Hispanic Cultures, Human Rights, and Careers
Visiting Prof. Sylvia López’s class “Human Rights and Hispanic Cultures” this spring, Marcail Distante ’16 (IR and Latin American & Caribbean Studies) and Simone Harstead ’16 (IR and Spanish) shared the various experiences their commitment to human rights has provided. While at Beloit both were recipients of Weissberg human rights funding. After graduating from Beloit, Simone spent two summer months in Nicaragua at a women’s oncology center where, in addition to developing and administering a patient satisfaction survey, she was quickly recruited to work as a clinician’s assistance, an experience she found “completely unforgettable.”
Marcail, on the other hand, used a Weissberg Scholarship to volunteer as an undergraduate research intern in San Francisco with Global Exchange, focusing on human rights abuses in Central America, organizing a fundraising art fair, and planning itineraries. After graduating, she received a Weissberg Fellowship to supplement income as an AmeriCorps VISTA Program Coordinator at Building Skills Partnership in Oakland, an education branch of a janitorial union. She coordinated ESL, Digital Literacy, Citizenship and Financial Services for low-income Latino janitors and their families.
Students in Prof. López’s class were curious to learn how Simone and Marcail balance work and personal time so as to not burn out, and they were especially happy and relieved to know that both alumnae did not know exactly what they wanted to do upon graduating. Simone is currently in her second year of law school at CUNY after working for Her Justice. After spending time in California, Marcail returned to the Midwest. Since July 2020, she has been the Community Outreach and Program Coordinator at the Binger Center at the University of Minnesota Law School, where she hopes to begin a Master’s degree in human rights this fall.
Both Simone and Marcail also spoke about the importance of networking and how special Beloit is. Reflecting on her time at Beloit, Marcail observed: “The classes at Beloit really taught me how to think about the world. I know that might sound very cheesy. But you leave college and you see that there are some people that have learned how to think about large systems and the way that U.S. foreign policy drives migration or other human rights abuses. That’s like a skill. I’ve sat in multiple trainings where employers are trying to teach soft skills or human-centered design or understand conflict, and it’s like critical thinking skills that you learn at Beloit.”