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Scholar Profiles

Jessica Edelson

Campus: Duke
Hometown: Blue Bell, PA
High School: Wissahickon High School

Academic Interests: Political Science, Informatics, & Innovation (Program II Major), Media & Journalism, Middle Eastern Studies, Business. Extracurricular Activities/Hobbies: American Grand Strategy Cyber Team, Wired! Lab for Digital Art History & Visual Culture, Business Oriented Women, Hoof ‘n’ Horn Musical Theater, Bass Connections, Traveling, Hiking, Film, Longform Stories.

What do the CIA, Twitter, and Macbooks have in common? To most, the government agency, the hotbed for memes, and the Apple products are seemingly disparate. Yet, to me, the answer to this question is simple: all three function by merging together technology with the humanities. This intersection- where foreign affairs meets blockchain, social interaction meets media, art meets software- is also where I best operate. Raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, I grew up alongside emblems of American Democracy. My public school trips to the Constitution Center solidified in me a desire to serve the American people and to hold leaders accountable. Now, fueled by my interests in law, intelligence, and national security, I work alongside tech enthusiasts and policy strategists (not mutually exclusive), examining the roles that information security and digital ethics play in both the public and private sectors. Through my Program II major, I will study how technology and media are shaping privacy policies, foreign affairs, and political behaviors. Additionally, my love of art, music, and history was nurtured through the lens of my family’s Jewish heritage. Large family dinners were where I learned to ask critical questions, to debate, and to tell stories. The principle “If you will it, it is no dream,” has guided my passions for design-thinking and entrepreneurship. As I move forward, I aim to apply my tradition’s values- of compassion, of justice, of peace- to help share and amplify nuanced perspectives through data visualizations or a multimedia startup.

What drew you to the Robertson Program?

I lived in Jerusalem, Israel for a year before arriving at Duke. I found myself walking around archaeological ruins, paying attention to changes in stone size that would indicate which empire forged those walls. In museums, I specifically spent hours looking for examples of mise en abyme, pictures in pictures. By collecting maps in the shuk (market), I learned to determine a vendor’s political leanings based on where borders were drawn and how cities were labeled. In doing all of this, I developed an understanding of the cultural and political patterns that could not be gleaned from the nightly news. This experience taught me that the best liberal arts education is one that cannot be found solely in the confines of books and computers, but also through the freedom and liberation that exploration provides. The Robertson Program best embodies this philosophy, challenging students to seek new perspectives and to creatively engage with the world around them. Each Robertson experience, from the campus-switch to informal conversations over dinner, will allow me to forge new friendships and to step beyond my comfort zone. I am excited to learn from- and contribute to- a community of diverse thinkers motivated by the desire to make the world a better place.

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