Emily’s service journey began with an experience of empathy – writing and performing a short drama designed to express the difficulties of those living in less fortunate circumstances. In her first year at Vanderbilt, she tried to continue understanding and acting on this empathy, especially by engaging in tutoring local youth and teaching English over Skype to high school-aged students in Pakistan through an organization called Vanderbilt-Pakistan Connection (VanPak).
Entering the Ingram program her sophomore year helped Emily continue learning the appropriate meaning, context, and application of community service in her daily life. She became involved with Vanderbilt Grassroots – an organization dedicated to connecting students with service opportunities throughout Nashville. She served as a site leader for Thistle Farms, bringing her peers to serve alongside this social enterprise focused on empowering women with backgrounds of prostitution, neglect, and abuse. She continued teaching classes in Pakistan, and also became involved in the planning and management side of VanPak. At the end of the school year, she conducted a summer project in organizational management with Rethreaded, a sister social enterprise of Thistle Farms.
With continued interest in issues of women’s and low-income community empowerment, Emily entered junior year and continued her work with Vanderbilt Grassroots as well as VanPak. She also began volunteering at the New Beginnings Center, a fitness/nutrition empowerment portal for low-income women of all backgrounds. Junior year for Emily also involved a major new project – taking the VanPak model and adapting it to meet the educational needs of students in Malaysia. Using the experience in VanPak and relationships built among the community of Malaysian students at Vanderbilt, Emily and fellow Ingram Scholars Rachel King and Lauren Pak has been spearheading the start of a new Vanderbilt organization focused on cultural relations and educational advancement both on campus and across the sea.
Senior year for Emily will focus mainly on the new project start-up in Malaysia, as well as a coupling of her interest in low-income community empowerment with a love for the church. As she continues to grow in her understanding of community service and empathy as objects to be applied, she looks forward to taking what she has learned from the program into her final year at Vanderbilt and her post-undergraduate life.