Pisei Chea’s passion for Cambodia was intensified by “Children of Cambodia’s Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors” by Dirth Pran. She picked it up during her freshman year, and its impact on her was so great that four years later, she decided to write a rhetorical analysis about the novel as her senior communication thesis.
Chea, who is applying for fellowships to go to Cambodia and is an alternate for a Fulbright Scholarship, presented her senior thesis at two conferences: the 33rd Annual DePauw Undergraduate Honors Conference in March and The Theodore Clevenger Undergraduate Honors Conference last month.
Chea, 21, also has a personal connection to Cambodia as her parents are natives of the country. Although she has never been and her family hasn’t visited Cambodia in the last 40 years, the Southeast Asian nation has a large influence on her life. After learning so much about the country and making it a part of her communication thesis, she plans to step on Cambodian soil for the first time in September, she said.
“I want to be able to do something about one of the biggest problems there: land mines and victims,” Chea said.
Chea’s other passion is community service. She has always been dedicated to helping others and finds that community service is one of her natural instincts. She is the president of Circle K, a community service organization at GW, and has been doing community service for most of her life, she said.
“Doing community service, I believe, brings a lot more to the person that’s serving than the person that’s being helped out,” Chea said. “What keeps me going from week to week is the satisfaction it brings, or one more smile on another person’s face or even inspiring others to do the same.”
During her sophomore year, she combined her two passions and volunteered with the Cambodia Fund. She helped fundraise for land mine relief by selling highly valued paintings.
Before I volunteered there, they had sold about three of the prints,” Chea said. “And by the time I was done, we had sold 10. It was such a unique experience.”
Her passion for community service was rejuvenated during her internship at Discovery Communications, when she heard the former CEO Judith McHale speak at a luncheon. Chea distinctly remembers McHale’s words: “We have to close the gap between what we do and what we know,” Chea recalled.
“It struck me that that’s exactly what needs to be done, and I realized that what she said made me want to close that gap,” Chea said.
Eventually Chea wants to be able to take her passions to a creative level, relating it back to her communication major. She said she may go back to Discovery Communications or make her own documentaries about pressing global and social issues.
Chea is graduating from GW with magna cum laude honors. She is a member of multiple honor societies including Golden Key International Honor Society and Lambda Pi Eta, the national communication studies honors society.