Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Olivia Kitt

Kitt in front of the Washington Monument

Each morning in Ghana, Olivia Kitt and other students in her May term were given a word to reflect upon throughout the day. Kitt, a senior from Roanoke, VA, studies Political Science and Sociology at Roanoke, with a concentration in Legal Studies. Kitt often reflected on Ghanaian welfare. “This is something that Ghana really struggles with,” Kitt disclosed. Kitt described the trip as “service-learning based,” so she spent her days at one of three service sites. Understanding and improving Ghana’s welfare was one of the main objectives of the program.

In a group of mainly sociologists, Kitt offered a different perspective to the group’s nightly discussions with her political science background—how do Ghana’s welfare programs assist the improvised areas she was working with?

“We would compare our experiences in Ghana to those we had in America. What I loved most about this time was hearing what others picked up on or experienced that I didn’t. It gave variety to our conversations, showing how we can all be in the same place and take away different perspectives.”

After her May term, Kitt spent some time in Washington, D.C. as a legislative intern for Senator Tim Kain. The role of a legislative intern is to run the office—taking phone calls from constituents, taking notes at hearings/briefings for the legislative staff, and compiling memos for the state team.

However, Kitt didn’t take off running. It took her two weeks to settle into her internship. “I remember being so overwhelmed my first two weeks in the office. I didn’t truly understand what my role was or how I could contribute.” Kitt sought every opportunity to learn. She even reached out to correspondents of other areas she was intrigued in. “They said yes and were so happy to receive my summary of the hearing.” Every intern should have a curious mindset, and “ask what you can do to help.”

Kitt’s favorite senate memory was a “hidden gem” she uncovered during a special tour of the capitol building. Interns have a special badge to enter parts of the capitol building the public cannot. “One of these gems was an original bathtub on the Senate side that Senators would use after traveling for long distances to make sure they didn’t smell while on the floor.”

When she is back on campus, Kitt is very active. Her honoraries include Alpha Phi Omega, Alpha Kappa Delta, the Academic Integrity Council, Maroon Baptist Fellowship, Student Government Association, and has been a member of the Maroon Ambassador program since her freshmen year. Over the course of her six terms as a student senator, Kitt served as both the secretary and student body president during her time as a student senator. As a four-year member, she now serves as the secretary for the Maroon Baptist Fellowship—an on-campus program which allows students to “articulate their faith and figure out what it means to be a Christian while in college and in life,” explains Kitt, and is a member of a leadership team for Maroon Ambassadors.

To anyone debating studying abroad, or even in D.C., Kitt urges you to keep an open mind: “Fully immerse yourself in the culture.” Her three weeks in Ghana were transformative, and one of the most important experiences during her years at Roanoke. “Give yourself the opportunity to do the same. Go to a place that you have always been dreaming to travel to. You will learn so much and see the world in a whole new light!”

Claire Kivior

Public Affairs News Student Spotlight

Students Travel to Hampden Sydney for Conference

Pictured (left to right): G. Ocampo, J. Engl, Dr. A. Mihalache-O’keef, A. Carino, and O. Gold

Earlier this semester, Roanoke College students Alejandra Carino, Jennifer Engl, Owen Gold, and Gaston Ocampo along with Public Affairs Professor, Dr. Andreea O’keef traveled to Hampden Sydney College to present their research on “Corporate Political Activities in Emerging Markets: Businesses in the Middle East and North Africa” to a panel of undergraduates. Their research concentrated on corporate political activities in Turkey and Tunisia, which are considered to be evolving democracies. The team codded over 150 interviews conducted within the region. Ocampo, a senior International Relations and Business Administration major, has been working with Dr. Mihalache-O’keef on this project since the fall of 2018. The rest of the team joined the duo during the 2019-2020 school year.

The rare opportunity to do research at the undergraduate level was something that Carino, Engl, Gold, and Ocampo all appreciated. “This experience as well as her [Dr. Mihalache-O’keef’s] class has kind of led me towards wanting to do more research,” stated Carino, a junior Political Science major. Engl, International Relations major and junior as well shared similar sentiment– “it gave me a good feeling of being very prepared for grad school.”

The research team shared advice they have for other Roanoke College students interested in research: “maybe they think they have to be an upperclassmen to do research because you need to have so much knowledge,” pondered Ocampo. “But you learn as you go.”

Engl offered complimentary advice, “you are there to learn. It’s a learning experience, just like class; not just for the superbrains, it is for everyone.”

Mady Sale
Contributing writer

Edited by Claire Kivior

Public Affairs News Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Elleri Vitwar

Pictured: Vitwar in front of the Washington monument during her internship

Last Spring, senior Elleri Vitwar took part in the Lutheran College Washington Semester, interning with the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project. The Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project aims to exonerate incarcerated individuals who were wrongfully convicted. Vitwar aided in the screening process–reading case reports, appellate documents, and police reports to prepare briefs. The briefs were then subjected to an evaluative board, which determined if the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project would take the case.

As a Criminal Justice major and Sociology minor, Vitwar heard a lot about the criminal justice system, but she never met an incarcerated person. During the Washington semester, Vitwar visited a prison in Maryland to interview a 30-year-old man believed to be wrongfully convicted at age 17. “It was a really cool experience to put a face to a case I had read about and have a human interaction with someone—hearing what he had experienced; what it was like to grow up in a prison.”

The Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project was not Vitwar’s only internship. She also interned with Dr. Ball as a member of the Inside Out Program where Vitwar prepared readings, materials, and games for weekly class meetings. The Inside Out Program unites college students and incarcerated individuals together, so that they may learn and foster social change.

Vitwar recognized and appreciated the responsibility of her involvement in the process. “[It] was a really interesting experience to spend a semester with these guys and hear their stories,” she explained. “They have families, you know? It gives it a human element.”

Vitwar recommends both experiences in Washington D.C. and as an intern on campus. “Get out, go beyond your comfort zone,” she urged, “You’ll never know unless you go and try it.”

Casey Wilson
Contributing Writer

Edited by Claire Kivior