September 2020 Student Spotlight
Ann Rafaella E. Sangalang, BSPA ’20
BSPA student Ann Rafaella talks about social media as a communications and media tool, her internship with the NYC City Council, and more in this month’s student spotlight.
Your professor Don Waisanen told us about a recent Instagram post you made which went viral. Can you tell us about that post and also how Professor Waisanen’s class informed your approach to social media and communications?
The topic of racism is popularly described as “uncomfortable” and “extensive” which makes people apprehensive when it comes to participating in progressive discourse. To take a realist standpoint, people are naturally egoistic beings, so it’s not a surprise when people overlook or downplay the severity of issues when it doesn’t directly affect them. Everyone is cognizant of the socio-economic effects of racism on minority demographics; however, for some reason, it has taken hundreds of recent black deaths for people to start taking serious action against the social disease that disproportionately affects black communities. After taking Professor Waisanen’s insightful class last Fall (2019) on Public Campaigns & Advocacy, I thought this would be an optimal time to utilize what I’ve learned and translate it onto an Instagram post to contribute to the Black Lives Matter Movement. The main takeaway from his lectures was that we need to focus on changing people’s behavior rather than their viewpoint because action is what’ll make change一 not awareness. I’ve seen several Instagram posts on my timeline simply informing people of current events that pertain to police brutality and the Black Lives Matter Movement. The issue with this is that people are already aware of what’s going on. We have been for years. We don’t need thousands of profiles regurgitating what the news is already broadcasting. What we need to do is “script the change” and guide people to the necessary steps to combat racism. Thus, I decided to make my own Instagram master list.
The two main goals I had for my Instagram post was to 1) simplify the information into a condensed list so it’s direct and easily understandable and 2) remove any possible barriers to incentivize people to take action. Usually, master lists are bombarded with so much information that it deters people from actually reading and retaining any of the content provided. Aside from an excessive amount of information, several organizations and personal profiles have been providing people with the only option to donate. However, in the midst of a pandemic, I recognized that not everyone has the monetary funds to contribute. This influenced me to create a simple and easy-to-read master list that contains a few “Free Things You Can Do to Help The Black Lives Matter Movement”, such as signing petitions, emailing government officials, creating art, and so on. People need to be incentivized, and what better way to do than with everyone’s favorite number: FREE! That way there isn’t a price barrier and people no longer have an excuse to avoid participation. Once I finished my master list and hit “post”, the likes just kept increasing. I was truly surprised because I was expecting to get only a few likes, but next thing you know, celebrities and Instagram influencers like Lindsay Morgan (from The 100), Stella Hudgens, Claudia Sulewski, Lily Maymac, and Rebecca Black reposted. You can check out the post on my page @swankalang.
What was your internship experience with the NYC City Council?
The Marxe School offers its students such great opportunities, like allowing their students to intern at the NYC City Council for class credit. I’ve always wanted to know how it would feel like to have a career in government and public policy, and PAF 5452 seemed perfect when it came to gaining hands-on experience in the public sector. I decided to sign up for the Spring 2020 session; however, Covid-19 seemed to have other plans. Long story short, my internship quickly turned into working from home. My duties in my assigned District Council Office switched from handling constituent calls to assisting in legislative research, organizing and updating contacts lists, and reviewing and distributing Covid-19 virtual resources to the general public. Although my experience with the New York City Council was unconventional, it was definitely very exciting and insightful.
How did you decide on the Bachelor’s of Science in the Public & International Affairs Program at the Marxe School? What policy issues are you most passionate about?
I was immersed into public policy when I joined my high school’s debate team and got elected as student body president. In both of these positions, I practiced knowing both sides of every argument, taking into account demographics, researching short-term & long-term effects on populations, and implementing weighing mechanisms to see which policies were more efficient; I found these tasks incredibly interesting. Naturally, I decided to major in Public & International Affairs as my interests coincided with the curriculum.
As a former public forum debater, I’ve discussed a variety of public policies that varied from carbon taxes, Cuban embargos, the probable cause standard, and so on. But, If I had to pick a few issues I’m most passionate about, I’d say they’re public education, climate change, and criminal justice reform. There’s so many gaps within our capitalistic democracy一in the status quo一 that we have yet to address. I have a long way to go as an undergrad, but hopefully I’ll be able to make some legislative improvements in these areas eventually.