BRISTOL, R.I. – As fiercely emotional political showdowns took place on campuses across the nation this past election cycle, a group of conservative and liberal Roger Williams University students showed how it’s possible to engage in civil discourse despite sharp political differences.
The Emmy Award-winning MTV documentary series “True Life” captured the conflict and the reconciliation as students had frank discussions about campus tensions and then joined in organizing a student forum that produced a wide-ranging political discussion.
MTV plans to broadcast the RWU segment as part of an episode about conflict stemming from the Nov. 8 presidential election. The “True Life” episode is expected to air prior to Inauguration Day on Friday, Jan. 20.
Following the election, students raised concerns about the policy consequences and about the need for justice in the classroom. So on Nov. 30, RWU President Donald J. Farish hosted a “fireside chat” on campus, saying his immediate concern was for members of the LGBTQ community, international students, Muslims and students of color generally.
BRISTOL, R.I. – As civil war in Syria continues to devastate the country and displace millions of people, a group of Roger Williams University students led a grassroots-effort to make sure it’s not forgotten beyond the walls of a classroom. Inspired by an examination of the human impact of the Syrian conflict in a fall semester CORE Human Behavior course, the students decided to take what they had learned to the greater campus community with a candlelight vigil to spotlight the struggles that Syrian refugees are experiencing worldwide.
As twilight descended over campus on Nov. 15, students and faculty joined the class outdoors, some with candles and others shining cell phone lights, to reflect in solemn silence and to hear about the conflict from a variety of perspectives.
“Here at Roger Williams, sometimes we struggle,” said Anas Alfeez, a sophomore criminal justice major from Saudi Arabia who spoke fondly about Syria as a beautiful place he visited in his childhood. “But our struggles are good ones. We struggle to become educated, to do well on tests, to pursue our interests. Syrians struggle to survive.”
Valle Nuevo, Dominican Republic – For their inaugural service project, Roger Williams University’s Engineers Without Borders student club traveled deep into the mountains of northern Dominican Republic last week to provide a design solution for a serious public health issue.
Their task was to replace open-fire cooking – which has been causing chronic respiratory illness in women and children in Valle Nuevo – with an inexpensive, efficient method that channeled smoke outdoors. It was an effort that kicked off last fall via the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC), which matched the club’s expertise to a community need at one of the nonprofit’s project sites around the globe.
Dear World Live is an interactive, award winning event that explores the subtle and powerful connections between students, faculty and staff. Dear World was founded as a portrait project that unites people through pictures in their distinct message-on-skin style. Participants share one meaningful message with family, friends, colleagues, and strangers—they share their hopes and fears, their struggles, losses and joys regardless of their religion, race, gender identity, social class, sexual orientation or language. The overarching outcome of the project is that people understand their connections to others and that you can build something fast alone, but to build anything great it will be better together.
From the campus-wide Community Photo Shoot, held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 7 in the Global Heritage Hall Atrium, a storytelling program will be held at 9 p.m. in the Upper Commons featuring student storytellers and copies of all photos that were taken at the photo shoot.
Willy Wilkinson, MPH, is an award-winning transgender writer, activist, public health consultant and national speaker who will be presenting a keynote address on trans experience and intersectionality.