Finding Community through Advocacy
With the support of the REAL program, Eemon Ghasemiyeh ’22 advocated for awareness of factory farming and studied its intersectionality with environmental and social justice.
By Sarah Stoddard
In the spring quarter of his junior year, Eemon Ghasemiyeh ’22 (Philosophy) attended a talk by Mohan Gurunathan during SCU’s 4th tUrn week, an event that brings together climate activists from around the world to speak about the climate crisis and work towards a sustainable future. Gurunathan, a local engineer, entrepreneur and activist, spoke about the impacts of the factory farming industry, and Ghasemiyeh found himself incredibly moved by the talk. Right then and there, he decided to be vegan, and he hasn’t looked back.
A couple weeks after tUrn, Ghasemiyeh reached out to Gurunathan, SCU’s Ted Grudin (Environmental Studies and Sciences), and fellow tUrn research intern Emily Pachoud ‘23 (Environmental Studies, Sociology) about summer internship opportunities. All three recommended that Ghasemiyeh look into the Factory Farming Awareness Coalition, or FFAC. Taking this as a sign, Ghasemiyeh knew what his plans for the summer would be.
With funding from SCU’s REAL program, Ghasemiyeh spent his summer as an intern and member of FFAC. The FFAC works to advocate for change in the factory farm industry and provide education to the public about what goes on behind closed doors. Ghasemiyeh was placed into a cohort of other interns, and together, they engaged in various readings and videos and discussed the history, current policies, and impacts of the industry. “This was a significant part of the internship just because so much of the factory farm industry continues based on a lack of knowledge,” he says, explaining why studying the industry in a class-format was so important. Additionally, Ghasemiyeh was paired up with a high school student with whom he acted as a mentor. Finally, interns concluded the summer with individual projects of their choice such as creating a presentation on factory farming or working to bring vegan options to their campus.
During his internship, Ghasemiyeh’s philosophy major and environmental studies minor gave him increased insight into several important aspects and intersections of his work. He found that the work dealt with components of racial oppression, gender oppression, classism, ableism, and more. “I think that my Philosophy major helped me have the foundation to connect the dots a bit better between all of these concepts,” he says. However, one of the most challenging aspects of his experience was the emotional weight of the subject, exacerbated by this intersectionality between other injustices. “There are just so many layers of people and animals being oppressed,” he says. But, with the bond that grew between him and other members of his cohort, Ghasemiyeh learned the importance of emotional balance and finding support in your community.
Although this was a virtual experience due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Ghasemiyeh actually got the opportunity to travel around the country and meet several members of his cohort. Three fellow interns were kind enough to let him stay with them throughout his journey. “Thank you so much to Cassidy, Katie, and Ariella!” Ghasemiyeh says. This was one of the most rewarding parts of his experience. Without the REAL program, this trip would not have been possible. REAL is a great option for students who are in need of funding and would otherwise not be able to partake in an unpaid internship. “My mental health definitely improved because I had more financial freedom to be more explorative with the experience,” he says.
In addition to advocating for factory farming awareness during his internship, Ghasemiyeh is also an activist on campus for promoting sustainability and working towards environmental, racial, and social justice. He has played an important role in tUrn as a student research assistant, and he is actively advocating for changes on campus such as reducing the use of fossil fuels and creating a more just and accurate process for students applying to SCU by including a “Middle Eastern/North African” checkbox on the application.
“Be mindful of your emotional capacity. Be really careful about where you invest your energy ...”
To other students who are passionate about advocacy and interested in promoting justice, Ghasemiyeh gives several pieces of advice. “Be mindful of your emotional capacity,” he says. “Be really careful about where you invest your energy because there is a lot that’s wrong with what’s going on, but it’s important to take that into context with everything that’s beautiful in the world. It’s a balancing act—that means that you balance what you study, and you also balance yourself.” Additionally, Ghasemiyeh stresses the importance of finding good leaders and mentors. “Having some wisdom to guide you really makes a difference,” he says, explaining that it’s important to be aware that you know less than you think you know. “Rowdy Keelor, my cohort leader in the FFAC, has been such an inspiring mentor and a great friend.” And lastly, Ghasemiyeh believes in the importance of fostering or finding your place in a community. “You can’t learn this alone, you can’t deal with it alone, and you can’t address it alone,” he says. “It’s intimidating work, but it's really rewarding because the community is so wonderful and so full of love.”