UC Answers: Why is giving back so important?

College of Law and international student Francesca Gottardi shares motivations behind her efforts

Francesca Gottardi is an international student from Italy who is pursuing both her law degree as well as her PhD at UC and even passed the bar in New York last year. She is passionate about not just fighting for human rights but sharing the stories of those who do.

Why is it important for students to give back?

I think it's important for students to give back to show gratitude toward those that came before us and were instrumental to our success and education. Further, giving back instills a virtuous cycle that has the power to inspire others to do the same. 

What have you learned about yourself while giving of yourself to others?

I learned that when the act of giving is motivated by the passion I have for something, then giving myself to others feels effortless and even necessary. For example, one of the ways in which I give my time and energy is in gathering the testimony of individuals who went through challenging experiences. 

I recently interviewed Mr. Benjamin Ferencz. At 100 years old, he is the last surviving prosecutor of the Nuremberg Trials. In the interview, Mr. Ferencz talked about his life, the day he entered a concentration camp for the first time, and his experience at the Nuremberg trials, delivering an important message of hope and resilience to future generations. Ferencz's words had a profound impact on me; they shook me to the core. For this reason, I felt it was important to share it with my readers as part of my mission to disseminate and foster knowledge.

Is there one person you would point to as inspiring your own success?

There is not one person, but two — my parents. From a very young age, my parents have instilled in me the importance of education and of hard and honest work. They led by example, and they encouraged me to pursue my passions and interests and to dare to go beyond my comfort zone. I remember when, at age 16, I decided to participate in a selective process for a scholarship to complete high school abroad. It was pretty scary for my parents to support me in the endeavor, to have their 16-year-old go alone in a different country for an extended period of time. Yet they were my number one supporters, and I ended up getting the scholarship. It was hard, especially for my mum, to see me go. But my parents saw that as an invaluable opportunity for my education and always had my back.

What would you say about the importance of the work of UC's Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights?

I am part of the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. As a member of this institute, I dedicate 170 hours a year to reviewing the accuracy of publications regarding international human rights. I feel that this gives me the opportunity to help protect the rights of the vulnerable through human rights scholarly advocacy.

In the summer of 2018, I was selected as an Urban Morgan Fellow to work at the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia. There, I worked closely with attorney and Deputy Minister Natia Mezvrishvili to contribute, through my research, to the development of civil and criminal legislation for the advancement of women’s human rights protection and gender equality in Georgia. This experience was inspiring because it taught me that women belong to places where decisions are made and also because it made me even more aware of the important work that still needs to be done in the field of human rights protection across the globe.

What has the experience of coming to this country and studying at UC been like for you?

I am very content with my experience at UC. Certainly, there have been several challenges along the way — from the hoops of the visa and immigration system, to going through difficult times far away from my support system — but UC has always been very supportive in helping to overcome them. I have been living in the U.S. for over three years now, and I do feel at home here.

At the end of the day, in terms of education, my job and where I see my future heading, it is here. And so, I do feel at home in the U.S., but I still consider Italy home also. It was the place I was born and raised, it is where I grew up, and it is where my family and my friends are. So now, it feels like I am almost sitting between two chairs. I have a home in Italy and also here. And I feel just as comfortable in both. 

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