This past summer I, alongside 17 other highly motivated Florida State University students, were given the privilege to pursue opportunities that would help advance our own professional goals, such as participating in community acts of service, professional research, or dedicated internships within the fields of our choosing. When I was offered this opportunity, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the financial support of the Social Science Scholar program. I had always been particularly interested in humanitarian, social justice struggles fought by societies in countries abroad, and how they may relate to the social dilemmas we struggle with day to day in the United States. Due to this, I had decided pretty early on that I would be combining my upcoming international programs study abroad trip which focused on the development of international human rights in Prague, with opportunities such as the US-UK Fulbright Summer Institute in Bristol, which would have focused on the intersection of arts, activism, and social justice and the relationship they share, which shapes civil rights movements and defines public policy for the years to come. Additionally, I had planned to volunteer with a humanitarian organization known as “The Power of a Nickel” which plans several humanitarian medical missions internationally each year.
However, due to the global pandemic caused by COVID-19, all international engagements I had hoped to participate in had to sadly be rescheduled until further notice. As a result, I had to redirect my prior ambitions into local, online-only opportunities. These opportunities ended up being essential in helping me further develop my professional skills. Over the summer I interned with the local Tallahassee business Joyce Publishing. In addition to my internship, I began taking steps to learn ArcGIS software, which can be utilized to understand spatial data in a visually intuitive way and have begun using this same software to research crime patterns in Floridian communities.
Interning with Joyce Publishing was a unique experience which, had it not been for COVID, would have likely meant that I would not have been able partake. Primarily, the internship consisted of contacting stakeholders within the broader Tallahassee community that were typically clients of Joyce Publishing, and ensure that local businesses would be advertised to the community, which helped maintain the local economy. This was especially important when considering the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, which disproportionally affected local businesses. Often times, the other interns and I would be tasked with taking over certain internal logistical aspects of the company, which entailed reaching out to all contracted parties to make sure that advertisements were being made, designs were bold and appealing, and that communications from team member to team member were smooth and accessible.
During this past summer, and now going into fall and the following spring, I have been able to utilize this software to analyze crime patterns in Orlando, FL, and how it may relate to other factors that can be accessed from census data, such as, percentage unemployed in a community, property value, and percentage of youth-aged individuals.
The Social Science Scholar program has changed, and continues to change, important aspects of my personal professional development, as well as my views on what leadership means, and the importance of resilience. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity, despite the challenges presented by COVID-19. The Social Science Scholar program has challenged my initial preconceived notions of what leadership means, what defines a leader, and how to tackle issues that are the most prevalent in society. I am also very thankful for the other scholars within my cohort for their scholastic excellence, and for providing me the inspiration to chase after the possibilities I want to participate in.
Sebastian Rivera is a rising Junior at the Florida State University majoring in International Affairs and Criminology, with a concentration in Philosophy. Sebastian is a Resident Assistant at University Housing as well as a 2020 Social Science Scholar. You can learn more about Sebastian here.