Making the Team
Senior earns recognition from USA Today

By Patricia Delaney
Director of Media Relations

    Megan Gerson ë00, whose interests encompass AIDS-related issues and media coverage of South Africa, has been named by USA Today to its 2000 All-USA College Academic Honorable Mention Team.

    Gerson is one of 80 undergraduates - and one of only nine from Massachusetts institutions - to be cited in the newspaperís annual recognition of academic and extracurricular excellence. She and her fellow honorees were cited in the Feb. 17 edition of USA Today.

    A native of Holliston majoring in communication, Gerson has a 3.9 grade point average and is in the College of Arts and Sciences Honors Program.

    As part of the nomination process, students wrote an essay describing an outstanding intellectual endeavor. Gerson, who was nominated by Adj. Asst. Prof. Bonnie Jefferson (Communication), discussed her senior thesis on media coverage of South Africa over the past three decades, beginning when the countryís anti-apartheid movement became a constant force.

    Gerson contends that while international and American media played a vital role during apartheid when South Africa had no free press, their coverage today continues to offer a narrow view of violence, racial conflict and war that is causing other major issues facing the country to be ignored.

Megan Gerson

    She points in particular to its AIDS crisis, which was brought into sharp relief for her last year when she attended Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa, through BCís Junior Year Abroad program.

    Having been an avid volunteer with BCís Peer Education Networkís HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention efforts, alcohol and drug education outreach and the Sexual Assault Network, Gerson wanted to continue to serve while abroad. She began weekly visits to local Settlers Hospital, where she helped care for children with HIV or AIDS. The facility had few resources, she said, barely enough to cover the childrenís basic needs.

    "It really made the AIDS crisis there hit home," she said, "and I wondered why we hear so little about it in the United States.

    "The South African press now covers the countryís domestic issues such as public health very similarly to the way the American press covers those issues here, but the US coverage of South Africa is very different in its focus. I want to explore that difference and its effect on social and government policy toward South Africa."

    "Megan has a tremendous commitment to public issues, especially as they relate to public policy," Jefferson said. "She really is able to make the connection between communication in theory and the power of communication in practice."

    Next week, Gerson will spend spring break with BCís Appalachia Volunteers. She hopes to continue to work with AIDS patients after graduation, possibly through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and then pursue a foreign service career with a focus on public health.

    "I chose South Africa for study abroad because I wanted to go somewhere challenging and different," she said. "Iím happy that an experience I valued so much has turned into a direction for the future."

    Gerson is the daughter of William Gerson ë68, MA ë71, who served in BCís Undergraduate Admission Office for nearly two decades before leaving in 1993, and Eleanor Doherty Gerson ë70, MED ë93. Her brother Brian is currently a sophomore in A&S, and her sister Marybeth graduated from the University in 1997.

    This is the fourth time in seven years a BC student has made the USA Today team. Last year, biology major Ari Shapiro ë01 was named to the Second Team. Previously, Jessie Saul ë96 earned an 1996 Honorable Mention and Elizabeth La Rocca ë94 made the 1994 First Team.

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