Feature Stories Campus Events

Hannah Falchuk and ‘the Power of Conversation’ Hannah Falchuk's passion for journalism has her reporting both in New York City and local Rockbridge.

“SSA gives students a chance to become the professors. It gives us the opportunity to choose our favorite projects or endeavors and share them with the campus in a very public, professional way.”

Meet Hannah Falchuk ‘18, whose passion for journalism has her reporting both in New York City and local Rockbridge

Science, Society, and the Arts is a multi-disciplinary conference where Washington and Lee undergraduates and law students present their academic achievements before an audience of their peers and the faculty. Through the conference, students, faculty and staff alike have the opportunity to explore new topics and discuss new ideas. Conference participants share their work via oral presentations, traditional academic conference-style panels, poster sessions, artistic shows, creative performances, or various other methods.

Even though SSA has ended, you can still enjoy these stories about the many interesting projects and performances being presented by the students.

Dignity in Housing: Lessons from NYC to Natural Bridge

Q. Can you describe your project?

My presentation will blend two of my biggest experiences in college so far: working as a Shepherd intern in homeless outreach in New York City and volunteering at the Manor at Natural Bridge through Campus Kitchen. I have learned in both places that figuring out the best way to address homelessness sometimes begins with addressing poverty and mental illness.

I use some of the writers I’ve studied in my Poverty, Dignity, and Human Rights class with Professor Pickett to help explain some of my biggest points. In talking about human rights, our class has realized that one of the only ways to appropriately or effectively be helpful is to first have conversations with those affected by a situation. While talking about a problem doesn’t give you its solution, it’s the best way we can start to find one.

Q. What about the topic made you explore it?

My Shepherd internship in New York threw me into an environment that was so obviously different from what I had known before, but I could say the same thing about Natural Bridge, where the poverty rate is significantly higher than that of Lexington.

Q. What was the most interesting thing you have learned while working on this project?

When we are pressed in certain ways, we will all respond similarly. I had the rare opportunity in New York to hear people talk about how tired they were of being homeless or of living someplace where they didn’t want to be. In Natural Bridge, the voices of some residents sometimes sound like echoes from the summer.

Q. What was the biggest challenge you faced?

Conveying the conditions of the assisted living center is tough. First-time volunteers are usually surprised by the conditions of the facility, and it’s something that I’m not able to share through photographs.

Q. What insight – or insights – did you gain during the research period?

The internship in homeless outreach during the summer of 2016 was bookended by my volunteering during the school years before and after. That gave me the opportunity to have some “ah-ha” moments both then and now. One of those was recognizing the power of conversation, whether it comes through a motivational interviewing formula that encourages a person to quickly feel comfortable or through casual conversations that stretch across a year.

Both here and in New York, I continually remind myself that the purpose of engaging in conversation should not be to expand my repertoire of stories. Even after I have heard the story, it’s still not about me. I have learned to be more aware of how I am listening and why a person is sharing with me.

Q. What is your favorite part of creating, researching, or developing this project?

I’m not living in Natural Bridge in the same way that I was in New York, but I have become a regular volunteer at the assisted living center to the degree that both the residents and the staff members know I will return. Establishing that level of credibility takes time, but it has made me realize some of my bigger commitments in college.

Q. What does SSA mean to you?

SSA gives students a chance to become the professors. We don’t send our research papers to our friends after we’ve handed them in to professors, but SSA gives us the opportunity to choose our favorite projects or endeavors and share them with the campus in a very public, professional way.

Q. Why is SSA – considering science, society, and arts together – important to this campus?

Even at a liberal arts school, we sometimes get bogged down in what subjects or clubs are “ours.” I found that the farther I’ve gone into studying society, the more I understand the necessity of arts and the insight of science.

If you know a W&L student who would be a great profile subject, tell us about it! Nominate them for a web profile.

A little more about Hannah

Hometown:
Hockessin, Delaware

Majors:
Politics Major, Poverty and Human Capability Studies and Mass Communications Minors

Extracurricular involvement:
Sustainability House CA
– Compost Crew
– Outing Club
– Rockbridge Report (Tuesday broadcast)

Off-campus activities/involvement:
I went on two engineering trip to Fries, Virginia, and participated in the Washington Term program. I go to Natural Bridge with Campus Kitchen and occasionally help at an organic farm in Goshen.

Why did you choose your major?
Politics combines the history of groups, the economics of society, and the philosophy of power. I chose politics, philosophy and poverty because the three disciplines inform each other in study and define each other in practice.

What professor or staff member has inspired you?
Professors Kelly Brotzman, Stuart Gray, and Afshad Irani have each challenged me to follow my motivation while keeping an awareness of what more I have yet to find. Mark Craney is inspirational for always offering his encouragement and enthusiasm.

What’s your personal motto?
“This is water.” David Foster Wallace reminded college students that wherever you are, be aware and there.

What’s your favorite song right now?
Lorde’s newest singles

Best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
Tacos at Mano Taqueria. They use ingredients from local farms and write jokes on chalkboards.

What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus?
Be purposeful in how you spend your time, some of the time. Hike early.

Post-graduation plans:
Whatever puts me on the best track to becoming a full-fledged journalist.

Favorite W&L memory:
Going to the Spring Term Dr. Dog concert at the outdoor Lime Kiln Theater with one of my best friends. We had never even listened to them before, but I still remember how they sounded live.

Favorite class:
Introductory courses to political philosophy and reporting

Favorite W&L event:
Any play in the Johnson Theater. It lets you feel as if you’re onstage with the actors.

Favorite campus landmark:
I’m going to give an off-campus landmark: the spring at Brushy Hills, with the best water after trail running.

What’s your passion?
Finding creative ways to write about what we all experience.

What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
I go to a bluegrass jam in town on Wednesday mornings.

Why did you choose W&L?
The strong academics and tailored attention W&L provides are unbeatable, and — although I did fall in love with New York City — I knew that I would gain a completely different set of insights from going to school in a rural setting.