog. My roommates and I were still pumped up from the endless ideas running through our heads and the excitement of meeting new people. A few minutes after we said goodnight, we were all lying in silence when I suddenly popped up from my pillow and asked one of them, “Isabel, how did you get involved in photojournalism?”

When Isabel and I introduced ourselves on the first day of the Symposium, she mentioned that she had taken “Leadership and Photojournalism/Documentary Filmmaking” through Summer@Brown, and that her Action Plan involves composing a photo essay telling the stories of low-level workers at a nearby branch of a big corporation. She was surprised by the seemingly random question, but I had a purpose behind it.

Isabel lives in San Francisco, and I live just across the bay with easy access to BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) trains and Transbay buses. She said that she became interested in photojournalism through a National Geographic seminar about photo essays, and her passion grew from there. After some more discussion across the beds, she agreed to document my Action Plan once it progressed some more. I reciprocated by offering to help her with her Plan in any way needed. The conversation expanded to  include my other roommate and a larger discussion of the differences in the cultures of our schools and cities. I think we finally went to bed around 1:15!
The view from the fourth floor of J. Walter Wilson student resources building 

We groggily checked out of the inn this morning before breakfast and rushed over to Wilson Hall for the events of the day. I barely had time to grab some fruit and a scone before a 23-year old named Scott was introduced to us. He just graduated from Brown this past year and was involved with STAND (an anti-genocide organization) through his interest in Darfur. He also created an “action-based curriculum” for use in colleges and high schools across the country that emphasizes the effective implementation of service learning in schools.

I was so moved by his account of the faith that people like the Kenyans had in their future even after the incredible atrocities that they had lived through – and his own determination in the face of frustrations and mistakes - that I started to cry. I was outraged because the common Kenyan people were so involved in making their country better that 75% voted in their second democratic elections ever, while about 40% of Americans voted this past Tuesday. I was outraged because the service-learning requirement in our school is carried out in ways that are, frankly, filled with corruption, dishonesty, and a complete lack of connection between the service and the learning. But I was inspired by the fact that Scott is only a few years older than me and started something so important that has been so successful. He has made countless mistakes that have seemed like they were going to derail his whole project, yet he has persevered and kept his eyes on his goals.

Next we split up into groups to reflect on what we learned from the Symposium and recognize that it was time to go home and work harder than ever! Too soon, the Symposium was officially over.

The semi-famous window of Faunce House on the street side of the quad

Dean Rose and Lexi had decided not to hire any official clean-up staff in order to save money for the actual Symposium programming. So, my friends and I volunteered for the clean-up. We were supposed to dump out several liter-sized containers of coffee and multiple trays of cookies and fruit into the trash (what a waste). I thought that a better idea would be to walk out onto the quad and see if any hungry college students would want the food. All the food was in good hands by the time I was done running around in the cold air and enthusiastically advertising it around Wilson Hall. Mission accomplished!

Different offices in the student resource centers. Although the two communities depicted (LGBTQ and religious) may seem almost like polar opposites, a "Safe Space" sticker to show support of LGBTQ people was displayed on the door of the chaplains' office.

Finally, it was time for the last goodbyes. I hugged everyone – Dean Rose, Lexi, my old friends, and my new friends. We will keep in contact and continue supporting each other’s efforts, whether they are our official Action Plans or any other type of project. Though I am leaving Providence, my motivation is stronger than ever and I am ready to change the world.

I would like to thank everyone involved with the Ivy League Connection (sponsors, organizers, alumni, counselors, chaperones, teachers, professors, my parents, and my fellow students) because I have needed you along every single step of the way since I have become involved with this program. You all have gone out of your way and been so generous with your time and effort. Thank you for having faith in my success.


  1. Irene,

    I think I became most proud of you when I read about how you took the refreshments out to the other students instead of tossing them. Brava to you.

    And, like many of the blog posts, you provided me with a reason to research even further. Now I need to learn what makes the Faunce House Window semi-famous.

  2. After I had given away the coffee and the cookies, Dean Rose bet me that I couldn't get rid of the fruit; but I gave that away too! I'm just glad that the food went to people who would use it.

    I'm not sure what makes it semi-famous either, haha. I've seen several framed antique photos of it, though, so it's probably some kind of landmark at Brown.