By Emma Clouse
This semester, students in Dr. Sarah Finn’s First-Year writing course, Science, Technology, and Human Values, have been serving on-campus student groups advocating for change ranging from local to global action. The course is structured to bring fresh and current perspectives from these groups on campus into the classroom discussions and assignments, while also providing the opportunity for service to take the shape of university activism. Below, students reflect on the semester thus far, sharing their experiences with the service-learning community!
GlobeMed, Patrick Sanford, Jamie Thomas, Katie Conner:
As part of the First-Year Writing Service-Learning course which engages with student activist groups we joined the GlobeMed organization on campus. Our goal as an organization is to improve overall global health with a special focus on providing healthcare and healthy living habits for those in impoverished countries. This is at the core of service-learning as it allows us to help those in the most need, while at the same time broadening our academic horizons. Our chapter here at Northeastern officially partners with an organization in Uganda where we work on building wells and educating people on leading sanitary lifestyles. Our specific role in the organization is to keep the group updated with current health issues that can also impact our partners in Africa.
Working with this organization has greatly enriched our experience in the Service-Learning First-Year Writing course in which we are enrolled. In engaging with GlobeMed we have been exposed to more methods of creative writing in order to accurately convey information to the group as a whole. This exposure to real world applications for writing has helped us immeasurably in our English course as it has both broadened our perspective on the power of writing and demonstrated to us the change writing can make. Naturally, as this is a service-learning course, it is a two-way street and in a similar way, our coursework has improved our experience with GlobeMed as well. We have learned new expressive writing techniques in the course that work in tandem with our work in the organization. The overall impact of this is to heighten both experiences of the course and student organization, and improve our academic betterment.
DivestNU, Robie Newman-Paris, Matt Grippo, Hannah Nelson:
“When I signed up for First-Year Writing, I never imagined that Service-Learning could be integrated so well into the curriculum,” said Robie Newman-Paris, a freshman at Northeastern University. Upon further discovery, Robie, along with other classmates, recognized the uniqueness of the process and how it would allow him to become more involved in the Northeastern community while making a difference. Robie chose to join the student group Divest, along with classmates Matthew Grippo and myself, Hannah Nelson.
We are proud members of Divest, a closely-knit family dedicated to stopping the investment in fossil fuels at Northeastern University. We work together in conjunction with faculty, community partners, and a coalition of over 20 engaged students to spread awareness of the issue that seems so large scale but can be found right on campus. We facilitate on-campus actions and protests in order to help spread the importance of our cause and to gain momentum. Most recently, we engaged in an action marching an oil pipeline across campus to raise awareness for climate crisis.
Divest helps us gain a perspective which we use within the classroom. The discussions in Divest meetings help us find creative solutions to the grave ecological issues that humanity faces today. Being a part of Divest also inspires us to become the most innovative versions of ourselves, both inside and outside of Divest events. We spread this creative spirit to our classroom setting where we engage in discussions focused on the advancement of technology and under-the-radar problems at Northeastern and in the larger community. In our First-Year Writing Course we are learning many different rhetorical strategies. For example, we are currently learning how to use ethos, pathos, and logos in order to move and persuade an audience toward a cause. These strategies will be invaluable to us in the creative process at Divest; they will allow us to contribute in the planning process of new Divest events and raise awareness for our cause. We are excited to be working with Divest and our English class to produce a final project that will highlight what we have learned in our Service-Learning course while sharing the importance of our cause.
Slow Food, Juliana Brissette, Amy Piccolo, Megan Parrott, Suleïman Benabderrazik, Peter Sieg:
We are part of a community of passionate students who meet weekly to discuss certain issues related to the food industry. From how the food is produced, to how the workers are treated, to how energy efficient the factories are, there are always multiple concerns to be discussed. Together, we combine our love of food with our passion as young students to create a more sustainable environment. Every week we explore different topics or specific foods with a problem in that industry. This allows us all to become more informed of the different issues in the food industry. The course aims to raise awareness and promote activism around the Northeastern campus, and Slow Foods is a great example of a group that educates students and raises awareness of current problems. As members of the Slow Food community, we bring our own individual perspectives, knowledge, and support. By our attendance at these Slow Foods meetings, we can use the information we learn to inform our friends- this allows Slow Foods’ message to be heard all around the campus.
Enabling Engineers, Cameron Smith:
When I was picking a student group to join for the First Year Writing Service-Learning course, it was a fairly easy choice for me. I had wanted to join Enabling Engineers my whole first semester at Northeastern, and this course provided the push I needed to make the time for it. The course also pushed me to actually get involved with what the students were doing in the club instead of being just another student that shows up to the meetings. I am grateful for this service-learning course in that it has helped me develop a passion for improving the lives of people with disabilities, which is the primary goal for Enabling Engineers. The organization has also supplied inspiration for projects I have done in class. For one of my projects, I wrote a philosophical paper questioning the idea of normality, and a big part of that project concerned people with disabilities. For another project, I wrote a research paper about dementia, which relates with mental disabilities.
In Enabling Engineers, there are many projects going on at once all geared towards developing new technology for people with disabilities in order to make it easier for them to be independent. I believe there are a little over 20 projects that are being worked on currently, which is impressive for such a small organization. The fact that there are many projects going on at once, gives students an opportunity to find a project they are truly passionate about, and allows them to get highly involved with a project due to the relatively small size of the project groups. For instance, I have 5 students in my project group right now which facilitates more hands on experience for each of us while also encouraging us to express our opinions. In my group, we are working on developing a way for deaf people to experience the joy of music. So far it has been a beneficial experience, and thanks to this course I have found an organization that I will continuing working with for the rest of my college career.
Progressive Student Alliance, Kelsey Wood:
When I look around campus on a spring day I can’t help but notice the pristine landscaping, and the constant bustle that makes Northeastern a special place to be. Many in our student body come from a place of privilege, and take the ease they have in life or the beauty around them for granted. There is a disconnect with the people that make their cushy lives here at Northeastern possible. The staff at Northeastern do an amazing job at making Northeastern a finely greased machine that runs smoothly, and offers everything that a young college student could need.
What those students might not know is that the staff here at Northeastern have had to fight to get fair wages, and benefits. One of the things that I really like about being in the PSA is that they stand in solidarity with these workers, and fight for the rights of the people that help to make their life better. As an older student I would have never dreamed of joining a student group. It can often be frustrating being one of the only older students in all of my classes. I was starting to resent many of my peers at school because I often feel like they live in this little bubble where they think the world revolves around them. They don’t realize how lucky they are to be getting a good education, and often at the expense of their parents. I’ve witnessed students leaving their trash around like their mother is there to pick up after them, and I can’t help but feel a little disgusted by that.
Joining the PSA has renewed my faith in my peers. While that all still very much exists, it is refreshing to be around a group of students that care about other people, and want to make a difference in the world. Staff Appreciation Day is one small way to show the people that work so hard to make our campus great that we notice their hard work, and that we stand with them when they need something. To be a part of a community, which is greater than our own selves, and to acknowledge that is a valuable lesson for a young college student, or anyone else for that matter.
UPass, Dylan Thombs:
UPass is a subgroup of NUHAT, Northeastern University Huskies for Alternative Transportation. The group recently advocated for a referendum to have the university pay for the UPass program which gives students free T passes. This would end up saving the MBTA money in the long run which would lead to improvements in the Authority and its system. The activism of the course helps both UPass and its parent NUHAT in spreading word about the referendum (the former) and the use of alternative transportation other than motor vehicles (the latter). The group’s presentations are examples of good writing which targets a specific audience, which is very useful for writing in the class in the future. We’re looking forward to keeping our eyes open for possible ideas for the Service-Learning EXPO.
Global Medical Brigades, Jaclyn Long:
I joined Global Medical Brigades in conjunction with our service-learning class, and it has been an incredibly valuable experience. Global Medical Brigades is dedicated to promoting global health, and recently travelled to Panama to set up and run a health clinic for a week. During this week, they treated patients, gave medical and dental exams, and provided health education classes for the local residents. They educate the people in Panama about health practices they can incorporate in their daily lives, such as healthy eating, flossing, and avoiding bacterial infections. The members of this group are passionate about helping others and promoting global health, and have been an inspiration to me throughout the semester.
As valuable as my experience in Global Medical Brigades has been, it has been supplemented by our writing class in a very important way. Throughout the semester, the group inspired me to investigate other aspects of social change and global health, which I have used as topics for our projects. These have included a philosophical inquiry into whether these kinds of groups can leave a lasting impact and a research paper on the risk of the Zika virus for young women who intend to travel to countries in Central or South America. For my final project, I will create brochures that help recruit both potential student members and professionals for Global Medical Brigades’ mission. In this way, I will use the writing skills that I have learned over the semester to present information and inspire others to join this motivated and amicable student group. This service-learning class and my participation in Global Medical Brigades has allowed me to meet passionate and incredible students, appreciate the impact of such a group, and write about topics that I am passionate about.
HEAT, Kylie Walpurgis:
I’m in the Husky Environmental Action Team, HEAT for short, a student group that works toward improving Northeastern’s environmental impact, from recycling to renewable energy. This semester seems to be focused on planning, with action planned for the fall depending on factors like funding. Another factor is whether or not our referenda are voted for in the SGA elections. Student organizations like this were very prominent at my high school, so having the time to get started with one is enjoyable for the familiarity of it all. It’s been fun to work with such a collection of people on multiple projects, and it really has helped me better understand the workings of campus.