First-year seminar students of the new Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Worcester State University hosted a series of community engagement events this fall to explore equity in action, animal rights and mental health, among other topics.
As part of the first-year seminar, “Doing Good or Looking Good? Decolonizing Community Engagement,” instructed by Associate Professor Dr. Nafisa Tanjeem, the students learned how they could responsibly and equitably work with—as opposed to work for—diverse communities within and outside the university. With the supervision of Tanjeem, they planned and hosted six events on campus and reached out to more than 150 community members.
“The community engagement projects offered students an opportunity to identify their areas of interest as well as the needs and priorities of fellow college students and community members, and collaborate with their group mates to address the concerns,” Tanjeem said. “They also critically assessed whether and how they were or were not able to engage with the community productively and what they could do in the future to nurture meaningful relationships with their communities.”
The students also staged the Woo State Wardrobe Swap, modeling a small-scale free thrift store on campus. The students collected clothing donations from the Worcester State community and let students pick items of their choice for free of cost. They also created a website outlining the harmful environmental impacts of fast fashion and informed participants about how thrifting is a much better alternative to fast fashion.
Audrey Benoit, a first-year student and one of the organizers of the Woo State Wardrobe Swap, said, “Through this project, I was able to learn how to engage with the Worcester State community in a way that brought positive change. Our event provided resources about the dangers of fast fashion while giving students access to a free and sustainable way to refresh their wardrobe.”
The Paws for the Caws event raised awareness about animal rights and animal shelters. The students created educational posters to inform the Worcester State community about the current status of animal shelters in Massachusetts. They also raised donations for the Worcester Animal Rescue League. On Nov. 17, a financial literacy expert came to campus to teach students how to identify and avoid financial fraud and scams.
Three other student-planned events specifically focused on supporting the mental health of college students. The Art and Fun with Counseling Workshop offered students an opportunity to receive information on how to take care of mental health from a mental health counselor. It also engaged them with various community-building activities, such as coloring, painting, and playing games. The Woo Fun with Meditation and Yoga event created a space for students to take a break from the stress of college, relax, and learn about the value of mindfulness and some yoga techniques. The Create Your Own Destress Kit event invited students to create their own stress-relieving kits using toys, journals, and paints and connect with each other.
The events were supported by the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies; the Education, Liberal Studies, and Interdisciplinary Studies Dean’s Office; and the FYS program of Worcester State University.
Top photo: First-year seminar students Katelyn Barrows, Mia Thompson, Daniel Marden, Elvis Velez, guest speaker Kimberly Simoneau, Bridget Deignan, Harper Hutchings, Mallory Hreczuch, and Nicholas Davis participated in the Art and Fun with Counseling Workshop. (Photo courtesy of Nafisa Tanjeem)
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