Christina Chu '18 Uses Twitter to Make Deeper Connections in Brown in Washington Program

The social media platform helped bring resonance to food insecurity among college students for the Brown senior.
February 15, 2018

In an effort to share student experiences in Washington with students on campus, Fall 2017 Brown in Washington fellows were asked to take a photo and write a caption that helps describe a memorable part of their learning experience while working with the D.C. community during their semester away. 

Christina Chu ‘18, a Health & Human Biology concentrator, reflected on her semester interning at the New America Foundation.

"I had not expected to revive my Twitter account during my time in the Brown in Washington D.C. program, much less for it to become a surprisingly milestone decision that led to me attending a key Congressional briefing. In 2016, I attended 1vyG’s 2nd annual Conference at Harvard University. This was the first time that I had heard of Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab. After her talk, I went on my Twitter account that I rarely used to follow her. Twitter served strictly as a means for me to remember the interesting people whom I met, and I promptly ignored my account for the next year.

At the New America Foundation, the large flat screen monitor in the Omaha conference room served not only useful for writing proposals and grants, but also for watching episodes of "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" during lunch breaks. On this day, my colleague and I watched some older episodes. And this time, the episode had a familiar guest. Her name was Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab. I have a good memory of faces, but I have an even better memory of names.

Had Dr. Goldrick-Rab become famous overnight? I logged into my Twitter account to see what I could find. Her "Daily Show" interview was still pinned on her Twitter timeline. I retweeted that tweet with a comment of her interview and mentioned the 1vyG conference. Like many of my previous tweets and social media posts, I assumed that my words would disappear far into the cyberspace. Surely, I had thought Dr. Goldrick-Rab would not see my random Tweet especially given her other 24K Twitter followers. After some time, I checked my Twitter again. And to my utter surprise, Dr. Goldrick-Rab had not only liked my tweet, but also retweeted my comment. 

At the beginning of my internship, I was tasked to write an article related to health. My Twitter shout out from Dr. Goldrick-Rab led me to update myself on her research, which focused on food insecurity among college students. As a current undergraduate, I felt an obligation to my peers across the country and those on my own college campus who may be struggling with food insecurity to elevate this topic and promote further discussion about this barrier to college completion. Towards the end of my internship, my Twitter browsing resulted in yet another opportunity. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) tweeted about a Congressional briefing on College Student Hunger with America including a panel with Dr. Goldrick-Rab. This briefing is evidence of what we can accomplish when we bridge the gap between researchers and policy makers. While my time in D.C. had been filled with many noteworthy moments, from shaking former Vice President Joe Biden’s hand to achieving escape room success for the first time with my D.C. cohort, my research that led me to attend the Congressional briefing made my time in D.C. come full circle."