Learning to Make a Difference

Image of Emily Eckardt standing outside by the street.

Emily Eckardt ’13 combines coursework and community service to learn how to make an impact.

As a women’s & gender studies major and political-science minor at Dickinson, Emily Eckardt ’13 isn’t just learning about cultural stereotypes and policy making—she’s learning how to make a difference. That’s because, in addition to her coursework, Eckardt has taken on a full slate of service-learning projects ranging from Serve the World trips to New Orleans, Philadelphia and Arizona to volunteer positions at the Carlisle C.A.R.E.S emergency shelter and the local YWCA Rape Crisis Center.

“I notice connections all the time between my volunteer work and my classes,” she explains. “The interconnectedness of my interdisciplinary academics and community work has been incredible. My goal is to work from the personal to policy level, ensuring that all people—regardless of gender, class, race or culture—have equal opportunity.”

But Eckardt hasn’t just confined herself to the U.S. She also has studied abroad in Germany and India, adding a vital global dimension to her growing understanding of social justice. “Having that opportunity to become immersed in other cultures showed me the validity of different approaches to individuality and justice,” she says.

“That understanding of multiculturalism will be really important to any nonprofit or counseling work I do—especially in a diverse community.”

Eckardt isn’t waiting until graduation to start that work. She recently earned her certification to teach English as a second language at Carlisle’s Employment Skills Center, and this semester she’s trying her hand at grant writing for Carlisle C.A.R.E.S. and establishing support groups for the shelter’s previous guests—all while working on an application for a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in India.

“I found it was easy to step off campus and get involved in the community,” she says. “I’ve gotten comfortable working with any population, and I’ve gained a lot of amazing skills.” This wouldn’t have been possible, Eckardt notes, without the scholarship that allowed her to come to Dickinson. In fact, she almost didn’t even apply; tuition at first just seemed too high. Fortunately, she did, hoping scholarship donors would make up the difference so that she could make a difference as well.

“Dickinson has been transformational for me,” she explains. “My life would be completely different without the scholarship that I received. I’ve not only had the opportunity to thrive in a small community here on campus, but I’ve gotten to travel the world—all while learning how I can have an impact on the wider world.”

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Published December 17, 2012