WASHINGTON, PA (Nov. 1, 2016) – What started as a casual conversation with Dean Eva Chatterjee-Sutton, vice president of student life and dean of students, about summer plans led Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) senior Devon Dobbs to one of the most influential leadership experiences of her college career. Accepting a summer internship in the Office of Student life, Devon worked alongside Dean Eva to look at new ways to positively influence the campus culture at W&J.
As an intern for sexual assault prevention, Devon created a variety of programming and initiatives that aim to address and prevent the adverse behaviors and situations that have come to light on many college campuses in the U.S. Applying her academic experiences to her internship, the gender and women’s studies major put theory to practice to influence the campus culture at W&J. One of Devon’s main goals was to create a student-run peer advocacy group.
“The first few weeks consisted of doing a lot of research and reaching out to other colleges who had similar programs,” she said. This led Devon to found ASAP—Advocates for Sexual Assault Prevention—which aims to provide a support system on campus for survivors and friends of survivors; share information about resources for reporting, medical attention, and counseling; and educate students, faculty, and staff to be informed and proactive in sexual assault prevention.
Devon worked closely with Dean Eva to handpick 13 advocates, who come from diverse backgrounds and are actively involved on campus, to represent ASAP. Devon then created a training manual for the advocates consisting of sexual assault myths and facts, response guidelines, what to say and what not to say, W&J’s Title IX policy, on- and off-campus resources as well as a bystander intervention training program open to all students.
Another cornerstone of her internship was pulling together these different elements into an event at this year’s freshman orientation. Searching high and low for speakers that would bring the gravity of this subject to light in a memorable, engaging, and interactive way, Devon reached out to Ben Saypol, the director of Theater Delta, an interactive performance group located in Chapel Hill, N.C.
“Dean Eva was confident in me and really took a chance by allowing me to plan the event in its entirety,” Devon said. “There was one facilitator and four actors. The actors portrayed college students and acted out a scripted scene that touched upon consent, the role of alcohol, bystander intervention, and victim blaming.” The performance was followed by a Q&A session between the students and the actors. The facilitator then brought everything together with a post-performance conversation highlighting key themes/concepts for further discussion.
Though Devon worried that if students didn’t participate, the impact of the event might be diminished—and surely anyone who has tried to engage a room full of college students could relate to this anxiety—she is proud to say the performance resonated strongly with the audience. Students were engaged with the performers and asked thought-provoking questions. “It was so amazing to be able to sit back and watch these first year students respond to such a challenging topic,” she said.
Devon is excited to continue her internship this academic year and aims to leave a lasting impact on the W&J campus. “I hope all students will know of the available on- and off-campus resources they can reach out to if they need help or know someone else who does as well as be knowledgeable about W&J’s reporting process and ensure that our campus does not tolerate any form of sexual misconduct.”
About Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.
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