Common Ground trains students to be agents of change

Devon Daniusis, Staff Writer

Common Ground, an immersion program in which students are able to openly discuss topics relating to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and socioeconomic class, finished accepting applications on Sept. 23 for its Fall Break retreat.

The program is entirely student-led and aims to foster acceptance and tolerance within the larger University community. By allowing a safe space to discuss sensitive topics, the organization hopes that program participants will return to campus better equipped with skills to foster a more inclusive community.

Goals of Common Ground include raising student mindfulness and consciousness of pervading biases and inequities, thereby encouraging students to engage in intellectual inquiries surrounding diversity, democracy and globalization. The organization also wants to enable students to be “change agents in the classroom, boardroom, and living room.” The main goal is that the campus climate will begin to positively change for underrepresented students and faculty.

On the application, students were asked to respond to questions like “What motivated you to apply?”, “How will you benefit from the experience?”, and “How will you bring what you learn back to campus?”

Most students who experienced the Common Ground program can say they have benefited dramatically from it.

“I know that claiming that Common Ground ‘changed my life’ is a bit of a cliché, but trust me when I say I am not lying. Within those fives days I learned more about myself than I had in my 20 years of living, and people who started off as strangers became family. Common Ground truly has the ability to transform your way of thinking and I will not lie when I say that it breaks you, it truly does, but I promise that the individual you become is far better than the individual you were,” Dejda Collins ’16 said.

Director of Campus Activities and Programs Mike Duignan echoed these sentiments.

“My directors and facilitators spend the better part of a year training, learning, and practicing how to tackle each area and how to get the most exploration among our participants. Common Ground is also a program that really promotes community, and peer-led discussions. We work with our participants to really examine themselves and the world around them. The best part of CG is that you may come to the retreat as strangers but you leave the experience as family,” Duignan said.

The full staff includes 14 student facilitators, three student directors (Aleksandar Antonov ’17, Taylan Stulting ’16, and Melissa Rios ’16), and an adviser.

“I may put the pieces together for the program to run, but the students are the ones who bring the passion and the transformation to Common Ground,” Duignan said.

Common Ground will be held from Oct. 9-13.

(Visited 176 times, 1 visits today)