Katrina Lenhart volunteered at an ecolodge/Galápagos giant tortoise refuge on Isabela Island in the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador for four weeks. She assisted the locally-run ecolodge with its daily functions, and her tasks included providing basic care for a baby Galápagos giant tortoise, feeding the giant tortoises, cleaning the tortoise enclosure, educating visitors about the tortoises, and assisting with the construction of a lagoon in the giant tortoise area at the lodge. During her time volunteering at the ecolodge, she became close to one of the women who worked at the lodge and a man she assisted daily, and she was able to forge friendships and ongoing pen pal relationships with her coworkers. Through daily interactions with her coworkers, she was immersed in the culture of the Galápagos Islands and even had the opportunity to experience an authentic Galápagos Islands meal when the man she assisted – a grandfather figure for Katrina – invited her and her volunteer friend from Chile to his rural house for a dinner. In addition, Katrina was able to partake in a conversation partnership with her host mother where Katrina taught her host English and the host taught Katrina Spanish. Through this interaction, Katrina was able to create a close, enduring friendship with her host mother, and she was able to help her host mother’s local businesses by helping the employees improve their English skills. She realized through these interactions with her friends and host mother that conservation is a human issue that impacts people deeply and that small actions, such as helping another person learn English, can have big impacts. Katrina’s time in the Galápagos Islands helped her prepare for a conservation career that she hopes will take her back to South America many times and helped her realize a lifelong dream of visiting the archipelago. Experiencing a giant tortoise refuge in the Galápagos Islands taught Katrina a great deal about global conservation methods and will help her achieve her goal of conserving endangered and threatened species in the future. Additionally, Katrina hopes to utilize her realization that conservation efforts are very successful when they involve the locals to save imperiled marine species in the future.
CEE Title: Until All of Us Have Made It
“Until All of Us Have Made It” was a panel discussion hosted by the 2015 Washington & Jefferson College cohort consisting of Katrina Lenhart, Kerry McGowen, and Emily Sterk. While abroad with the support of the Vira I. Heinz Program for Women in Global Leadership, each cohort member witnessed privilege in a different way. As a result, the women of this cohort wanted to create a platform for their college community to discuss how the construct of privilege pervades everyday life. With the help of panelists Eva Chatterjee-Sutton, Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students; Dr. Candy DeBerry, an associate professor of Biochemistry; and Dr. Tara Fee, an associate professor of English, a discussion was opened that addressed the concept of privilege based on race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status. Prior to the panel discussion, audience members and panelists were led through an activity entitled the Privilege Walk that allowed each individual to recognize their personal degree of privilege. This activity also provided a practical demonstration of how privilege leads to stratification within American society. Following the Privilege Walk, an hour long panel discussion occurred in which the panelists discussed how the privilege systems within America impact their careers, their relationships, their everyday lives, and their roles as women leaders. The panelists addressed the audience directly and provided the audience with advice on how to professionally confront instances of discrimination or harassment brought about by privilege systems. Privilege system based obstacles faced by panelists on their leadership journeys and methods by which these obstacles were overcome were also topics of the panel. Audience members were inspired to question the panelists and to share their opinions on the matter of how privilege shapes the undergraduate college experience. During this Q&A portion of the panel, various members of the audience questioned other audience members about the issue of privilege, as well. A resulting educational and peaceful conversation on privilege at Washington & Jefferson College developed within the audience and continued after the official closing of the panel. By the conclusion of the CEE, the audience – which consisted of both students and faculty members – was motivated to raise awareness about how privilege affects everyone’s lives, both on campus and on the larger, global scale.