McKenna Emery studied Art History in Florence, Italy for five weeks through Academic Programs International. While studying Art History, McKenna was exposed to over 2000 years of art, including sculptures, frescos, and architecture. She was also able to apply what she learned in a traditional classroom setting by visiting numerous sites in Italy containing the original pieces discussed. McKenna gained a new appreciation for art and found herself watching the artist’s on the street with amazement and in awe of David by Michael Angelo and Donatello’s Annunciation. During her stay in Florence, McKenna lived in Piazza Santa Croce, a very lively and active part of the city, and her apartment was located right beside the Santa Croce Church, which was built in 1295. In McKenna’s spare time she would often wander the streets of Florence, finding small shops where she would talk to the owners and get to know their way of life. One of her favorite shops to visit held a variety of gifts that were hand-made by a local craftsman. McKenna would often watch the craftsman’s daughter as she painted the gifts free-hand in the shop. She was fascinated by the young woman’s skill and inspired by her passion to create, display, and sell the small pieces of art she made with her father. Through her observations and interactions with the young woman, McKenna gained an appreciation of local arts, meticulous attention to detail, and the value of tourism in the Hospitality Industry.
Another one of her favorite spots to visit was a local coffee shop where she could enjoy the Italian cuisine and conversations around her, as well as study the nearby buildings discussed in her art history course. While at the coffee shop she had time to form friendships with the workers, getting to know their way of life and their view on the Hospitality Industry. Discussions at the café opened her eyes to what this industry offers at different levels and in different cultures. On weekends, McKenna was able to travel to various locations in Italy, including Venice, Verona, Padua, Pisa, and Rome. She was also able to hike three villages in Cinque Terre. One of McKenna’s most important immersive experiences abroad was seeing the Pope outside the Vatican, driving through the crowd before praying for peace. The way the people in the crowd reacted to the Pope was inspiring. Their devotion and love for him and their religion could not be misinterpreted even with the language barrier. Being at the Vatican and seeing Pope Francis was a deeply moving religious experience and one she will never forget.
The Vira I. Heinz Scholarship recipients from the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford organized a Community Engagement Experience entitled, "Ladies Leading Locally." As the beneficiaries of this scholarship, it was the goal of the group to develop an event through which experiences and insights gained though the Vira I. Heinz scholarship program could be shared with the campus and community. Additionally, it was the desire of the recipients to create an event that would focus on women leaders, the relationship between the campus and the community of Bradford, and the application of knowledge gained from being a hospitality major. The event began as a round table discussion accompanied by a light international tasting, which showcased a portion of the experiences the hosts had abroad. After the round table discussions and international tastings, the group moderated a panelist discussion with the women leaders who were present. During the discussion, questions were asked that related to issues women face at school and at work, how to build leadership skills as a woman in our ever-changing world, and how to prepare for and foster meaningful careers.
By creating and hosting this event, the VIH recipients from the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford were able to foster professional relationships, inspire a new generation of young women to strive for leadership positions, and raise awareness of prominent issues facing women in the workforce. Though they set out as young academics with a common goal of uniting the campus and community through their CEE, the Vira I. Heinz recipients found themselves breaking down barriers and growing in truly unexpected ways. All of the panelists, while different, had similar stories that embraced creativity, equality, balance, and leadership. A recurring theme throughout the evening was the value of having a network of relationships that promotes success and growth. The panelists expressed the importance of having a mentor and encouraged all those present to act as mentor for other young women in the future. The feedback of the young women in attendance was incredibly positive and the Vira I. Heinz recipients were successful in sharing a portion of their life-changing experiences with a broader community of engaged young women.