Katie Suter, Georgetown University Class of 2011, Special to the Pulitzer Center
When entering our Justice and Peace Studies class this past January, many of my classmates were excited about the prospect of learning various human rights and social justice theories. However, more than simply teaching us about the academic prospects associated with nonprofit work, Professor Rachel Stohl wanted us to get a hands-on approach to the field of Justice and Peace, starting with participating in the Pulitzer Center's Global Gateway initiative.
Participating in Global Gateway was most definitely rewarding for me, but presented its share of challenges. Using the Pulitzer Center's reporting as research, we were to design an awareness campaign and choose a target group, short-term and long-term strategies, and what information we were going to disseminate. This was the first challenge: getting started.
Our class split into groups of four of five according to what issue interested us. I selected the topic of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean, largely because I have been studying the Latin American region this year and have always been particularly passionate about the global aids epidemic.Having never participated in such an effort before, the very task of assembling a plan and narrowing down strategies was incredibly daunting. We had dozens of ideas, and our first few group meetings consisted of seemingly endless brainstorming.
Eventually, using the plight of the people in the Caribbean as our inspiration, my group centered on a few strategies:
• Creating a cause for our issue on the social networking site, Facebook
• Posting a Youtube video portraying the AIDS epidemic in the Caribbean region
• Fundraising for an HIV/AIDS charity through Georgetown's student run coffee shops
• Hosting an on-campus panel discussion on PEPFAR, the President's AIDS initiative, or an event during i-week in April, an on-campus Aids Awareness Week
Overall, we wanted to emphasize how the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region is especially underreported in the United States, even though the island of Hispaniola lies just two hours from American shores.
During the process of taking our ideas and plans and figuring out how to actually carry them out on campus, we encountered several obstacles. First, a member of our group dropped class, and we were forced to deal with the loss like any other "real world" work team. We added a new strategy to our campaign: partnering with Alpha Epson Phi in their annual charitable event, "A-E-Palooza," and arranging for funds raised to benefit HIV/AIDS efforts in the Caribbean. Additionally, we wrote an editorial for the campus newspaper and a public service announcement for the campus radio station.
We also encountered an obstacle when putting up our campus display, which consisted of dozens of our flyers arranged to spell out "A-I-D-S" in a busy campus area. Adjacent to this display, we put up colorful posters featuring vivid pictures and striking statistics. However, when we returned the next day, someone had torn both displays down. This occurrence taught us that not every person will positively receive our message, and sometimes the way in which the message is being communicated needs to be reevaluated. We compensated by putting up more flyers in dorms and the dining hall, ensuring that our message still reached the Georgetown community.
Executing the awareness campaign while using the Pulitzer Center as an informational resource gave me a new perspective on the field of Justice and Peace. It not only helped me learn more about an important international issue, but the class project also introduced me to the reality of nonprofit work. As a freshman, I had the opportunity to participate in a project that is relevant to the field I am interested in and has real world applications. I learned that it is important to deal directly with challenges, and that it is most effective to use a variety of strategies and utilize all types of media when raising awareness. Additionally, I saw my project, along with the projects completed by the rest of my class help educate Georgetown on a variety of underreported global issues. And because the awareness campaigns were executed by peers, I believe they were more successful in reaching the student body. Through the process, my class became better informed and more passionate about our issues, and we hope the sustainable elements of our projects can help others gain a more global perspective.