The annual Baldwin Wallace Social Change Summit, held this past MLK weekend, is a lecture-style event where speakers from different areas of the field of activism come together with students to teach the ‘activism. The event highlights the importance of being educated on social issues while sharing first-hand experiences.
The event aims to provide students with tips and skills to help them use their voice to bring about positive change on campus and help them initiate change in the surrounding world and throughout their future careers.
This year, the event, held entirely virtual due to the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic, featured one keynote speaker and seven different breakout sessions. These sessions included speakers with a wide variety of backgrounds in the field of activism, including disability rights, gender, food insecurity, LGBTQ+ rights, mental health, climate change and news. on steps to help students initiate social change. These breakout sessions provided students with first-hand experiences and information on specific topics that might interest them.
This year’s keynote speaker, Ken Schneck, professor and director of BW’s Higher Education Leadership Program, has spent many years working in activism within the university environment. Schneck teaches courses on developmental theory, race, class, gender, and college leadership while using her voice in many mediums.
One project Schneck is involved in is The Buckeye Flame. This Ohio-based LGBTQ+ newsletter seeks to share important stories, experiences, and information about current events within Ohio’s LGBTQ+ community.
During Schneck’s keynote, he provided essential advice and actionable steps students can take to further their activism journey. He emphasized the importance of having goals and using your time to make a sincere effort towards change.
“If you see things that have a sense of inequality, you have a responsibility to make a change, to start on campus,” Schneck urged.
Schneck stressed the importance of acting with a sense of urgency, understanding from personal experiences that change requires determination and is fueled by this seriousness. It also seeks to help students, who do not always have the opportunity to lead the discussion and become more involved in important issues. He describes the students as having “uncommon power that is mostly unrealized”.
A big part of this event for Schneck is helping students understand the value of their voice.
“Baldwin Wallace is an amazing place where students can make change and unrepresented voices heard,” Schneck said.
Schneck emphasized the importance of each student taking action toward change and using their voice to speak out about issues and using their position to help others in the process. Gennette Saciri, student director of the Social Change Summit and major in public health, has found this success at home.
Saciri explained how multiple influences in her life inspired her to become more involved in her community. Saciri believes understanding the experiences of those around her will help her become a whole person and a better healthcare professional.
Saciri understands that social justice is integral to the work of a medical professional and sees the Social Change Summit as the perfect low-stakes event to further engage interested students in activism.
“Health can come from social issues, so knowing a person holistically can help treat patients better,” Saciri said.
The Social Change Summit provides a format for interested students to get involved in any capacity. Many students have joined the project as change leaders. Others simply attended the event to better understand the issues within our community and the role they can play in addressing them.