Impact in Profile: Erika Killion

Impact in Profile: Erika Killion

Just a couple weeks after attending USC Shoah Foundation’s Intercollegiate Diversity Congress (IDC) Summit, DePauw University Student Body President Erika Killion already has a plan for incorporating testimony clips and other USC Shoah Foundation educational resources into campus activities.

Killion attended the IDC Summit along with DePauw’s Student Body Vice President Armaan Patel. Patel had attended USC Shoah Foundation Senior Director of Programs and Operations Kori Street’s keynote presentation at the National Campus Leadership Council’s Presidential Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. in June, about how student leaders could use genocide survivor testimony clips to encourage diversity and inclusion on campus. Following the keynote, USC Shoah Foundation encouraged the attendees to participate in its first-ever IDC Summit at USC Oct. 13-14, 2017.

At the IDC Summit, the 20 participants – student leaders from universities across the country – learned about the Visual History Archive, IWitness, and strategies for using testimony to promote tolerance and inclusion on their campuses. They also learned how to construct their own activities in IWitness and had dinner with Yannick Tona, a child survivor of the Rwandan Tutsi Genocide who is now a motivational speaker in the United States.

Killion said the summit seemed relevant to issues surrounding diversity, inclusion and representation that DePauw has faced this semester.

“[The IDC Summit] was the opportunity to add to our toolbox to learn and grow and bring some things back to our campus, which we did,” Killion said.

She and Patel learned so much at the summit, from both the Shoah Foundation representatives and the other students, she said.

“It was just incredibly moving,” she said. “I think we learned not only specific things about the people whose testimonies we watched and those events but also the incredible power of an individual story and how that can be used to create understanding.”

Killion also found it helpful to hear about the other student leaders’ challenges on their own campuses, what they’ve already done to address them and their plans moving forward.

Killion and Patel have already identified several ways to introduce DePauw students to the power of testimony. At next year’s annual DePauw Dialogue, a campus-wide day off from classes devoted to educational activities about diversity and inclusion, Killion plans to hold a workshop about testimony as one of the optional activities for the day.

Next semester, she also wants to incorporate testimony into a vigil for victims of mass atrocities called “Together We Will Remember.”

Finally, Killion and several other IDC Summit participants are interested in creating their own archives of video testimonies of students and alumni from their campuses. The testimonies would focus on the interviewees’ experiences as minorities and other marginalized groups on campus. Killion envisions that the testimonies from DePauw could be archived in its new Center for Diversity and Inclusion, which is about to open.

Though it will take some time for her ideas to come to fruition, Killion believes the DePauw student body has a lot to gain from testimony’s lessons about tolerance, respect and inclusion.

“I would really hope that we can build empathy for each other on campus. I think we form little subgroups and have that in group/out group mentality on campus,” she said. “Breaking that down and building empathy would be the most powerful thing we can do. I think we can definitely use testimony to move in that direction.”