Class of 2021, Rhetoric Studies
Favorite Camp: The slickrock of Comb Ridge, near Bluff, UT
“I’m not sure that I expected such constant contradiction.”
Applying to Whitman, Aliza Anderson-Diepenbrock never truly considered Semester in the West: a cool program, but not fitting into the “Aliza Plan,” which involved psychology and a heavy interest in the politics of incarceration. In her first year at Whitman, she took that plan in a new direction, one that included Semester in the West. After a high school experience largely based on international travel, Aliza felt it was necessary look critically at the issues taking place close to home. Aliza saw this program as an opportunity to learn in what ways she, as a “Citizen of the West,” can step into the radical work that needs to take place.
The West is full of contradictions: from kind ranchers who endorse feedlots and the brutal killing of wolves, to wild places that are no longer wild, Aliza found herself caught between differing perspectives of equally likeable people and the paradoxes of conservation. Semester in the West presents speakers one after the other, often with little time to reflect on how they align with one another. Aliza has found her own method to sort out this madness, via active listening that incorporates, “empathy and critique at the same time.” Holding her own core beliefs closely, she looks for the problematic power structures that both our group and guest speakers perpetuate. However, she does so with the intent of still learning from these people and experiences.
Author Amy Irvine cast this tactic as one not only of evaluating others, but oneself as well. Amy spoke on the value of making one’s own voice heard, but also of making sure to “find ways in which you are complicit” in injustice and environmental degradation. This stuck with Aliza as she examined her own hypocrisies. In finishing Amy’s writing assignment, a comment letter on the Draft Management Plan for Bears Ears National Monument, she asked herself, “is this really for me to speak on?” After time focused on engaging critically in this complex part of our country, Aliza decided that while her privileged voice should not be the loudest, she can use it to speak, and in small ways like this, insist upon change.
By Mitch Cutter
Photo by James Baker