Senior Communication Arts and Literature Teaching Major Rebekah Schulz has a strong interest in foreign culture. She has explored this interest at Gustavus; through an African studies program she helped lead, her leadership role with Building Bridges, Spanish composition tutoring and a special January Interim Experience course.
This past December, Rebekah led a discussion group, called “Workshop Africa.”
“The goal is to raise awareness about issues relating to countries in Africa. It is something that is not very present in most people’s curricula. … There is obviously a lot of interest on campus,” Rebekah said. “It’s very informal. If you know a little, come and share what you know; if you know nothing, come and learn something.”
“We’re going to be holding one each month throughout the Spring semester,” Assistant Professor of Communication Studies Martin Lang said.
Rebekah is very interested in Africa, and specifically how it is not very well covered in the media and college curriculum.
“Think about it: when was the last time you heard a story about the businessmen from Lagos, Nigeria putting [something] in their new high-rise. No, you hear about the tribal conflicts out in the bush. What do you think about when you think about Africa?” Rebekah said. “The problem isn’t that they are covering those things; it is that they are not covering other things. Think about The New York Times. They will have articles on fashion in Paris. How often do they [cover] the fashion in Namibia?”
Rebekah’s interest largely stemmed out of the Media and Society course she took with Lang. In this course, students choose a news article to present to the class. As a part of her presentation, Rebekah worked to assess the knowledge of her fellow students of Africa.
“We gave them five minutes to complete a five question quiz of Europe, on which they all got one hundred percent; and five minutes to complete a nine-question quiz on Africa, on which the highest score was a five out of nine, and they were in groups of five,” Rebekah said.
“She wanted to initially, with my help, start an African studies program,” Lang said.
While Rebekah admits she cannot change the story selection of large newspapers or necessarily start a new minor, she feels the issue is also very important within the Gustavus context.
“She has kept with it because she sees it as an important [issue]. I’m impressed by Rebekah’s persistence,” Lang said.
“The only classes that focus exclusively on Africa are Sub-Saharan Africa, which is a Geography course, African Women Writers, which is an occasionally offered Women’s Studies course, and Francophone African Writers, which is taught in French,” Rebekah said.
Rebekah is also a Co-Chair of this year’s Building Bridges Conference. This year’s conference will focus around the topic of immigration.
“It is such a relevant topic. There is no one who isn’t affected by immigration. It doesn’t matter if your ancestors have been here for hundreds of years, or if your ancestors have always been here or if you came here yesterday. Everyone is affected by immigration,” Rebekah said.
“It is something that affects everyone that we don’t really understand a lot about. It is also something that very easily lends itself to stereotypes,” said Rebekah.
While the conference is still two months away, the committee has already started tabling for the first action piece surrounding the conference.
“We have started a food drive. Whoever brings back the most food by the first week of spring semester will win $101. We will continue to collect after that, but the contest ends the first week of spring semester,” said Rebekah.
Rebekah also works in the writing center.
“A lot of times you’re staring at the screen going ‘What am I going to do?’ and you’re just in that box that you get in, kind of like writers block. Sometimes it just helps to talk about it with another person who knows about writing,” Rebekah said. “I learn so much from everybody’s papers.”
Rebekah has also put her Spanish skills to use for the Spanish department, helping Spanish composition students with their writing.
“I also work for the Spanish department tutoring students in composition classes,” Rebekah said. “The Spanish tutors do such a great job, but they are really trying to help students with their language skills. I get to focus more on writing, because of my training at the Writing Center.”
In addition to these numerous activities, Rebekah is currently taking an independent study course during January with Professor of French Paschal Kyoore. She is studying African literature.
Rebekah has expanded on previous readings she has done with a special course this month.
“There is loads of literature out there by African writers,” Rebekah said.
In addition to these responsibilities, Rebekah keeps busy in the Chapel as a Sacristan and in the Center for Vocational Reflection (CVR) as a servant leader.
Rebekah admits that she is busy, and does her best to balance her activities.
“I have occasional breakdowns. Sometimes you need to ask someone to do something and kind of help you out. That’s a part of being in a lot of things,” Rebekah said. “Sometimes you just need to take a break and read a book.”