RWU P.E.A.C.E. Program Provides Students Space to Dive Into Social Justice Issues
In program’s first year, students work to carry forward social justice issues on campus and inspire engagement and activism
BRISTOL, R.I. – As grassroots efforts for social equity and justice continue to build momentum on campus, the newly established P.E.A.C.E. Program has established itself as a space for students to carry forward that momentum and inspire community engagement and activism on campus in critical social justice issues.
Still in its first year, the P.E.A.C.E. Program is RWU’s social justice peer mentoring and leadership group. It helps freshmen and first-year transfer students adjust to life at Roger Williams and participate in a variety of social justice activities on campus.
The program is run out of the RWU Intercultural Center and is overseen by MiNa Chung, associate director of the Intercultural Center.
Along with programming for new students, P.E.A.C.E. (Peer Empowerment, Advocacy/Activism and Community Engagement) offers upperclassmen, who serve as mentors to the newer students, the opportunity to dive deep into social justice issues and then share their learning with the campus community. Students explore issues like civil rights, LGBTQ rights and diversity on campus. This exploration happens through participation in campus programs or events that center on social justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.
For the mentors, called P.E.A.C.E. Keepers, this means co-hosting programs like Fireside Chats with RWU President Farish, delving into social justice topics, like social identities, with their eight mentees – called P.E.A.C.E. Makers – and working with the mentees on year-long social justice projects, which students will present at the Social Justice Student Showcase on May 2.
“PEACE is a way for people to come together, know each other, feel this sense of family and have this dialogue where they can be open,” said Tyler Porter, a sophomore architecture major who serves as a P.E.A.C.E. Keeper.
“Our program is an opportunity to meet like-minded students,” said Phoebe Thaler ’19, P.E.A.C.E. program coordinator. “Some students may have similar experiences – whether that’s a certain identity or they’re the first in their family to go to college.”
Thaler says community creation is built into the program through social gatherings and monthly seminars so that all mentees and mentors can form a close-knit, family type group.
The P.E.A.C.E. Keepers believe this type of support can help with retention, especially among students from diverse backgrounds.
The opportunity to help create this kind of community, especially for new students struggling to fit in, is why Meg Dela Dingco ’19 became a P.E.A.C.E. Keeper.
“I decided I wanted to join this program because I wanted to not only help freshmen students feel like this is a place they can call home, but to change Roger Williams as a whole so that it can be more open and inclusive to students from marginalized identities,” Dela Dingco said.
The program has begun making those strides.
P.E.A.C.E. Keeper Rachel Campbell ’20, for instance, spoke at a recent Fireside Chat about her experience identifying as bisexual. A student in attendance came out to Campbell after. The student says that if Campbell hadn’t spoken at the Fireside Chat she wouldn’t have been able to express herself so openly.
To Campbell, that’s proof of the impact the P.E.A.C.E. Program is having.
She speaks for everyone in the program when she says, “Coming to PEACE makes me feel loved and that my problems are heard.”
Recruitment for the 2018-19 P.E.A.C.E Keepers starts in February. Students interested in being a P.E.A.C.E. Keeper can apply online. Students interested in being a P.E.A.C.E. Maker can learn more online.
The next Fireside Chat with President Farish is on Wednesday, Feb. 7 at 7 p.m.