Scholar Q & A: Daniel Sitts '12

Maura Gladys (a class of 2011 journalism major from Gouldsboro, Pennsylvania) spoke with Daniel Sitts (a class of 2012 cinema and photography major from Croton-on-Hudson, New York) about the impact the Park Scholar Award has had on Sitts's college experience.

Q: What is the Park Scholar community life?

A: The reason that the Park Scholar Award is such an amazing scholarship is that it's not just a "Congratulations on your work, have a prize" kind of thing. The program offers incredible resources so that you can continue with your projects, and the most helpful resource is the Park Scholar community, without a doubt. I'm constantly inspired by the people around me in this program. Everyone is incredibly invested in her/his own projects and service work, but we also help each other out all the time. 

The alumni network is another unbelievable resource. It helps to be reminded that it is possible to be a successful and moral communicator outside the context of a college campus. I had the opportunity to work with Park Scholar alum Jeremy Levine ’06 last summer at his production company Transient Pictures. He was incredibly trusting and generous; he really let me get involved in projects instead just being a coffee boy. I was so inspired by the work that they did at Transient, and I think I made a really useful connection.

Q: What has the Park Scholar Award enabled you to do that you otherwise would not have been able to do?

A: I've heard about a number of amazing projects through the Park Scholar Program. Last year a visiting artist at Ithaca College wanted help documenting his residency in Ithaca, and Park Scholar Director Matt Fee passed along the message because he thought I might be interested. I've also had the opportunity to meet a number of really interesting media professionals since I received the Park Scholar Award (sitting next to James Carville as he watched the SNL parody of himself was certainly an experience I won't forget any time soon). The financial aspect of the award is no joke, either--graduating without being thousands of dollars of debt is unbelievable and it allows me a certain comfort when I think about life after Ithaca.

Q: You’re studying abroad now, correct?

A: This semester I'm studying the social and political role of arts in Chile. I take a few art classes at Universidad de Chile, and all the buildings are completely covered in public protest art—the whole campus is a living artifact of Chilean history. Artists in Chile have always played a huge role in the political struggles of the country, and it's really inspiring to be surrounded by art with such a strong purpose. The Park Scholar Program is all about being a socially conscious communicator; studying Chilean art and interacting with Chilean art students has reframed that concept for me in an entirely new context. The students I've spoken to are adamant that their work has value beyond the confines of their classroom, and I feel incredibly lucky to be in Santiago learning about that process.

Q: A big component of the award is service. What kind of service activities are you involved in?

A: I spend a lot of time doing work for IC STAND: The Student Anti-Genocide Coalition. I joined my first semester in Ithaca and I was elected co-president in my sophomore year. As a club, we raise funds and awareness in the college and greater Ithaca community about human rights violations around the globe--it's really easy to lose yourself inside the campus bubble, so I think it's really important sometimes to “knock people over the head” in order to make them aware of those sorts of issues.  

I also love working with IC Intercambios, which is a language and culture exchange program. My sophomore year I started meeting weekly with a local Spanish speaker in the community so we could both brush up on language skills and get a feel for each other's backgrounds. Last year I started going to farms around Ithaca to give English lessons to farmworkers in their off hours. This year I'm hoping to go to more farms and continue teaching English!

Finally, together with a group of other Park Scholars, I teach media literacy to local elementary school children. It's always fascinating to hear young perspectives about their relationship with media, particularly from kids who have grown up in the media boom.

Q: You're going to be a senior this year. How has being a Park Scholar prepared you for the "real world"?

A: I don't think anything can fully prepare you for the "real world," but the Park Scholar program certainly helps a lot. As a Park student, you hear about the "changing world of communications" constantly, and it's not always about positive change. So, you can choose to get swallowed up in the changes or you can realize that there are ways to navigate and utilize them. More than anything, the Park Scholar Program has put my mind at ease and reminded me that there will always be a community of socially-conscious, dedicated communicators out there, a group that will persist despite any changes. I'm not afraid of these changes anymore: I'm just excited to confront them.


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