This summer, nineteen Colgate students are staying in Upstate New York to work with community organizations on research projects in a variety of sectors. Through the Upstate Institute Field School, the students will work full-time on projects that provide data and build capacity throughout the region. Each week, we will profile a different project being conducted by one of the Field School Fellows.
Gabriela Bezerra, ’13, is in the beginning days of a ten-week Field School Fellowship with the Upstate Institute and the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees this summer. Gabriela is from Brazil and is majoring in Peace and Conflict Studies at Colgate. She also studies film and media and was matched to the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees to work with the center on their annual Unspoken film festival.
Unspoken is an annual human rights forum in Utica, New York that combines film, art, music and a conference to give a voice to human rights violations from around the globe and to offer practical solutions to give hope for the future. This year’s conference will take place on October 17-20 and will focus on gendered issues of forced migration.
Gabriela is working with the Center to increase awareness of this fall’s Unspoken event. She is working with many of the area colleges and universities to find ways to bring more students to the conference and film screenings in order to raise awareness about the refugee experience around the world and specifically about how women’s lives are affected by war and conflict. She looks forward to learning how an event like Unspoken is produced and marketed. She said, “Unspoken is an event with a very important message about refugee life, resettlement, community and dignity, and I want to learn how I can help it become bigger and more visible.”
Gabriela applied to the Field School this summer because she wants to pursue a career working in the not-for-profit sector. She recognizes that there are many opportunities in Upstate New York to conduct research, learn, and contribute to the community, and she wanted to be involved. She also wanted to have a better understanding of American culture outside a college campus. By working with the Refugee Center, she sees how the organization operates many programs, like Interpretation, Reception and Placement, and Community Integration, in order to make newly resettled refugees feel more integrated with the community during their transition. She has developed an appreciation for the diversity that exists in Utica and has been impressed with the fact that “there are several generous people and institutions in Utica that are constantly trying to bring together all the different cultures that reside in the city.”
Though she has been at the Refugee Center for only a few days so far, Gabriela is already impressed with the dynamic organization and with the cultural diversity she encounters every day at work. She describes a typical day at the center as fast-paced and energetic. “Within the first few minutes in the Center,” she says, “I will probably have already seen and greeted most of the forty people who work there. I hear different languages float around the Center throughout the whole day, with groups speaking in Russian, Burmese or Bosnian.”