Taking action is what her college students did

As the fall semester nears its end, my students working on their rebranding projects have begun their media campaigns in earnest. This semester, more than any other, I’ve been surprised with the level of enthusiasm and effort put into the projects.

Over the weekend, a group of my students set up a pop-up in the middle of campus to get the word out: they would be creating a mural and wanted involvement. 

On their quest to redefine vanity as a means of self-confidence, they wanted our school community to create a work of art that reflected the diversity of the students and their accomplishments. 

I was, quite frankly, blown away. When the group had mentioned the mural in their proposal, I thought it was a great idea to get people interested. Did I think they’d actually do it? I had my doubts. It is, after all, the end of the semester. Students get busy. They start slowing down. And I get it – professors and teachers are slowing down, too.

But to hear the group talk about their plans in class, how they’d reach out to friends and clubs on campus, and then to actually go out and do it – it reminded me just how eager and proactive they can be. The trick, I think, is engagement.

I never actually know how engaged my students will be for the course. They get graded on two major assignments: a proposal at the beginning of the semester, and the enactment of that proposal at the end. 

Often, this leads to some panic and anxiety. But it also generates a sense of urgency – an “I need to do well on this” attitude.

This year, students picked their own topics: things that they believed were undervalued or misrepresented. Those concepts are rebranded over the course of the semester, resulting in a student-defined media campaign.

In the past, the results have been hit or miss. Some students start early and generate followers; some start the week the project is due and miss the mark. 

But this year – the social media accounts are thriving. Word is spreading as the groups seek out their target audience and get them involved in the project.

I’m not exactly sure what happened. I’d like to think it’s a result of my teaching, but I think it has more to do with our cultural climate.

If anything, I think that what I’m seeing reflected in my classes is a desire for change. And not only a desire, but a mindset that seeks out that change and works to effect it.

Perhaps this new generation is tired of the negativity, tired of the “all talk and no action.” 

More than that, though, most of the topics chosen by my students are focused on self-awareness and motivation.

Another group chose the concept of waking up early as a means of generating reflection and motivation to get through each day more productively.

Another chose rehab, reminding people that rehab is a way to rebuild one’s life, not something that is shameful.

At the foundation of all of these choices, I’m becoming aware of a much more mindful group of young adults. Young adults who care about the people surrounding them, but also care about their own sense of well-being.

They are bringing each other up; not tearing each other down. And that’s a breath of fresh air.

Dr. Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at hbozantwitcher@clarionherald.org.

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