Social Impact Internships: Erin Liu (’25)

My name is Erin Liu, and I am a current freshman at MIT studying Mathematics and Computer Science. After an exciting but challenging first semester, I wanted to spend my IAP doing something outside of my academics, so I applied to be a Digital Art Intern at Bennett College, North Carolina. My role is to digitally animate the Bennett College student mural to reflect the college’s core values of sisterhood and civic engagement in a modern, technologically-driven setting.

This is my digital recreation of one of three parts of the Bennett College student mural, and it is my favorite part because it depicts the inspiring bond of sisterhood that permeates the college’s culture. At Bennett College, there is a long-standing tradition where every first-year student gets paired with a third-year student as their Big Sister, who serves as a close friend and mentor. On Senior Day, when the Big Sister receives their cap and gown, the Little Sister will participate in the Sister Robing Ceremony, which is depicted in the mural. 

When my advisors Dr. Gwendolyn O’Neal and Dr. Tenille Foust first spoke to me about this tradition, I felt very moved by the encouraging and supportive relationship among students at Bennett College. As a school that started in the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era to educate emancipated slaves, Bennett became an all-women’s college in 1926. During the Civil Rights Movement, Bennett Belles became a prominent force, participating in and leading numerous boycotts and sit-ins. Deeply ingrained in the core values of Bennett College are the ideas of inclusivity and unwavering support for one another, a theme that continues to echo in today’s campus through traditions such as the Sister Robing Ceremony.

Another part of the student mural, depicted above, illustrates Bennett students participating in the famous Woolworth Lunch Counter Sit-in to protest against the store’s segregation policies. Dr. O’Neal and Dr. Foust described the tremendous courage it took for the students involved to initiate this protest, in a time before the sit-in movement had gained widespread momentum. They faced great risks in being one of the first to take this stand, and on top of that, being so young in age. I was able to read first-hand accounts from participating Bennett students in the book Belles of Liberty by Linda Beatrice Brown, which details Bennett’s rich and inspiring history. During the sit-ins, students would bring their homework and study materials because they wanted to keep up academic responsibilities at the same time as they stood up for what they believed in. This was an incredibly empowering moment among many in Bennett history.

In the month I spent getting to know my advisors and the culture of Bennett College, I have been highly uplifted by the stories of love, compassion, and courage. I feel in many ways welcomed into their community, and honored to be able to impart my own small impact. Hopefully, when students or visitors walk through the student union at Bennett College, they now can use their smartphones to watch the murals come to life–a symbol that even in a revolutionized world with technology at its forefront, Bennett College will continue to prosper, unfailingly standing up for their values.

Interested in doing a Social Impact Internship this summer? Click here to learn more about how to apply and sign up for an info session!

Tags: Racial Justice, Social Impact Internship IAP 2022, Social Impact Internships, Tech for Good

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