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“And even just being able to major in something like human rights as a discipline, it’s new and it’s been such a privilege to be able to focus so narrowly on it. ... It’s been so incredible to be able to study that here and say I’m about to have a human rights degree.” —Jessica Swanson CC’17
While at the College, Jessica Swanson CC'17 found ways to take her passions about human rights and mental health issues on and off campus – and even abroad.
Classes revolving around race and ethnicity, such as Introduction to Latino Studies with Frances Negrón-Muntaner, professor of English and comparative literature, and Narrative and Human Rights with Joseph Slaughter, associate professor of English and comparative literature, helped shape Swanson’s decision to become a human rights major, she said. Her global experiences – one studying art in Venice, Italy thanks to a Presidential Global Fellowship, and another studying indigenous peoples and globalization in Cuzcu, Peru – also connected her more deeply with the theories taught in the Core Curriculum.
As co-chair of the Student Wellness Project, Swanson helped plan events to motivate students during final exams and participated in a walk on suicide awareness and prevention. “It’s been a really great space for me to examine my own mental health and the health of others on campus,” she said.
Swanson also channeled her energy to helping students on campus register to vote and planning events for the College Democrats. As an intern at the National Organization for Women in Fall 2016, Swanson conducted research on sexual assault for NOW-NYC. In her sophomore year, she worked on gentrification issues as an intern with Brooklyn City Council Member Juumane Williams, localizing an issue prevalent in cities across the country.
“To apply my learning outside of the classroom has been really fulfilling,” Swanson said.
Following graduation, she will be a staff assistant in the Washington, D.C. office of Population Council, an international public health NGO, where she will work on Project SOAR (Supporting Operational AIDs Research).
“I’ve just had so many incredible experiences here as a student, and getting to explore with phenomenal professors, experts, activists – all the kinds of people you would want for an interdisciplinary view of these subjects. I’ve had opportunities to explore New York City. I imagine it’s rare that for a college class you would be assigned to visit a museum or gallery or opera, but here that’s so regular. And even just being able to major in something like human rights as a discipline, it’s new and it’s been such a privilege to be able to focus so narrowly on it. I think I will walk away from here with a perspective on rights issues I care about, violence against women and social justice, and hopefully that will help me as an advocate for a nonprofit. It’s been so incredible to be able to study that here and say I’m about to have a human rights degree.” —Jessica Swanson CC’17
Corinne Lestch SOA’18 is a freelance writer based in New York City. She has worked for the New York Daily News, where she received a Front Page Award from the Newswomen’s Club of New York, and is currently getting her M.F.A. in creative writing at Columbia's School of the Arts. She received a B.S. in journalism from Northwestern University in 2010.