At the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester, Sarah Walters ’19 is using the knowledge she developed through her Genocide, Human Rights, and Peace Action major as the agency’s first Holocaust Education and Community Relations Program Director. Combining her interests and study, the position allows Walters to connect with a range of people in a new community and lend her knowledge and passion to vital issues.
“It was without a doubt [Professor of Religious Studies] Michael Dobkowski who from my very first moments in the classroom pushed me toward my passions,” says Walters of her First-Year Seminar adviser and later on her major adviser. In addition to helping her lay the groundwork for an individual major, Dobkowski introduced her to opportunities with the HWS Human Rights and Genocide Symposium and encouraged her to participate in The March: Bearing Witness to Hope in Poland and Germany. When searching for a job, it was Dobkowski who told her of the position at the Jewish Federation.
The work with the Federation, which represents more than 19,000 members, is exciting for Walters as it “focuses on everything from programming for Holocaust survivors and Holocaust education in schools to how we face and convene on gun violence prevention in our community,” she says. “[This position] allows me to be innovative, to dig in deep and to build. [Without HWS] I would not have trusted myself to take these first steps into my career.”
With the Human Rights and Genocide Symposium, she served as president and found “unique ways to educate our community — and ourselves — on difficult subjects that far too often go unheard of,” Walters says. “The symposium really is a space to spark conversations and action, which is much of the work I do now.” In addition, Walters served as vice president of Hillel and as a senior chapter leader for PLEN at William Smith, and worked in the Offices of the William Smith Dean, Advancement and Admissions.
Walters also credits Professor Emeritus of Philosophy Steven Lee and Professor of Religious Studies Richard Salter ’86, P’15 for helping to shape her course of study. “I think, truly, what was most influential in my success and growth at HWS were the people I found as role models,” Walters notes. “Julianne Miller, director of the Abbe Center for Jewish Life, has been one of the most important mentors I have had, welcoming me into a space where I could engage in social justice, create and embolden community, and act wholly and proudly for kindness and peace.” Walters credits her mentors with helping her to recognize the communal and global need for the work she dreamed of doing.