Congratulations to Penn State student Casey Sennett for her first place award in the Harris and Zelma Freedman Essay Contest! Casey’s winning paper is titled “Unintended Consequences: The Alliance Israélite Universelle and French Education as a Source of Communal Tension in Colonial Jewish Tunis.”
Casey is in the Anthropology IUG program with additional undergraduate majors in History, Jewish Studies, and Middle Eastern Studies. She is minoring in Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies and Global and International Studies. Throughout her time at Penn State, she has been involved with Lion Ambassadors, Paterno Fellows Student Advisory Board, Schreyer Ambassadors, and SHO Time.
Learn more about Casey’s time at Penn State below.
Tell us about your award-winning essay! Why you decided to write on this topic and give us some insight into your research experience.
I wrote this essay for a history class about Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the Middle East. During the course, we learned about the establishment of Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) schools in Jewish communities through the Middle East and North Africa in the 19th century. My interest in the topic led me to write my final research paper about it. While I enjoyed my research, many of the primary sources about the topic are only available in French, so my research was limited to the available sources in English.
Why did you decide to study Jewish Studies at Penn State?
I decided to study Jewish Studies at Penn State after taking a course about the Holocaust in France. The class, and the embedded study abroad component to Paris, exposed me to the history of the Holocaust and the importance of preserving and educating future generations about the Holocaust. The experience influenced my future career aspiration, which is working in education or public programming at a Jewish history or Holocaust museum.
What is your favorite Penn State memory?
I recently served as the student MC at the closing celebration for A Greater Penn State, the university’s two billion dollar fundraising campaign. Speaking at the event, with more than 1,400 attendees at the BJC, was a surreal experience and one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
Do you have any advice for students who are interested in becoming Jewish Studies students?
My advice for students interested in Jewish Studies is to start by taking a class or two in the department. The Jewish Studies Department offers a variety of courses in different topics and within different disciplines, which allows students of all backgrounds and interests to take courses in the department. For example, I was able to combine all my different majors and minor because there is overlap between them and Jewish Studies.
What accomplishment at Penn State are you most proud of?
This semester, I received the inaugural Christopher B. Gamble Undergraduate Service to Penn State Award through the College of the Liberal Arts. I am proud to be the first recipient of the award and to be recognized for my service to the College of the Liberal Arts and Penn State.
Where is your favorite place in State College?
The Sparks Building.