Caitlin Manak, ’12, loves capturing moments that tell a powerful story. So when she found herself on a balcony in Udaipur, India last fall watching a group of women learn how to become better leaders, she knew she was witnessing such a moment.

“They were standing around a drawing of India and learning about geography and seeing where their state and village is in relation to the rest of the country,” Manak said. “The women all held positions in the government, and it was obvious that this was an empowering activity for them.”

The balcony she was standing on, and where the women were gathered, was the non-governmental organization (NGO) where she interned while studying abroad.

The photo earned her first place in the second annual “Capturing the Jepson Spirit Abroad” photo contest held this semester for leadership studies majors and minors who participated in study abroad during the fall. It will be permanently displayed in a new international photo gallery in Jepson Hall.

To enter the contest, she also had to write a short explanation relating her photo and study abroad experience to leadership studies — something the leadership studies major, who is pursuing a concentration in social justice, had no trouble doing.

“The 73rd Amendment to the Constitution of India requires that 50 percent of local elected officials are women, most of whom are illiterate,” she wrote. “Astha Sansthan, an NGO where I interned, offers training that instills knowledge, confidence and solidarity, enabling the women to become effective leaders.”

During the first part of the semester she took classes in international development and the Hindi language, and that focused on education and social service in the country. During the second half of the semester she interned with Astha, which works to organize, educate and empower those marginalized in the state of Rajasthan.

“Astha is a Hindi word that means faith. The organization is based on faith in the people and the idea that if people gain the knowledge and skills, they will have the capability to initiate change for their people,” Manak said. “I was really attracted to the idea of working with women as they learn about their rights and then think of new ways to educate and serve their villages.”

Classes such as Justice and Civil Society as well as political science classes at UR gave her a good background in the issues, she said. And what she didn’t already know, like the language, she was able to pick up along the way. And, Manak added, “I learned that in most situations a smile really goes a long way in communicating.”

*Leadership studies major Natasha Levanti, ’12, earned an honorable mention for a photo taken of an ice sheet in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. Levanti studied in Copenhagen and went to Kangerlussuaq on a class trip to understand the implications of climate change.