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Leanne Tyler's Story

During the spring semester of her sophomore year at Gettysburg, Leanne Tyler took a course that changed the way she looked at both the world and her role in it. The course focused on African history and economic development, and in particular it explored the aftereffects of colonization on many African nations.

"I was intrigued by how past events--and especially something as monumental as colonization--continue to affect people today," Leanne says. "They're being subjugated and oppressed because of hierarchical structures and cultural beliefs that were set up under colonization, and they're still struggling today. It inspired me to want to work against that. History can repeat itself if you don't step in and work for change."

Stepping in and working for change is a consistent theme for Leanne, a junior with a major in political science, a minor in economics, a perfect 4.0 GPA, and her eyes focused on a career as a lawyer advocating for the disadvantaged. Sophomore year she traveled to Latin America as part of a course that looked at gender and social change. She studied the Mexican Zapatista movement, talked to factions involved in the civil war in El Salvador, and saw firsthand how people in poverty would band together to improve their lives.

"You couldn't help but be inspired," she says. "If people with little money or resources can mobilize to help themselves, then surely I can do the same in my own way. It encouraged me to come home and do something."

For now, "doing something" means working with a local community-action program to help migrant women start their own businesses. It means forming her own student organization, called the Global Connections Group, to promote campus discussions about issues in Latin America. It means conducting research with her political science professor that looks at half a century's worth of civil wars around the globe and examines what happens to the groups that wage them.

"Our research is about marginalized groups who feel so pushed away from society that they try other means to advocate for themselves," Leanne says. "When all else fails, they take up arms."

After Gettysburg, Leanne plans to continue to take up causes. She wants to go to law school at Harvard because of its strengths in government and social policy. Then she plans to go into human rights law, possibly continuing her work on behalf of migrant workers. After that she's thinking about getting a Ph.D. so she can do research that raises awareness of the issues she's passionate about.

Years ago, when Leanne was in high school and looking at colleges that would help her reach her goals in life, an adviser told her to look for a great liberal arts college that would give her a strong foundation in different subject areas and would challenge her to think. She's glad she found one.

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