Over spring break, groups of students traveled to Immokalee, Florida for the Migrant Experiences seminar and to Washington, DC for the Educational Equity seminar.
Seminars are courses offered through the Center for Social Concerns. Groups meet during the semester in an academic setting with the course culminating in an immersion trip over fall or spring break.
Maggie Lenhart, a junior and one of the leaders for the Migrant Experiences seminars, explained that the seminars are not traditional service trips.
“They have some portions of service involved with the organizations we are collaborating with,” Lenhart said.” But what we are really doing is going to interact with and build relationships with people who have a direct lived experience of these issues.”
The goal of the Migrant Experiences seminar was to “engage and be in solidarity with the community by understanding both their challenges, what motivates them, and the beauty they find within their community despite some of the injustices they are facing,” Lenhart said.
According to junior Kayleigh Monahan, co-leader for the Educational Equity seminar, the goal of the seminar that traveled to DC was “to quote the course description, to ‘begin to cultivate a vision of just education informed by an awareness of power, privilege and positionality.’”
Seminar leaders spend months preparing for the immersion trips. The preparation includes engaging in team bonding activities within their groups, reaching out to community partners, scheduling meetings and planning itineraries, according to Lenhart.
Despite all of the planning that goes into the immersion trips, junior co-leader for the Educational Equity seminar Bianca Widjaja felt that the most memorable parts of the trip were conversations with other students and members of the community that were not planned.
“There is great value in entering into conversations with others and learning about them by listening,” she said.
Monahan noted she emerged from the seminar with a newfound understanding.
“None of us are able to change the world single-handedly, [but] it was comforting to know we are not alone in this mission,” she said.
For many students, the immersion trip helped to discern a career path. Monahan said it was “a good reminder to stay open-minded about where I am being called in the future and that there may be multiple fields where my gifts would be valuable.”
The immersion showed Widjaja how complex it is to create real change. But, this is necessarily a bad thing because there are so many people working together towards the same mission.
“I have come out of the immersion much more hopeful of the work that is being done to achieve justice while at the same time being more understanding as to what it takes to create change,” she said.
Monahan explained the importance of seminars as a space for learning.
†[Seminars] are a great space to connect with other students who are passionate about the same issues as you [and] are a great setting to challenge your perspective,” Monahan said.
Widjaja also emphasized the role that seminars have played in her life.
“I made connections with people and have learned things that have impacted how I see the world, especially as it relates to the call of standing in solidarity with those who are marginalized,” Widjaja said.