Inside USD

USD Degree is the Start of Something Bigger for Buckley

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

summerphotoSummer Buckley’s status as a University of San Diego alumna will be official when she participates in the first of two undergraduate commencement ceremonies Sunday at the Jenny Craig Pavilion.

The 21-year-old will obtain a bachelor’s degree in sociology, with a minor in gender studies. Then she will move to Washington, D.C., to begin work on June 1 as an assistant to John Prendergast, a noted author, activist and, in each of the past two years, a visiting peace scholar at USD’s Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies.

“It’s definitely a foot in the door,” Buckley said of the chance to work for Prendergast, co-founder of the D.C.-based Enough Project, which is dedicated to creating awareness of genocide and crimes against humanity in Africa and beyond. “It’s going to be a lot of administration things, getting flights, organizing his life, planning events for him, but the nice thing about John is that he wants your opinion, he wants your advice and he wants to know what you believe in, especially because he knows this is something I care about.”

Prendergast has been a role model for Buckley’s activism. He and actor Don Cheadle co-wrote the New York Times best seller Not on Our Watch, a book that brought more awareness of the genocide in Darfur. Buckley’s interest blossomed. She volunteered at San Diego County’s South Sudanese Community Center. She attended a conference for Students Taking Action Now: Darfur (S.T.A.N.D.) in Washington, D.C., where Prendergast was a speaker. She made an Intersession trip to D.C. with USD Political Science professors Mike Williams and Casey Dominguez. Motivated by her experiences, Buckley created a S.T.A.N.D. chapter at USD.

Initially skeptical about starting a group on campus — “I was nervous to start something like that, in fear of it failing or fear of it not being what I wanted it to be,” — Buckley persevered, and S.T.A.N.D. is a viable entity.

“Working on S.T.A.N.D. has given me the opportunity to meet so many incredible people from other organizations,” she said. “It showed me that the original feeling I had, that no one really cared, was incorrect. I can leave here feeling good and knowing the school has changed, is changing and people are really goal-oriented to make a difference.”

Buckley focused her senior year on a gender studies research project about sexual violence in international conflict regions. A video compilation of the 11 student projects was shown at the Gender Studies and Women’s Center Banquet on May 7. Buckley received the Dr. Linda A.M. Perry Award, given to an outstanding student for academic excellence and dedication to the gender studies program.

“I’ve never been so close to a group of individuals in my life,” she said. “We have different backgrounds and we discussed it in class. Everyone has a different passion and different experiences that have affected him or her. To completely disagree with everyone at times and not understand where they’re coming from is rewarding and fulfilling because you realize there are so many different beliefs in the world.”

Buckley praised her USD professors, too. “I got a C on a mid-term in my Introduction to Sociology class, and I freaked out. It encouraged me to really learn the field. My professors pushed me, and I built relationships with these amazing, intelligent people that it drove me to be successful. We’re given an opportunity to really value education here and to interact with our professors and our peers, and I think that’s what makes this community so unique. I’m using what I’ve learned in gender studies, sociology and my classes in political science into what I want to do now.”

Working alongside Prendergast has typically been a one-year opportunity, Buckley said, but she hopes to stay longer, perhaps in another role within the organization. Graduate school and travel are also among her future goals.

Presently, Buckley is taking final exams and preparing for life without USD, a place she’s grown to appreciate since arriving in the fall of 2005 from Tucson, Ariz.

“I’m going to miss it,” she said. “I’ll miss the hours at Aromas, I’ll miss the law library where I can find peace or a place to fall asleep. I’m going to miss the people and the professors I’ve worked with. It’s so hard to leave this place because it’s where I was part of such a strong community of people who are so unique, so special and driven. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye; well, not goodbye, we’ll stay in touch, but I won’t get to see them every day.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

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