With a dual major in communication and women’s and gender studies, Elza Brechbuhl is excited by the possibilities her courses offer inside and outside the classroom. Her discussion-based classes address complex issues and enable “honest, very personal” conversations with her peers. “I love my majors because they hug and slap me at the same time,” she says. “I’m often invited to events in the community and engage with people outside our college. That pushes me to apply what’s in textbooks to the real world and really refl ect on my work.”
One of Brechbuhl’s most powerful experiences at UNH was coorganizing the Black Lives Matter protest during summer 2020. After watching other protests pop up across the U.S., Brechbuhl and several friends decided to organize one on campus, balancing keeping people healthy during a pandemic while sounding a call for change. “We brought about 1,000 people on to campus to listen to Black students speak about their experiences,” she says. “It was the first time I saw so many people care about a problem in our community. I was thankful for being a Wildcat.”
Brechbuhl’s passion for social justice has earned her several accolades. She was named a McNair Scholar and worked last summer on a research project she hopes will lead to options for graduate school. She also received the Social Justice Research Fellowship last summer to study issues related to minority groups and barriers to attending and/or succeeding in higher education. In addition, she received the 2022 Gilman International Scholarship to study sex trafficking and modern slavery in Europe after graduation. She chaired the Community Development Council in the Student Senate for two years, formulating policies aimed at underrepresented student groups such as the Diversity Support Coalition, non-traditional students, commuters and athletes. And she’s involved with Mosaico, a Latinx student organization. Participation in the Civil Discourse Lab, a Communication Department organization, strengthened her ability to talk with others about important issues.
Her COLA experience has helped Brechbuhl become more analytical and sharpened her critical thinking skills. “I’ve learned that society is not a world of exactitudes,” she says. “We can find different perspectives within a story and recognize problems in what seems to be the right answer.”