A group of dedicated USC students is reviving the USC Shoah Foundation Institute Student Association (SFISA).
Founded about two years ago by USC Shoah Foundation interns, SFISA is the student association of USC Shoah Foundation. It’s open to all USC graduate and undergraduate students, although most of its current members are Shoah Foundation interns and alumni of the Problems Without Passports study abroad program in Rwanda, which was led in part by SFISA’s faculty sponsor Dan Leshem (USC Shoah Foundation associate director of research).
SFISA president Nora Snyder, a senior international relations and Middle Eastern studies double major, and vice president Greg Irwin, senior international relations major, both participated in the Problems Without Passports course in Rwanda this summer. They said their time spent in Rwanda learning about the 1994 Rwanda Tutsi Genocide inspired them to revive SFISA after months of inactivity.
Snyder and Irwin said they want to introduce more students to the work of USC Shoah Foundation. “A lot of students are completely unaware that we have the pre-eminent organization of this type in the world right here on campus. That’s what we’re hoping to change,” Snyder said.
They were also inspired by AERG and GAERG, the undergraduate and graduate student groups, respectively, for genocide survivors in Rwanda.
“We saw how much they were doing and we wanted to help do something for them as well,” Irwin said.
SFISA’s general meetings are every other Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the USC Shoah Foundation office in Leavey Library. At some meetings, the group will speak in person or via Skype with genocide experts and survivors such as Yannick Tona, who spent time with the Problems Without Passports class in Rwanda and speaks at colleges around the world.
“He’s awesome and probably the most inspiring person I’ve ever met,” Snyder said. “He’s my age and he’s probably going to be president of Rwanda.”
The group’s first big project is to help spread the word about the Student Voices Film Contest, in which all USC students are invited to create short films using testimony from USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive. SFISA also hopes to put on events in April to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Rwanda Tutsi Genocide, and will collaborate with USC STAND Student Anti-Genocide Coalition.
SFISA members hope to inspire more students to become informed and passionate about genocide prevention.
“Whether people end up coming to general meetings or not, I think it’s more important to us that we are able to connect with students and they’re able to care about these issues,” Irwin said. “If we’re holding a candlelight vigil in April for the Rwanda genocide hopefully we can inspire a few kids to come.”
For more information about SFISA, visit the Facebook page.