A common theme throughout graduating senior Janna Karatas’s four years at Tufts time on the Hill is her strong interest and commitment towards community and culture. As a FOCUS pre-orientation leader, former Tufts Community Union (TCU) senator, resident of the Spanish House and a member of the Indian and classical dance group Pulse, she has been able to explore her interests on Tufts campus in a variety of capacities.
Karatas, originally from Rochester, NY, is graduating as a double major in political science and Spanish. Even with these two majors, Karatas found time to explore her other interests, such as her strong love of literature and religion. Last year, Karatas was awarded first place in Tisch Library’s 2015 Undergraduate Research Award for her research project “Caesar Says, ‘Do this,’ and it is Performed: Political Implications in the Faith of the Centurion in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra.” Karatas conducted most of this research over her sophomore year summer under the Tisch Summer Scholars program, where she gained significant research experience after taking a class called Shakespeare’s Rome, which united political, religious and literary themes found within Shakespearean texts.
“It was a really incredible experience … getting to stay at Tufts over the summer and use the library,” Karatas said. “I probably wouldn’t have been able to stay here if it weren’t for that scholarship. I was working with my political science advisor, Vickie Sullivan, researching political implications of biblical allusions in Shakespeare. So literature, religion and politics are things that I’m interested in. It was definitely challenging but very rewarding and the relationship I got to build with my advisor was great.”
Another part of Karatas’s life at Tufts has been her contributions as a TCU senator and leader of FOCUS, a pre-orientation program that allows students to serve and explore the Boston area. Some of her first experiences in her hometown of Rochester, where she worked with homeless women and children, helped spark her involvement with volunteering at and around Tufts throughout her four years.
“Coming back and being a support staff [member] for FOCUS really made the experience of doing community service in Boston a lot more meaningful,” Karatas said. “Being able to contextualize that there is this problem that I saw in Rochester, but it’s also equally present here in Boston community … The work with FOCUS … really influenced and reinforced my desire to work in more low-income communities.”
As a TCU senator, Karatas was involved with organizing shuttles to the airport during Thanksgiving as well as Appreciation Dinners for the Tufts dining hall and custodial staffs.
After graduating, Karatas is looking forward to working more with low-income and immigrant communities, particularly in her hometown.
“I think of eventually going to grad school or law school, but I definitely want to take some time to work in between,” Karatas said. “Whether that’s teaching for a couple of years, working in Rochester or working with a pro bono immigration organization also in Rochester where I’ve worked the past few years. I’m really interested in working with immigrants and … immigration law.”
Through Karatas’ time at Tufts, her connections between language, culture and community have rung true throughout both her academic accomplishments and dedication to her diverse extracurricular activities. The unifying thread of most of these groups for Karatas was her increased appreciation for and knowledge of her peers.
“Reaching out to people and having honest conversations and being vulnerable emotionally really can go a long way in supporting other people, even if you might not necessarily know them,” Karatas said. “It creates this bond of empathy that I hope people continue … because that type of raw one-on-one human connection is probably what has most shaped my time here.”