Major: International Studies and Politics
Fun fact: I’ve gone by my middle name “Joseph” (Joe) for my entire life, but now, I go by my first name.
Where are you from: Philadelphia, Pa.
Favorite food: Fried macaroni & cheese
“Must do” while abroad: Visit Morocco in North Africa. [It’s] an absolutely incredible place.
Coffee Order: Café con leche y azúcar y canela (coffee with milk, sugar and a little cinnamon)
Favorite Tradition: Christmas dinner with my family and godmother
Favorite class taken: EN11 with Dr. Elizabeth Hilts
Pet peeves: When people chew food with their mouth open; [it] drives me crazy.
What is your favorite role that you have on campus? Explain.
I’ve really enjoyed my time in the Racial Justice is Social Justice (RJSJ) movement. RJSJ acts as a student-driven, faculty and staff-supported, grassroots activism group that is committed to leading positive social change on Fairfield’s campus by upholding the aim of creating a more socially, as well as culturally conscious, diverse and inclusive community. Over the last three years, the institutional and curricular work of RJSJ has been implemented in various areas of campus life.
Specifically, we’ve worked to remodel the Office of Student Diversity Programs & Multicultural Affairs, provided a platform for healthy dialogue through several campus-wide open forums on racial justice and enriched our educational curriculum with an unprecedented Black Lives Matter course that was first offered last spring. There is still much more work that needs to be done and we are prepared to work hard to accomplish our goals. My role in RJSJ has taught me that feelings of powerlessness are not invitations to indifference, trepidation or hopelessness, but calls to action. My friends and mentors who I’ve shared this powerful experience with have believed in me and because of their faith, I have learned to believe in myself and in others. I’ve learned that compassion is a special, precious and powerful force. In the face of so much adversity, compassion and forgiveness have helped me push through many tough times when I felt hopeless.
You have received a lot of awards during your time at Fairfield. What motivates you to work toward these achievements and how did you go about pursuing them?
My grandmother used to quote from the Bible all the time. She would say, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” I believe that God has given us all a moral responsibility to stand for justice, to push for equality, to act in the name of His greater glory. As a Quaker, my faith calls me to serve for the greater good of the community. I am a firm believer that the way to experience genuine freedom and a rich, satisfying existence is by living a life guided by the desire to do and be more. This commitment to reaching beyond myself in academics, social justice activism and even everyday encounters gives my life purpose.
I’m also reminded of my favorite quote from [Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.] who said, “Stand up for righteousness. Stand up for truth. God will be at your side forever.” For me, it’s never about the awards. While I’m deeply humbled by the recognition I’ve received, the journey is not about me — it’s about the people around me. It’s about Fairfield students in five, 10, 20 years from now. What more can I do now that will have a positive impact on their experience? How can I help lay the foundation for someone else to rise?
To answer your question … I hope that by following the path Dr. King and my grandmother spoke about, God will always be by my side. To me, that’s the most important thing.
What are you most proud of accomplishing? Why?
To be honest, just knowing that I’ve made my parents proud is enough. At the end of the day, that’s very important to me and drives me to excel in all of my pursuits. Last January, I was extremely honored to receive the Martin Luther King Jr. Vision Award. The most special moment of that night was when I had an opportunity to thank my parents for all they have taught me and sacrificed so that I could be in a position to succeed. For them to tell me that I’ve made them proud has made all the adversity I’ve faced in my life totally worth it.
What is the funniest memory that you have or story that you have heard at Fairfield?
Definitely the funniest memory I have at Fairfield was when a few friends and I were walking home from Barone last winter. There was snow everywhere and the walkways were pretty icy. I remember one of my friends slipped on the ice and fell into the snow. We all started cracking up. All of a sudden, we just started pushing each other into the snow. This continued throughout the entire trip back to our dorm. It was so much fun and we couldn’t stop laughing. It was just a genuinely good time.
Has the experience of studying abroad changed your outlook on life and/or affected your future plans? If so, explain.
I am a firm believer that college is a time to explore new and exciting experiences, hopefully, without all the burdens of adulthood. I believe study abroad is something that every college student should be afforded in order to expand their horizons and to help them fully appreciate everything the world has to offer. This experience has certainly enabled me to learn about various European and North African cultures so that I can apply my newly discovered knowledge to my entire life and the way in which I look at the world around me. After graduate school, I intend to volunteer with an international organization and then work in politics so that I can better understand and help resolve, through hands-on experience, the realities of poverty and injustice faced by so many people in the world. I think international education is vital in our increasingly interconnected planet. Study abroad offers an invaluable opportunity to learn firsthand how other countries perceive global issues and compare those viewpoints to our American perspective.
What is your favorite experience abroad so far?
I traveled to a city in northern Spain called San Sebastian. It was a beautiful place with a distinct culture and language much different from the rest of Spain. I went hiking and even went night swimming in the Atlantic; definitely don’t recommend that because it was beyond freezing. The people were really welcoming and the weather was great. My favorite part of the trip though was when a friend and I rented a moped and drove about an hour across the northern border of Spain into southwest France. We were able to visit a few towns in French Basque Country. The landscapes during the drive there were breathtaking. To be able to explore two countries and their cultures was definitely a highlight of my study abroad experience thus far.
What are you most looking forward to upon returning home?
I miss my family and friends; I can’t wait to see them again. I feel like I’ve been away for years. I’m fortunate that I will be able to spend Christmas with my family, so I’m very excited for that. Also, I just miss being on Fairfield’s campus. I miss the atmosphere. I can’t wait to be back.