CCSJ’s first event challenges students to imagine their impact

A small group of students came together on Friday, Aug. 26, to envision how they, partnering with WKU’s new Center for Citizenship and Social Justice, might impact the world during their time on the Hill.

They were participating in the beginning stages of “The Great Wall of Service,” a collaborative student mural project facilitated by local artist Andee Rudloff.

CCSJ Director Leah Ashwill said the project was the kickoff event for the new program, which was officially established in May as a consolidation of WKU’s preexisting ALIVE Center and Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility.

 “We wanted students to feel some level of ownership over the new program, and with it being a combined, new program, a mural seemed like a really great way for students to create something that’s lasting in this space that serves to inspire others,” Ashwill said.

In the face of state and university budget cuts, Ashwill said the change was meant to save the best programs from each unit and make them more cost-effective and efficient. The ALIVE Center and the ICSR merger cut $151,000 from WKU’s budget, according to the university’s budget reduction plan, but some considered the move controversial, including SGA President and Student Regent Jay Todd Richey.

“I made it clear that I did not believe that [the consolidation] was in the best interest of the ICSR,” Richey said. “However, that was a decision that was made, and we have to all move forward together on behalf of all students.”

Richey was one of six students who participated in “The Great Wall of Service” on Friday.

At the event, Rudloff led the students in a brainstorming activity. She started by asking students to come up with five words that described how they wanted to make an impact as students. Then, she challenged each to represent their ideas, ranging from empathy to mentoring to acceptance, visually with simple sketches on blank sheets of paper.

These sketches, Rudloff said, would become the inspiration for the finished product: a mural that will cover two bare, white walls and one exposed column in the CCSJ office in Tate Page Hall.

“My task in all of this will be to look at your words, look at your drawing and put them together,” Rudloff told the students as they presented their sketches and ideas.

Using the students’ input, Rudloff will create a design to represent the collective goals of the students and the Center.

On Wednesday, Aug. 31, at 1 p.m. students will return to the CCSJ office and begin painting the walls of the newly reorganized space. The finished product will be “The Great Wall of Service.”

In a time of great change, Bowling Green junior Francisco Serrano said he enjoyed getting to see others’ hopes for the new CCSJ.

“It was just awesome to see how everybody’s ideas just kind of tied together,” Serrano said.

Ashwill said these student ideas coming together are important.

“We want to build our programs in a way that accommodates the vision of the students, as well,” Ashwill said. “And I think it was really just a laid-back, fun activity to not only build awareness but help students feel connected to the new Center.”

Originially published in the College Heights Herald.

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