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Thursday, January 17, 2013

ComeUnite: The Senior Project


It’s my last semester at Prescott College. With lots of hard work and scrambling, I will be graduating on May 4, 2013…standing before the people I love most in the world, my family and friends.
As such, I have been reflecting upon my experiences here…all the good, bad, ugly and AMAZING memories Prescott College has given me. Sometimes, I can’t even believe that I made it here. In fact, if it weren’t for huge loans, scholarships and grants, two jobs and a supportive family I wouldn’t be here at all. The cost of Prescott College to me was so daunting, especially since I come from a modest family and have had to put myself through college. But, I understand now how worth it this experience was…and is! Prescott College has been necessary for my personal growth, my academic maturity and in helping me decide on a career that I was passionate about.

The biggest thing on my mind, however, is my Senior Project. I have spent DAYS (perhaps even weeks) turning ideas over in my head since my first day of Orientation, trying to find something doable, community-based, and enriching for the college and everyone involved.

Finally, I came up with this:
           For my senior project, I will to create a sustainable, collaborative group called ComeUnite (pronounced like the word “Community”). Because of some of the arising tension caused by aggressive, negative approaches practiced by some members of the Prescott College community, I felt there was a need to create a group that practices holistic, positive, non-violent and peaceful forms of education and activism that can be used to enrich the lives of and build relationships with all people. ComeUnite is a group for members of the Prescott College community to gather and share ideas, stories and experiences, within and outside of the group. This group will integrate community development though individual, cultural and national history into a setting in which the participants may explore these issues on a deeper, and perhaps more personal, level.

The primary focus of ComeUnite will be to practice ahimsa, non-violence, through various activities and events sponsored and/or attended by the group.  This group is designed to allow students to study and learn about themselves, their community and their individual and collective histories, while integrating rituals, visits to places of educational and environmental significance (monuments, historical sites, museums, etc.) and learning to return the “favor” by hosting a multitude of events significant to the Prescott College environment and student body.  While in ComeUnite, students will be able to identify the many categories and subcategories significant to the development of personal, immediate and world communities. Students will have learned about and developed a sense of appreciation and understanding for these people and places, as well as respecting the different methods of community building utilized by each of these cultures and subcultures. Students will have developed a more profound sense of themselves, their place in the world, and the many roles they have had and will have to fill as different obstacles make themselves known. Because of the content studied and analyzed, students will also be able to effectively identify social justice issues in present society, and will, as part of the group, research and present on a social justice and/or educational issues of their choice.

As a final component, the group will work together to identify areas in which Prescott College could improve the quality of education and experience for current and future students, faculty and staff. These include, but are not limited to; creating diversity workshops for the PC community to attend, working to ensure that diversity, inclusion and social responsibility are part of the dialogue and curriculum of PC courses and by collaborating with each other (and faculty and staff) to draft a new Orientation option for incoming students.

Because Orientation is a student’s first introduction to and impression of the college, it is important to make this experience one that is inclusive, fun, and mindful of everyone’s needs. With ComeUnite’s involvement and input, I hope to bring light to and change Prescott College’s Orientation in two ways: 1) Examine and work to alter the ways in which new Orientation leaders are chosen, and 2) Making a real effort to create a new Orientation that is central to the Cultural and Regional Studies and Education programs.

 That was my Senior Project Description as submitted to my advisor. Except, the more I think about it, the more I want to make Orientation to primary focus of the group (since I have only a semester left at Prescott College), while making the  time for meetings and putting on events .

 So, why focus mostly on Orientation? Well, as I stated in my essay above, it’s a student’s first introduction to and impression of the college. Furthermore, Orientation shouldn’t be a way for students to be pressured into affiliating with something they might not identify with of feel passionate about. Yes, Wilderness Orientation is a tradition of the college. But traditions had to start somewhere…and there’s always room to transform age-old traditions or to create new ones.

 Don’t get me wrong, Orientation was an excellent experience to have and be a part of, and I’ll never forget the transformation I underwent through it all. However, I also felt that Orientation lacked in several areas.  The big one, of course, is DIVERSITY. Yes, I brought that word into play!

 Prescott College has a Statement of Respect for Diversity, it goes like this:

 “The mission of Prescott College is to ‘educate students of diverse ages and backgrounds.’ Diversity includes geographic factors, socioeconomic status, age, values, career histories, gender, disability, sexual orientation, dietary choices, religious affiliation, and culture and ethnicity. Prescott College encourages students to become aware of and value the differences among people.” (Taken from the 2011-2012 RDP Faculty/Staff Handbook, page 70).

To put it simply, I know that Orientation leaders could improve on ways in which all these forms of diversity (and others not listed here) can be better addressed and understood by the group. But, the area that Orientation needs the most improvement on is culture and identity. I know this because I experienced it myself, and because I know of several others who felt excluded based on one or more of the above diversity categories.

If Prescott College is to fully transform itself as an institution that meets the needs of all of its students, among other goals, (as per the 2020 Plan http://www.prescott.edu/intranet/assets/strategic-planning/strategic-plan-2020.pdf ), it needs to happen through Orientation.  This can’t happen overnight, though. And it certainly won’t happen by targeting the Orientation experience alone. This needs to happen In a trickle-down sort of way. Beginning, of course, at the top.  

 My plan goes something like this:

 -Address my idea to the Board of Trustees.

-Talk to President Woolever about my findings and my ideas.

-Discuss this with the Dean, Jack Herring.

-Meet with the Orientation Director and the Director of the Adventure Education Program.

-Invite the Prescott Community to share their opinions about Orientation and discuss whether my idea can be implemented by Fall 2013.

-Find out what the qualifications are for being an Orientation leader and how those current standards limit the Orientation experience because they are set for a certain target group. Attempt to change these to be more open and to make sure group leaders are sensitive to the diverse needs and backgrounds of their students, and that they are implementing an Orientation curriculum that incorporates aspects of ALL the program areas and includes student-centered interests.

-Aim to alter the current ways in which Orientations are conducted so that they better align with the mission statement and philosophy of the college and fit better into to 2020 plan.

-If the previous goal can’t be met, strive to create a new Orientation option…one that is based mostly on Cultural and Regional Studies, and Education. Or, try to create it anyway!

 I know that I can’t accomplish this alone…I need ALL of your help to make this a reality!!

 PLEASE join my efforts by becoming part of this group! You can join the Facebook page at


 My thanks to you, my friends!

 
In Peace,

Angelica R. Brady

1.17.2013

 

 

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