For Leadership Mentor, Kate Helmstetter ’18, a Center for Public Service Immersion Project trip to Morocco during junior year helped forge her passions and interests into a plan for meaningful research.

“Before the trip, I had all the pieces, but I hadn’t quite assembled them yet,” Helmstetter said. “I knew I wanted to do psychological research and I knew I was interested in prejudice in society, but I hadn’t really put those pieces together to realize that I should study Islamophobia.”

Prejudice can be implicit or explicit, Helmstetter explained. Implicit prejudice is the kind internalized by a person, without being visible to others. Explicit is visible.

Under certain circumstances individuals can fail to suppress implicit prejudices and instead try to justify them, resulting in explicit displays of prejudice. The key to understanding the escalation in prejudice from implicit to explicit lies in finding out what circumstances allow for that transformation.

During her trip to Morocco, Helmstetter stayed with a Muslim family in the capital city of Rabat. She frequently had deep, intellectual conversations about Islam, politics, society, and daily activities with her home stay family. She soon realized she had a lot in common with the family members.

“I went into the trip with a very open mind,” Helmstetter said. “When I came back home, I went from being able to have these conversations and seeing eye-to-eye with my home stay family, to seeing lots of Americans’ rhetoric surrounding Muslims, and realizing that not everyone saw Muslims with such an open mind.”

That’s when Helmstetter realized how she was going to combine all her seemingly disparate interests and passions: into research on Islamophobia.

For more on her story, follow this link.