Let's be real, adjusting to College is challenging. But notice my diction, it is challenging, not impossible. With that being said, stepping onto campus my first day at Wagner, I was absolutely terrified. Would I fit in? Would I make friends? Would I like being in college? What if I didn't like my classes? I would worry over and over again. My first year here, I really did struggle with putting myself out there because Wagner was such a new setting for me. I was a child of the New York City Public School system, where my high school (shout out to Fort Hamilton, woot woot!) had 4,500 students, and 36 students per classroom. More and more, I realized that I stuck out because it was a smaller campus, a smaller population of students, it was less diverse than my high school, and I got more individualized attention. As I adjusted, I started to fully appreciate the beauty of Wagner College, and started to take advantage of all the incredible programs and initiatives at Wagner College. By reading the Daily Bulletin, which is an excellent resource (also Lee Manchester is one of my favorite people on this campus), and talking to my professors and classmates, I was exposed to all these great things that happen at Wagner every day.
Social Justice Dialogues
One of my learning community professors, Dr. Preskill, helped to plan and facilitate social justice dialogues on campus. They are essentially open conversations on controversial topics in the news, which are supplemented with some sort of video or reading, and moderated by an administrator or professor. As a commuter, I had plenty of gaps between classes, and used those gaps to attend campus events. I loved the idea of these dialogues because (a) I am a very socially conscious person, and (b) this is what higher education is about to me- talking through your ideas and beliefs in a safe space, and finding power in your voice and position. Some of the social justice dialogues I attended were on disability access on campus, the film 12 Years a Slave, and Dr. Robert Moses' visit to Wagner College (which I will talk more about later). I got to meet some incredible people, become more informed on issues that exist on campus and in out society, and I felt like I had a safe space on campus.
I'm a junior now, and serve on the Social Justice Dialogue Committee as a student representative. I get to plan these discussions with the Center for Intercultural Advancement. We have had successful dialogues on police brutality, the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, Ebola, hate speech, sexual assault on college campuses, Islamophobia, and defining being American. We have had guest speakers, such as Michelina Ferrara, Sadie Nash Leadership Project, Nada Metwally and Adrienne Datta, winners of Project Pericles' writing competition, and Dr. Bernadette Ludwig, Assistant Professor of Sociology. She is responsible for bridging Wagner College and the Park Hill community together. Being a part of the Social Justice Dialogue has made me a better facilitator, a bigger thinker, and more well-rounded person because I get to work with other people in planning and executing these dialogues, and because I get to participate in these discussions and learn so much from the attendees. If you are interested in attending social justice dialogues or have ideas for one, please get in contact with me! We love to hear new voices and new ideas.
The Bonner Leaders Program
The Bonner Leaders Program is a civic engagement group on campus, that functions through the Bonner Foundation. Students who are selected for the program become Bonner Leaders and commit to doing 300 hours of hands-on civic engagement work in the community, in exchange for a scholarship. Likewise, we have a two hour seminar every week, where we lead discussions on issues that interest us, talk about how we are doing, and discussing our placements in depth. Seminar is always a pleasure because I get to add the element of reflection to my civic engagement work and catch up with the other Bonners. Civic engagement is a term that can be challenging to define, but it is different from community service because we are working on the root cause for the issues effecting our community, such as violence, poverty, illiteracy etc. At Wagner, we have 12 Bonners per cohort, but other Bonner schools may have smaller or larger programs, depending on the school size, and their resources.
Fun Fact: I applied to be a Bonner Leader as an incoming freshman, because I thought it was so perfect for me, but I was rejected. Funner Fact: I applied again as a rising sophomore and was accepted into the program!
Being a Bonner has been one of my greatest experiences at Wagner so far, because I am a part of such an engaged, loving community. So quickly, the Bonners have become like family for me- supporting me in my endeavors, lifting me up when I am feeling down, standing by me when I need them, and always lending a helping hand when I am struggling. Through Bonner, I have been able to intern with Project Hospitality, a large non-profit organization on Staten Island. Last year, I was a TEN-tracker representative, a tutor for the program at El Centro del Inmigrante, and a facilitator for Eyeopeners: Youth Against Violence. This year, I run run the tutoring program, and continue working with Eyeopeners. I love being in the community because I get to meet such lovely people, share my knowledge, and learn so much. Being a Bonner has taught me to be a better facilitator, to be patient with other people, to meet people where they are at, to always provide safe spaces for people, to be open to new experiences, and to always do good things for other people, because it goes a long way.
IMPACT Scholars Civic Network
The IMPACT Scholars Civic Network is a self-sustaining, student run organization filled with like-minded people who are devoted to pursuing a better future for the Wagner campus and the surrounding communities. IMPACT is what really attracted me to the civic engagement programming at Wagner. I was at a campus event, and Samantha Siegel, the director of the Center for Leadership and Community Engagement came up to me cheerfully, and asked "Have you registered for the IMPACT Summit?" I was flustered, because Sam is just one of the most amazing women I have ever met and I was intimidated by her, and she was talking to me and extending an invite to something I was so nervous to go to (Freshman Hadeel was extremely awkward, if you didn't already know). One thing led to another, and here I was on campus on a Saturday, dedicating my 9am-5pm for this Summit. I went there alone, and I had no idea what to expect. I was taken aback by how much I learned that day, and how much I was shaped by that experience. Kevin Bott, of Imagining America, facilitated the event and there was one exercise that I think had the greatest impact on me. We were asked to stand around a group of chairs, and one by one, someone volunteered to position the chairs to show different leadership styles. It is amazing what people came up with and the ways in which they positioned the chairs, because it opened up my mind to the leadership around me locally, nationally, internationally- is this why we have so many problems in our world? This activity kept me thinking for days.
I had such a great time that I applied to be an IMPACT Scholar, was accepted, and then asked to join the IMPACT Leadership Team. I was grouped with dynamic people who think big, and don't see any limits, creatively. Together, we put together the second annual IMPACT Summit this past Spring, March 21st, where we had over 100 students join us for a day's worth of interactive activities, workshops, discussions, and presentations. This day, this event stands as my proudest accomplishment because I was able to work with such brilliant, inspiring people (Abeer, Kendle, Greg, Erick, Dan, Kelsey, Dylan and Stacey) to join over 100 students from all realms of campus, and bridge our divides by engaging in serious conversations and making vows to change the things that we want to be improved.
IMPACT also came together at the end of the Fall 2014 semester to have an open conversation about racism, focused on the murder of Eric Garner. Over 50 students, faculty, administrators, and community members showed up and we were able to talk about such a sensitive issue in a safe space, with people who are not normally part of our friend groups. And that is what has attracted me and has kept me working with IMPACT, because by it, I get to talk to and make friends with people I usually do not encounter, thus closing the gaps that we have at Wagner.
Black History Month Speaker
Every year, for Black History Month, Wagner invites a guest speaker. My freshman year, the speaker was Dr. Robert Moses, a civil rights leader who worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and founded The Algebra Project. I was in awe over his words, because he saw himself as a regular human being, who does not deserve all this recognition that he gets, because he did/is doing what anyone should be doing for people who need this help. Dr. Moses helped Blacks in the Deep South register to vote, despite being assaulted numerous times. He found it in himself to remain calm during these experiences, and pick back up and continue what he was doing. It is so important for Wagner to being speakers like Dr. Moses to remind us that little actions are important. They make lasting impacts. We are working as hard as we are in college because there is a place for us in the world, a role that only we can play. If you interested in watching him speak, click here.
Last year, we had Dr. Tuajanda Jordan, President of St. Mary's College of Maryland. She was such a great speaker, and I connected to her as a woman, and person of color. Dr. Jordan was able to talk to us about her struggles of getting to college, being in college, and then working her way up and making it into the workforce. She has her serious moments, her humor, and she was able to connect very well with the audience. If you are interesting in watching her speak at Wagner College, click here.
Social Justice Dialogues, the Bonner Leaders Program, and the IMPACT Scholars Civic Network are only three of the amazing programs that Wagner offers. I can ramble on and on about the opportunities that exist here, but there are some things that you have to discover on your own, based on your interests. From civic engagement, to social gatherings, to academic settings, there is a place for you at Wagner College!