Adriane López- Raising Awareness, Raising Compassion

OCE Student Profile Series

by Laura Stephens

Adriane López understands the power of information. She realizes that often times, when people lack compassion for others, it is often simply because they don’t know the real story. This problem can be especially challenging in issues like immigration. But Adriane is determined that the real stories will be told, and does everything she can to make that happen. At the Latin American Studies Program events she helps to coordinate, she can see in the faces of the attendees and in the questions that they ask that their perspectives are changing, and their hearts are becoming more open. And when people look at those around them as truly human, that is when real compassion can grow.

Office of Community Engagement: How are you involved in community engagement at William & Mary?

Adriane López: I work for the Latin American Studies Program, and through this position, I’ve been able to help put on events to educate our campus community about important human rights issues. These events ranged from screening the documentary Food Chains and hosting the Coalition of Immokalee Workers from Florida to facilitating a roundtable discussion on immigration and human rights in Argentina and at the U.S.-Mexico border.  We also held cultural events, like the concert by a Brazilian band called Marcelo Fruet & Os Cozinheiros. Check out our Facebook page to stay updated with upcoming events!

OCE: How has this work contributed to community needs?

AL: By inviting guest speakers to come to our campus, and holding documentary screenings and open discussions, I think we have created a space for anyone who is interested in Latin America, and human rights more broadly, to continue learning about the complexities behind various issues in the region. While considering how to solve these issues may seem overwhelming and daunting, focusing on specific stories shared by individuals through an in-person discussion or a documentary remind us of the lives affected by such struggles against injustice and human rights abuses. These stories stick with you long after they have been told, and serve as a motivator to keep learning and working towards social change.

OCE: What does active citizenship mean for you?

AL: For me, active citizenship means taking note of the world beyond what you know and are familiar with, and integrating yourself through education and relationship building with different communities. It requires one to seek out experiences that present an opportunity to see life through a unique lens.

OCE: How has your experience working in the community affected your educational career at William & Mary?

AL: I would say that it has allowed me to grow as an individual—to be mindful and aware of the world around me, and to be empowered by the experiences and stories that people have shared with me. Working in the community has also provided me with valuable leadership skills, particularly with being able to relate to individuals and create meaningful connections among different groups.

OCE: How do you plan to use what you’ve learned as an engaged citizen beyond William & Mary?

I hope to continue being able to listen to people’s stories and use these experiences to inform policy. As a Public Policy major, I have enjoyed learning about the policy-making process, what is considered, how different views are balanced, and so on. I enjoy being politically active and encouraging those around me to take an interest in social justice/human rights.

OCE: What is the most memorable or striking moment you experienced during your engagement work?

AL: In late March, Mike Wilson, a human rights and border activist, came to campus for a few days. His presentation on his work at the U.S.-Mexico border was incredible; he shared the daily struggle for life that goes on at the border. He referred to the situation at the border as “Manifest Destiny 2.0,” and called for coalition building to overcome institutional racism. As a first generation American, the topic of immigration hits home for me. Being that we are on the East Coast, and thus very far from the U.S.-Mexico border, it is easy for many of us to overlook the human rights violations that are going on right now, at this very moment, in our country.  Mr. Wilson’s presentation was tremendously powerful for me and for many other students. Seeing how well-attended his lecture was, and the interest that many individuals took in his work made me realize how important it is to bring a topic like immigration to the forefront of our campus discussion, as there is much work to be done.