Winnie Wang ’18: Committed to fighting homelessness in San Francisco

Just months after graduation, Winnie Wang '18 is using the skills she developed through Eisenhower Institute programs to effect social change in her home city.

Winnie Wang ’18 has always been dedicated to social justice. At Gettysburg College, Wang forged a path that allowed her to immerse herself in the issues of homelessness immediately after graduation.

Hailing from San Francisco, California, the transition to Gettysburg was an enormous one for Wang. However, the community and opportunities she witnessed while visiting campus during Get Acquainted Day drew her to the institution and ultimately shaped her four years here.

“I remember sitting in on a political theory class and thinking that the structure of the class and the content was what I wanted in college,” Wang said. “During my first semester at Gettysburg, I actually enrolled in the course and the professor still remembered who I was simply from my visit a few months prior.”

At Gettysburg College, professors are dedicated to their students, and they recognize that college life can be challenging. Wang’s professors cared about her as a student and as an individual, and that meant a lot, especially being 2,579 miles from home.

Once settled on campus, Wang joined the Eisenhower Institute, a distinctive program that provides connections to global experts who lead undergraduate programs, helps students translate theory into practice, and allows them to build a professional network. She participated in three Eisenhower Institute Programs—Women in Leadership, Inside the Middle East (the Institute now offers a similar program, Contours of the Middle East and North Africa), and the Undergraduate Fellowship.

“I think outside of just the contextual knowledge I gained from each program, they also taught me life skills—how to ask the right questions and engage with people who are well-established experts in their careers,” she said. “These are networking skills that aren’t taught in the classroom, but rather through experience.”

With an office located steps from the White House in Washington, D.C., the Eisenhower Institute allows students to immerse themselves in national and global affairs. “Being that the Eisenhower Institute is a distinctive program only offered at Gettysburg College, the public policy exposure is something I see to be extremely valuable,” she said. 

Wang’s participation in the Eisenhower Institute allowed her to travel extensively throughout her time at Gettysburg College. She mentioned her trips to Israel, France, and the United Kingdom. “I truly got to be a global learner,” she said.

Connecting her academic knowledge with global awareness allowed Wang to think critically about a variety of social issues. During her final semester, she centered her philosophy thesis around corporate social responsibility. Using a case study of the San Francisco Bay Area, she analyzed patterns of homelessness in one of the most vulnerable populations within her home community.

“It’s odd to think about how a few months ago I was writing about housing and homelessness in the San Francisco Bay Area and today I’m working within an organization whose mission is to combat just this,” Wang said. “To jumpstart my career in the city that has shaped much of who I am is priceless.”

After graduating from Gettysburg in 2018, Wang returned to San Francisco where she is currently working as a program associate within the learning and evaluation department at the Community Housing Partnership, an outcomes-focused nonprofit that aims to help individuals experiencing homelessness secure housing and become independent.

“My role is data-focused, so I contribute in creating a number of evaluation tools that gauge and help our residents in becoming more self-sufficient,” Wang said. “My job is exciting in that I’m contributing to a cause that quite literally changes people’s lives.”

Born and raised in San Francisco, CA, Wang’s experience at Gettysburg provided her a cultural and social shift that was very different to how she grew up. “My time at Gettysburg, even as a first-year student, taught me how to navigate spaces that are not partial to me, and it also taught me to form relationships with those who are very different from myself,” she said. “This is something I find invaluable.”

Originally posted on the Gettysburg College website

Article by Marisa Balanda ’21

Photos by Shawna Sherrell

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