By Holly Hickling
Four generations of my family have been born in Oakland at Magee-Womens Hospital. Many of us went to college in Pittsburgh, including several at the University of Pittsburgh. We are Steelers fans and love french fries on our sandwiches. When it comes to Pittsburgh, there is no place like home, but there was a time in my life whenI wanted to get away.
Since I was a teenager, all I thought I wanted to do was "save the world." What I really had in mind was working somewhere I could have a meaningful impact by fighting poverty, oppression, and suffering. When I was 17, I took a short-term trip to Guatemala, which helped fuel this desire. At the time, my grandmother, who did post-graduate work in Education at Pitt, said to me, "Holly, you know that there are people who need help here in the U.S.," but I shrugged her off as being old-fashioned.
When I was in college at Chatham, studying math and minoring in music, I was also learning about global poverty, and I began making connections with local nonprofits. I decided I wanted to work in Sub-Saharan Africa, where many of the statistics such as life expectancy and infant mortality are the worst. And I went there. I worked in refugee camps in Zambia for three years, including working with Pitt students to develop and carry out community programs in the camps. For three years after that I worked as a Field Research Administrator for Poverty Action Lab, helping facilitate rigorous research projects on public health and education issues.
Later, I worked at Northern Illinois University and eventually moved back to Pittsburgh last year. I started doing some nonprofit consulting, reviving some of my old connections and making new ones.
My new position at the University of Pittsburgh is a great platform for making a difference in the community at large while helping students reach their goals and learn. Here at the Honors College I have the unique opportunity to work with the most highly motivated students, with a great capacity to create meaningful partnerships with local communities in order to create a positive impact. I’m back home, doing the kind of work that my grandmother had told me was important years ago.
The issues being faced in Oakland and Pittsburgh are not only local issues, but national and global issues that students can work to change on many different levels. If you are a student who wants to get involved in community programs in a significant and academic way, please get in touch with me and make an appointment! I'm also interested in creating new connections with faculty, staff, and community partners.