For her senior thesis Mujeres in Action, Samantha Hunt ’18 applied the knowledge she gained from personal experiences in El Salvador; Tijuana; Washington, D.C.; and Uganda to research designed to bring awareness to female-led Civil Society Organizations and their plight to cause policy change.
The Political Science and International Studies graduate, now working as a field representative for the California State Assembly, has Dominican to thank for giving her, a self-proclaimed small town girl, a big picture view of the world and how she can make an impact.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to travel as much as I have. I thought I would study abroad and that would be it,” Samantha said of her Dominican experience. “I had no idea that I would find the wealth of opportunities that I have here.”
Samantha was among Dominican undergraduate and graduate students showcasing their research and talent in all university disciplines at the Fourth Annual Scholarly and Creative Works Conference on April 19, 2018 in Guzman Lecture Hall and Guzman Hall classrooms.
The conference, free and open to the public, featured a collection of Dominican Scholar presentations on undergraduate senior theses and graduate master’s theses, plus posters, art work, and musical, choral, and dance performances throughout campus.
Samantha’s journey to Dominican started with a high school bus trip from Redding to tour Bay Area colleges. A first generation student, she was taken by the “quaint atmosphere” at Dominican and the chance to travel and observe culture and history through the Global Education Office.
As a freshman, Samantha left the country for the first time in her life and it had an everlasting influence on her. She took a Campus Ministry immersion visit to El Salvador.
“That trip was really formative for me because it showed me a different side of service. It showed me the importance of solidarity,” Samantha says. “I often say the El Salvador trip was the catalyst for the rest of my college career.”
The next year Samantha signed up for another Campus Ministry program, an alternative spring break LaBamba trip to Tijuana to meet the poor and refugees.
“During the Mexico trip I learned a lot more about the dynamics or immigration and how it works from the other side of the border,” she says.
As it turned out, Samantha’s next stop was Washington, D.C. where immigration has become a major issue in the nation’s capital. She was chosen for the Panetta Institute Congressional Internship program and spent the fall semester of her junior year in the office of Congressman Mike Thompson.
“The inspiration behind going into the Panetta program was my El Salvador trip,” Samantha says. “I learned a lot about how policy effect people and I learned that on an international scale, but I had never engaged in it at a national level in the States. This gave me an opportunity to see it in action.”
Upon return from D.C., Samantha quickly jumped to another Campus Ministry opportunity. She traveled to Uganda, taught English and worked with other Dominican students in a local health center. It was a cultural awakening for Samantha.
“I was rejuvenated with my Dominican spirit and I wanted to get involved and do something to bring me back to the roots of why I came here, which was International Studies,” she says. “That was the trip that I felt the closest to the people we stayed with in Uganda and where I made the deepest connections.”
Samantha, a vice president of Associated Students of Dominican University (ASDU) and a member of the Honors Program and co-chair of the Student Honors Board, had long been curious about people who lived in different countries who had different mindsets and cultures than her. She strived to become a more informed global citizen. She wanted to learn how to better communicate with them and give them a voice of their own.
That became a personal quest and it evolved into her senior project. She has had an interest in restorative justice since attending Enterprise High School in Redding.
“In El Salvador, they talked to us about how they don’t need us to help. They don’t need people from the United States to save them. But they need people to tell their stories,” Samantha says. “I’ve always been someone who likes to learn and someone who likes to research and study, so I thought the best way for me to show my solidarity was to use my thesis.”
Photo credit: Sayra Trejo ’18