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.”
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.