Hi, my name is Karenna, and I am pleased to be serving as a Pitt Honors College Ambassador this academic year. I am a senior majoring in Political Science (International Relations) and English (Nonfiction Writing), minoring in Turkish, and pursuing certificates in Global and Eurasian Studies. I was born and raised in Fairfax, VA, where I have lived for 22 years.
As a first-generation American, I spent summers with family in Colombia and Turkey, and my time abroad led me to my interest in security studies. My time at Pitt has allowed me to explore this interest to the fullest, both domestically and abroad. During my first two years I focused on national security, taking courses in the Administration of Justice Department on topics such as Principles of Homeland Security and Terrorism. I also interned with the Pittsburgh Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, where I helped local organisations and places of worship develop emergency preparedness plans in the months after the Tree of Life shooting.
With full intent to continue my national security journey, I applied to the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) and Boren Scholarship, winning both. During my 11 months abroad studying Turkish, I learned a lot – about language, culture, and my career. I also learned that I was more interested in human security alternatives to problems experts have traditionally used national security to solve. My research internship at the Center for Economic and Social Development was particularly formative, as it allowed me to partake in self-directed research on the intersections of educational policy and preventing/countering violent extremism (PCVE). I was also able to attend a conference co-sponsored by the UN and USAID, putting my language skills to use as I listened in on Azerbaijani presenters.
The following semester, I worked with individually displaced persons through a State Department-funded English program for middle schoolers. It was through that program that I finally came into my passion for direct service, and shortly after returning from my time abroad I stepped into another direct service role at the International Rescue Committee. During my time interning in refugee resettlement, I was able to apply the lessons I learned from my Political Science and Global Studies coursework, as well as the skills I picked up from prior internships.
Currently, I am finishing up my second-to-last semester. In addition to school, I am a staff member of the international refugee tutoring non-profit Paper Airplanes, and I also have recently started an on-campus organization called the Collective Action Club to get college students speaking on social justice issues and involved with their community. My inspiration for the club can largely be attributed to my experiences in Pitt’s Global Studies Center, which has shaped my mindset and made me a much more aware individual.
I would highly recommend getting involved with the Global Studies Center, Less-Commonly-Taught Languages Center, and obviously the Honors College while attending Pitt. Even if you are not enrolled in a Global Studies Certificate, less-commonly-taught language course, or the Honors College, all three entities provide free, public events for all Pitt students to attend and benefit from. In fact, I only became involved with the Honors College after my freshman year as I did not have the testing scores out of high school. I owe a lot of my early success at Pitt to the flexibility and inclusivity of the Honors College, which allows non-Honors College students to still reap the rewards of its programs. Even before I was an Honors College student, it was Honors Advising that helped me win the CLS and Boren.
Four years ago, I never imagined how much I would accomplish in my undergraduate career. Yet, here we are! If you would like more insight to how I did it, and how you can leverage Pitt’s resources to your advantage, be sure to stay tuned for my upcoming posts.