Kayla Witkowski is a nursing student whose experience abroad entailed studying and volunteering in Ghana for seven weeks. During her studies of Faith and Reason in the most religious country of the world, she explored first-handedly how Ghanaians understand and engage Christianity, Islam, and African traditional religions. She also interned with The Sankofa Center, an HIV/AIDS prevention organization, where she participated in and conducted school and village outreaches. During this time, Kayla educated over 1500 students on HIV/AIDS while testing and counseling hundreds of Ghanaians for the virus itself. Aside from outreaches, Kayla built lasting friendships in the local markets, created an entirely new volunteer protocol from a medical standpoint, prayed alongside the archbishop to hundreds of Ghanaians, and earned a reputation for conducting general health assessments in her town. Due to her experience in Ghana, Kayla has been pursuing a career in travel nursing as well as striving to become a peer-reviewed author and influence in the National Student Nurses Association convention.
The Duquesne University Vira I. Heinz awardees conducted a community engagement experience exploring the reality of the double bind: “a psychological predicament in which a person receives, from a single source, conflicting messages that allow no appropriate response to be made.” Targeting an audience of all professional levels from students to faculty, the cohort facilitated discussions applying to personal, social, academic, and professional aspects of our lives. At each roundtable, the awardees presented a situation that was passionate to them and forwarded discussion amongst their peers, rotating roundtables every ten minutes. To begin, Shantale Davis portrayed how students are depicted in the classroom based on their appearance and body language. Arising questions such as if a student can only be successful if they look the part, Shantale allowed students to share how they overcome this bind in the classroom. Breeanna Powell depicted the double bind through the perspective of women in science. How are women viewed differently in science field and how can this cause limitation? Megan Wall then explored women in combat, arising debate regarding what it means to be a woman in combat and how the roles differ between men and women. Lastly, Kayla Witkowski explored the influence of social media as it applies to binding personalities; showing how much leverage the media has in subconsciously breaking our self-esteem in clips such as the “Hot and Crazy Matrix.”
After delving into the double bind through these wide varieties of situations, the cohort regrouped for a large discussion; finding that although the attendees were initially unaware of the term double bind, they had certainly experienced it. Through the cohort’s international studies in Costa Rica, Ghana, and the Dominican Republic, Shantale, Breeanna, Megan, and Kayla all learned that they had faced what seemed to be lose-lose situations. Starting with facilitating this community engagement experience, the cohort is proud to have raised awareness of the issue of the double bind and to have given back to the Pittsburgh community. Taking the first step in fighting the double bind, these Vira I. Heinz awardees concluded their event with an audience of lively participants eager to take initiative in their binding situations.