Felicia Villalobos ’19 spent last summer in Brazil, helping a nonprofit track media coverage of low-income urban communities called favelas.
Villalobos—who was in Brazil on a summer Design Immersion sponsored by Smith’s Design Thinking Initiative—is among dozens of students who will present their work at Smith in the World, an annual conference that gives students a platform to reflect on and present academic and professional experiences from internships and study abroad. This year’s event takes place on Monday, Nov. 12, from 3:45 to 6 p.m. in the Campus Center.
Smith in the World offers a sweeping view of students’ off-campus experiences, from studying immigration and the status of migrant workers in Israel, to shadowing economic and development policy advisers in Kenya.
This year, the program received more than 100 nominations for presentations, says Stacie Hagenbaugh, director of the Lazarus Center for Career Development, which coordinates the conference. In addition to a rich array of student presentations, this year’s event will feature two panel discussions centered on personal journeys and transformations.
A double major in computer science and Portuguese-Brazilian studies, Villalobos spent her summer researching media representations of Brazilian favelas during important events such as the 2016 Olympics and the 2018 assassination of human rights activist and politician Marielle Franco.
“There’s a big issue with how the media talk about favelas,” Villalobos says. “There’s no direct translation from the Portuguese word to English, so some journalists use the word ‘slum,’ some say ‘shanty town’ and some say ‘informal community.’”
During her internship with the nonprofit Catalytic Communities—which aims to create unbiased and positive news about favelas—Villalobos was able to highlight the importance of community media. Stories from community media are “written by the people who are most affected,” she says, “providing the most unbiased, accurate and often longer-term coverage” of favelas.
Villalobos says the Summer Design Immersions program provided the perfect opportunity to put her Portuguese to work while exploring a new place and doing meaningful work. The program matches students with emerging global organizations where they can apply design thinking principles in a variety of fields.
It was, Villalobos says, a great opportunity to work on a project she “really cared about and found really enriching.”