Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Thinking positive

As we do every spring, my freshman students filled out a survey at the beginning of the semester about the biggest needs they perceive in their communities.  We looked at the results, brainstormed, and uncovered a broad concern about isolation among the student body.  People drift through the university as consumers, without connecting to the institution, its history, its values.  They may bond with a group over Greek life, student activities, or athletics, but they don't have pride in being identified with the university as a whole.

We decided to address this issue on two fronts, and called our effort the Agora Project (nodding to the classical elements of an Honors education along with the notion of a community gathering place).  Today, both projects had public unveilings.  I'll focus on the half of the class we call Team Random in this post.  They conceived a week of actions to promote positive feelings among the student body -- posters, little artistic surprises, candy with notes of encouragement, chalk messages on the sidewalk.  They thought of it as a week of random acts of kindness.

Today one of the most concentrated efforts took place.  After having to cope with bad weather the first two days of their week, forcing them to be flexible and patient, they had a brief window of sunshine before thunderstorms whipped back up this afternoon.  That was enough time for them to put up an inspiration wall in front of the Student Center and ask passersby to write an answer to the question, "What inspires you?"


People took to it immediately. It took only minutes before the wall was covered with messages.



I just had to take a picture of mine.


But it's true -- they do inspire me. Just look at them. They can do amazing things when given just a few resources.

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