Amazing Students

Dessa Cosma

Senior Dessa Cosma is a woman who lives with a purpose. A triple major, she is an Honors Student and a former UGA Honors in Washington participant.  She interned at the National Organization for Women, working in their headquarters in Washington, D.C. in Chapter Development. This month, she returned to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic to teach children math and English. She plays on a wheelchair basketball team in her free time and is planning to attend a UGA study-abroad trip to Hungary this Maymester. When she graduates, she wants to continue doing public service with Teach for America or the Peace Corps and then eventually help set up women’s health clinics in developing countries.

Hometown:

Augusta, Georgia

High School:

John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School

Degree objective:

A.B. in Anthropology; A.B. in International Affairs; A.B. in Women’s Studies

Expected graduation:

May 2006

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

Every semester at UGA I have been on the President's or Dean's List. In 2004, I started UGAChoices, a pro-choice organization put together with the goal of getting Athenians to the March for Women's Lives in Washington, D.C. on April 25, 2004. We succeeded and got over 100 UGA students on buses up to what turned out to be the largest march in the history of the United States -- with over 1 million people! Currently, I am the co-chair of the Women's Studies Student Organization, which meets bi-monthly to discuss women's issues, educate people about these issues and act on these issues to make women's lives better. Also, this is my third year playing on a wheelchair basketball team, unofficially called the Rolling Dawgs. The team is comprised of people with disabilities from UGA and the surrounding Athens area and is set up through the Athens Clarke-County Leisure Services. I personally think it is far more entertaining than "normal" b-ball. Last spring and this spring, I volunteered with Orphanage Outreach in the Dominican Republic. I worked at an orphanage in Esperanza, with kids ranging in age from 2 to 18 years, playing with them, teaching math and English and easily learning as much from them as they did from me.

In the 2004 Women's Studies Student Symposium, I presented a paper entitled
"A Realist and Feminist Perspective of the Taliban." In the paper I showed the
connection between strict gender roles, homophobia and terrorism.

Current Employment:

I am the Athens representative for NARAL Pro-Choice Georgia. I am also on NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Student Advisory Committee out of Washington, D.C.  My job with NPCG to educate students and community members in Athens about women’s reproductive health issues, including legislation efforts, medical information, sexual education etc.

I chose to attend UGA because…

At first, I chose to come to simply UGA because I qualified for the HOPE scholarship. However, by my first semester here, I realized it was a good fit. North Campus is beautiful, and I like having the advantages of a large and well-known public university. I like the highly respected professors, a large library, and lots of majors and classes from which to choose.

When I have free time, I like…

...traveling, especially abroad.  All year, I eat two dollar bean and rice burritos at Taco Stand so that when summer comes around I can spend my money seeing the world! So far I’ve made it to Italy, France, England, the Dominican Republic, Canada, and Mexico. This summer, I plan to visit at least that many countries on my Study Abroad (Hungary, Austria, Romania, Slovakia , Lichentstein, Switzerland) and then branch out on my own to see Spain and Morroco with a friend studying abroad in Cadiz.

The craziest thing I've done is…

Traveling alone is probably the craziest thing I’ve done. Visiting a developing country in a wheelchair can be quite difficult. There are no sidewalks or ramps, just rocky and litter-strewn streets. There are certainly no other wheelchairs, so everyone is always facinated and extremely curious by me and my rolling chair. Last year on my trip to the Dominican Republic, I didn’t remember to take an extra pair of tubes for my wheelchair tires until I was over the Gulf of Mexico! So, of course, I had two flats by my second day there! I rolled on flat tires for a while and even tried gum to make a repair myself! Finally I found someone who helped patch my tires for me, but I still had to pump them up every 20 minutes or so! This year I did not forget those tubes.

My favorite place to study is…

I spend an embarassing amount of time studying downtown at Espresso Royale Cafe, but it’s the best place for me to hit the books.

My favorite professor is…

I’ve had a lot of excellent professors in all three areas of study I’m pursuing here at UGA.  However, I’d have to say that Dezso Benedek, a professor of Anthropology and Comparative Literature, takes the cake.  He extends himself beyond the classroom with his students, inviting them to his home, suggesting books and never seeming like he doesn’t have time to even just chat with us.  I admire him for his wealth of knowledge in languages and for doing fieldwork with the Yami people on a small island in the Pacific, but most of all, I admire the friendship he maintains with his students.  I am excited to travel to Hungary with him this summer.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

Kofi Annan, the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations.  I want to work as a humanitarian aid worker someday for an organization like the U.N., and I would love to talk to Mr. Annan about how it really works…as well as get my foot in the door!

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

...spend the next five years traveling aimlessly around the world, hitting every continent and meeting as many people as I can. As an anthropologist, I’m facinated by culture and would rather experience it myself than merely read about in a book or see someone else’s pictures—though I’m a sucker for that too. I feel like the more I learn about the world, the more I’ll be able to help those people who need it because I will better understand where they’re coming from and how their existence works.

After graduation, I plan to…

I’m going to apply both to the Peace Corps and Teach for America.  I plan on going to grad school to study International Public Health and eventually help set up women’s health clinics in developing countries. Often times, women are the last to get the things they need to progress as their societies move toward development. Besides being inherently worthy of healthcare, food, shelter and education, studies show that a society cannot fully progress toward peace and democracy without gender equality and women’s rights. So, ultimately, it is better for everyone if women have opportunities to grow with their communities.

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