Welcome to the latest installment of the CJC Student Spotlight Series! This month, we are pleased to spotlight William Hammond, a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service from Los Angeles. In addition to Jewish Civilization, Hammond minors in Theatre and Performance Studies. Read our interview with him below to learn more about Hammond, his experience as a CJC student, and his time on the Hilltop!
Q: Briefly tell us about yourself, Will!
A: Hello! One thing that might be good to know is that I am the baby of seven children between my Mom, Dad, and Stepmom. My development in such a large, diverse, and supportive family has provided me with the spectacular gift of knowing that my studies are, in large part, up to me. I do not bear the pressure of being the first or only child and find solace in the fact that I can learn from the multitude of experiences that my siblings have to offer.
Other miscellaneous facts about me are that I have a Jack Russell Terrier named Edmund, whom I love beyond life itself. Additionally, I made the decision to go skydiving the day after turning 18 (which was awesome!), and one time I met Drake Bell at a dentist appointment. Also, I am half Ethiopian!
Q: How were you introduced to the Center for Jewish Civilization (CJC)?
A: As many in the CJC will attest, Professor Jacques Berlinerblau is a very persuasive man. I was scrolling through the school’s courses in search of my second theology class, and found none other than “Blacks and Jews in America,” co-taught by Berlinerblau and Professor Terrence Johnson. As a Black man in America who was blissfully unaware of any tensions between the two minority groups, the course sparked my interest. I signed up right away and was enlightened during each and every class. After some time, Professor Berlinerblau ended up inviting students to a “Sushi Social,” at the CJC where he would later convince me within minutes that this was what I wanted to minor in.
Q: Do you have a favorite CJC class?
A: I could not possibly write down everything that I learned in “Blacks and Jews in America,” however, one of my favorite subjects relating to the overarching themes of the course was the discussion of the intricacies that differentiate how the two groups have been treated by White Christian society throughout the history of the United States. This crucial topic is important within the larger discussion about how the two groups have historically been treated by each other. This would have to be my favorite class so far, due to how specialized it is and how much it got me to think about my identity from the Jewish-American perspective.
Another spectacular class I took was my “Introduction to Jewish Civilization” course taught by Professor Meital Orr, in which we read and analyzed much of the Jewish Study Bible, in addition to many other historical documents dating back thousands of years. Acquiring all of this information within such a short period of time was a useful exercise and gave me a strong foundation from which to draw any basic knowledge of Judaism and the culture that has driven its survival throughout millennia. I cannot emphasize enough how helpful Professor Orr’s passion for the subject was in bringing scholarly texts to life.
Q: What are some of your academic interests? Have you been able to explore them while at the Center?
A: I am a sophomore in the SFS who is extremely interested in the junction between performance and International affairs! Throughout my life, being on stage has been at the forefront of my development, manifesting itself in various ways. This has ranged from acting in plays in school and with local theatre ensembles, to taking risks in branches of performance like stand-up comedy and spoken word. My interest in theatre absolutely consumed my childhood and continues to dominate my life. International affairs, however, specifically in terms of the factors that influence the growth of both domestic and international terrorism and/or extremism is a relatively new interest that has been fostered through my studies in Jewish Civilization. Learning about the roots of anti-Semitism and how it continues to fester in even the most advanced and educated societies boggles my mind, and is another topic that I look forward to further exploring as I pursue my CJC minor and security studies focus.
Q: How has the CJC impacted your time at Georgetown?
A: The CJC has provided me with a community with which I can talk about virtually anything. Though I have yet to use Center resources to their fullest extent due to current circumstances, I know that being part of such a diverse community of people with vastly different interests and experiences will benefit me in the long run. It is so easy to grow numb to Georgetown’s broader, more homogenous campus population. Whether intentionally or unwittingly, the CJC maintains a standard of cultural richness in the people that it recruits. Also, if it were not for my head on immersion into Jewish history, I am unsure whether I would have been as secure in the major I am trying to lock down. It was only after having a recent discussion with Director Bruce Hoffman that I understood what my ideal course of study was. As an expert in the field of terrorism, he recommended International Politics with a focus in Security Studies, a track that I am hopping on as we speak.
Q: Have you been able to further your (CJC and non-CJC) research and extracurricular interests while online? If so, how?
A: Yes! While last semester was difficult due to the transition into a completely online culture, I have opted to keep myself busy this semester by doing what I do best: taking risks. In doing so, I have co-written an article about Jesuit slavery for the Georgetown Voice, been cast in the Don B. Murphy One Acts Festival with the Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society, been elected as Associate Producer on the board of the Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society, and decided to begin the process of co-writing a play for my fellowship with the Georgetown Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics! Once I am finished with one more article for the Voice, I will have satisfied the requirements necessary to be elected to its Editorial Board as well! In the future (hopefully when we are all on campus), I hope to get more involved with CJC specialized classes and events.
Q: That’s amazing, Will! How have you furthered your learning experience outside of the CJC and SFS?
A: Over the summer of 2020, I was honored to serve as a legislative intern in the office of Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez. This was an especially busy time to be working there as I started in the midst of June’s nationwide protests against police brutality. As a member of the Black community, I was given the unique perspective of protesting on the front lines while also being a fly on the wall, witnessing the local government’s response to all that was going on. For one of my assignments, I was even tasked with creating a brief for the Council President detailing the key points of The People’s Budget; a plan introduced by Black Lives Matter: Los Angeles to reorganize the structure of the city’s budget. This would lower the funding of law enforcement for the sake of investment in reimagined alternatives. Being able to discuss these issues with the Council President openly was a privilege that very few people get to have and one that I will always treasure.
Q: What have been some of your favorite moments while an SFS student in general?
A: There have been certain points in my SFS tenure when I have sat in a classroom and had to pinch myself because of how engaged I was with the material I was learning. This may be a reflection of Georgetown or college coursework in general. However, those moments were noticeably rare when I was in high school. I also continue to be astounded by the SFS’s reach in terms of day-to-day international relations. While I suppose this should be assumed of a top tier school in the foriegn service, I still find myself mystified whenever I get to interact with any of Georgetown’s many diplomatic alumni and practitioners.
Q: What are you most looking forward to this upcoming semester?
A: This semester, I look forward to taking on more leadership roles in the organizations that I am associated with. While it is still a virtual semester, it is my intent to make the best I can out of it. Because I have completely filled up my schedule, I also look forward to getting better at time management. My theory is that if I can survive this many commitments in the soul-sucking zoom world, I will be able to achieve anything when we eventually return to physical life. Thank you so much for reading this!