One task that I was in charge of throughout the semester was organizing a screening of Girl Rising, a film whose goal is to raise awareness about the importance of education for young females around the globe. The film was brought to my attention by the organization I studied abroad with during the Spring 2013 semester, CIEE. I received an email from them in mid-September with information about the film and the steps necessary to secure a screening within your community, university or corporation. When I first saw the email I thought it would be great if the Center for Global Studies sponsored a screening at Penn State. At first I wasn’t sure if I should forward it to Sarah because I had only just started as an intern. After a little bit of thought I decided to do so because the worst that could happen was that Sarah said no. Fortunately, however, my initiative paid off as Sarah really liked the idea and asked me to apply on the Center’s behalf.
The first order of business after our application was accepted was to decide on a date. There were a few dates that CIEE recommended, all of which corresponded with either International Day of the Girl, International Education Week or International Women’s Day. Sarah and I talked about it and decided that International Education Week in November would provide us with be the right amount of time to plan a successful screening. It turned out that a few other groups on campus were interested in co-sponsoring, including the International Agriculture Club, United Nations Association of Centre County, and the University Libraries. I connected with the President of the International Ag Society, Amanda, and the two of us started emailing back and forth. We thought about what day of the week and time of day would draw the biggest crowd. We decided to screen the film early in the week, a Monday, and at 6pm so that students, community members, and PSU faculty could attend. Sarah suggested screening the film in Foster Auditorium and provided me with the contact information for the woman in charge of organizing the auditorium’s events. By early October we had secured the venue and I started working on other tasks.
Sarah also thought it would be beneficial to have a panel either before or after the film so that audience members could discuss either what they were about to see or what they had just witnessed. The woman in charge of Foster Auditorium provided me with contact information for panelists but unfortunately I didn’t hear back from anyone right away. Amanda contacted a professor in Women’s Studies but she never received a response either. This is when the process got a little stressful because no responses made it difficult to progress any further. One of the biggest lessons I learned throughout this entire process is that communicating in person is so much easier than emailing back and forth. I always believed this to be true but this event more than proved it to me. Eventually, Sarah was able to get in contact with a professor in Migration Studies who provided me information about a woman who had recently returned from a Fulbright Scholarship in Sri Lanka. I emailed her and she was more than willing to help (and I very much appreciated her quick response). She asked that I keep her in the loop, which I promised to do once the panel was completely organized. As it turned out, the woman in charge of Foster Auditorium’s computer crashed so she was unable to provide panel members until pretty late in the process. Eventually we secured two other members and Amanda and I started to brainstorm how we wanted to organize the panel.
Originally, Amanda, with advice from her advisor, thought it would be best to have the panel beforehand so that our speakers wouldn’t be disrespected if audience members left immediately after the film. I thought this was a good point so we settled on this arrangement. However, while I was collecting bios from the panelists and what they planned on saying in regards to women’s education based on their research and experience they felt uncomfortable. All three of them thought it would be better if they saw the film before speaking on the themes within it. Obviously we wanted to accommodate the panelists as much as possible since they were giving up their time.
As the date got closer I was getting very anxious that no one would show up. As it turned out, there were a few other screenings of Girl Rising both before and after ours. The final pieces of the event took a while to put together and I was worried that advertising went out too late. Luckily, CIEE provided us with advertising materials that we could use as much as we wanted. Eventually the Libraries sent out a press release and completed the poster using a layout found on the CIEE website. Since I am in charge of social networking for the Center, I used Facebook and Twitter to post facts on female education that would “shock” the public. I hoped these numbers and statistics would entice people to learn about the importance of educating young girls.
Finally November 11th came along and much to my relief people showed up! Amanda was in charge of introducing both the film and panelists because I really don’t like public speaking. It’s something I need to work on but I didn’t want to test out my skills during the event. In total, about 85 people attended, which I was happy with. After the film ended, the panelists led an “organic” discussion based on their experience and expertise as it related to what they had just seen on screen. Audience members shared their opinions, which were mostly positive. The discussion lasted around 45 minutes and I think audience members were thankful for being able to discuss such a powerful film with others. Overall, organizing the screening of Girl Rising was an enriching experience because I learned how to work with other organizations on campus and within the community. Although it was a little stressful at times, I am now more confident in my ability to organize events and I am thankful that Sarah and the Center provided me with this opportunity.