Street: So what are you involved in?
Will Slotznick: So, I’d say my main involvement is with a group called Penn Society for International Development, Penn SID. It’s a group of students dedicated to the international affairs and development and that can be across all different sectors, uh, global education, global health, human rights, refugee issues. We take a look at all of it, and we have different activities and programming throughout the year. I think something that makes us a little unique among international clubs on campus is that we really try to make sure we have that education component and that action component.
Street: So with Penn SID, can you tell us a bit about the consulting program that places students with nonprofits?
WS: We have Penn Society for International Development which is kind of an umbrella organization of different committees that have different programming throughout the year. We’re holding the international development conference this November. We have another organization called Global Art Benefit where we actually feature students’ international artwork and use that to raise funds for select philanthropic organizations. And then we have a committee called Global Impact Collaborative and that’s where we connect students directly to nonprofit organizations for multi–semester advising relationships.
Street: So what sparked the passion for international development [and] international affairs?
WS: It started in high school. I had this wonderful opportunity to travel to Ghana after my sophomore year and junior year of high school to go teach in a small, rural primary school. I wasn’t given very much preparation at all. I was just told: 'Teach what you like. Teach what you’re interested in.' At the time I was interested in art and art history. So I delivered a course to 60 sixth–grade Ghanaian students on West African art–making. I went back the following year because I had identified some issues in school culture that I wanted to try to explore and so I delivered a second course on conflict resolution. I felt very challenged and conflicted with that whole experience. I was very unqualified to be there instructing these students on topics that I had no real familiarity with. So I was challenged by that, but then it also sparked this interest in studying international education and development, academically.
Street: What do you find the biggest challenge is in actually making an impact in that way?
WS: I think first you gotta check your ego. When I was a 17–year–old, I felt that I’m coming from a middle–class Philadelphia suburb, and I had a great education and I have so much wisdom that I could impart when I traveled to support the school in rural Ghana. I was totally wrong. It was a totally different cultural and educational systems, different ways of living, different ways of understanding the world. There’s no way that everything I grew up with could just easily translate to the world–views of my students and I was totally naive in that way.
Street: What else are you involved in?
WS: Alternative Spring Break, which is a big group on campus that sends students out every single winter and spring break to work with different nonprofit organizations all around the country. I think if students are interested in learning about social justice, domestically, it’s a great entry–point. We include the education component and the service component, so I think it’s a really great way to engage with issues.
Street: Do you have a dream job?
WS: I don’t yet. I think many times I have. When I first entered Penn, I thought 'I’m gonna specialize in educational development and I’m going to work in the Office of Education and the U.S. Agency for International Development.' And I was like, 'Am I gonna do that?' Like I wanna be up there. Since then, I’ve just had a lot of rich experiences in this field, and I don’t think there’s a single job either in this career. So right now, it’s just, I want to be in a place that goes about its work in a really meaningful way.
Street: If you are what you eat, what are you?
WS: Um, let’s just call it the fufu and goat curry at this West African place not because I think I’m anything like fufu and goat curry but because I love the experience.
Street: There are two types of people at Penn…
WS: Those who are original free–thinkers and those who are getting there.
Street: What would you be infamous for?
WS: When it comes to fashion I’m very seasonally confused. I like to wear a lot of flannels in the summer. During the winter time, I’m definitely infamous for wearing several varieties of beanies. I’m definitely a winter fashion person...all the time.
Street: Do you remember your first screen name?
WS: It’s not very exciting. For AIM, it was ws9226, so I wasn’t very creative but I think more funny is my first email address, I think people like to have fun, creative email addresses, but my Dad told me I needed a very professional email, just, you know, when I started seeking internships—my first email address was wslotznick@ comcast.net when I was ten years old.
Street: What do you love the most about Penn?
WS: Um, so many things. I think it’s certainly challenging but you grow so much personally and intellectually. Nobody leaves Penn in the same place that they entered freshman year. It is so awesome to see how people’s interests develop over these four years. And second, there is incredible opportunity here and incredible resources that students tend to—you just have to be a little ambitious about it.
Street: What’s one question we forgot to ask you?
WS: Hmm, maybe just like a hobby? Things beyond academics...art. I love to draw, I love to sketch. Um...I unfortunately wasn’t able to pursue that at Penn. I tried to freshman year but I ran out of time. Whenever we go on an outdoor adventure, obviously I’m carrying my sketchbook in my backpack. So that’s just another side of me that not as many people know.