Although she grew up practically in the shadow of campus, just down the road in South Deerfield, Lilly Pfannebecker ’07 (legal studies/political science) is a worldly young woman. “I have always been curious about people and places that are different and distant from my everyday life,” she says. In high school Pfannebecker developed an interest in history and politics—specifically foreign policy and international politics. “I started to worry about the U.S. role in world affairs and became disheartened with our impact on the various political systems in the world. And I became critical of the nation’s role in important international issues, like our lag in the amount of money given for AIDS research and AIDS victims in Africa, our lack of support for sex education programs that endorse abortion, and our failure to observe human rights norms.”
When Pfannebecker entered UMass Amherst, it wasn’t surprising that she quickly declared herself a political science major in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “And then I added legal studies because I found the subject matter so intriguing—and the professors so willing and eager to work closely with me. It has been a wonderful interaction. They have given me excellent and important guidance. I’ve learned so much. Several legal studies courses inspired my passion for human rights, and I am sure that I have found my field.”
Looking to the future, Pfannebecker plans to continue her education, most likely a master’s program in international relations or public policy, after graduation this spring. “And I expect to go on for my PhD too,” she adds. “My idea is to influence the policy process in this country to be more oriented toward human rights and global equality. I’m not sure yet exactly how I’ll do that,” but given Pfannebecker’s seriousness of purpose, she’s very likely to find a way.
But for now, Pfannebecker is savoring her time at UMass Amherst. She points to “great classes with some exceptional professors” and last summer she took advantage of a study abroad program in Denmark, buoyed with funds from the Ansin Study Abroad Fellowship awarded annually by the SBS Dean’s Office to outstanding students majoring in social and behavioral sciences. “It was a terrific experience,” Pfannebecker says, “and it relates directly to my independent thesis.” She is examining the European Union’s foreign and defense policies toward Africa, looking specifically at the very different strategies currently being applied to Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo. And in the true spirit of SBS’s slogan, Connect to Your World!, Pfannebecker is also planning on pursuing an internship in the spring, “hopefully something that relates to AIDS advocacy,” she notes.
“Sometimes it’s hard to feel ‘at home’ at UMass Amherst because it is such a big school,” Pfannebecker concedes, “but it has a lot of great programs for students. There are plenty of extracurricular experiences—I’ve participated in intramural sports and the UMass Democrats Club. And the Five-College area offers great cultural events—plays, lectures, museums, music. To make the most of the education that’s available at UMass Amherst, you have to make a place for yourself—find a niche like I did—and then you’ll really get preparation for the ‘real world.’ For anyone who is serious about academics, I’d recommend taking advantage of Commonwealth College for the most challenging courses and opportunities. And of course, study abroad. There is no better way to broaden one’s perspectives than seeing another part of the world, meeting new people and being immersed in another culture.”
September 25, 2006