New generation of students want action, not just awareness

A generation of students more concerned with effecting change, rather than simply learning about an issue, is encouraging campus units like Appalachian and the Community Together (ACT) to examine how it develops student engagement programs.

“It’s largely a cultural shift. Millennials are looking to make sustainable social change,” said Macki Snyder, assistant director for ACT.

“Just demonstrating that they care about an issue isn’t enough because it doesn’t change anything. As a generation, they seem to be motivated morally to make the world a more just place.”

ACT has long served as a clearinghouse of information for students who are interested in service. Snyder, who joined ACT in July, said that her office has been listening to students and looking at ways to make the educational and volunteer opportunities it offers students on campus and in the community deeper and more meaningful.

This year the office is re-evaluating activities it traditionally has used to address National Hunger and Homelessness Week, Nov. 11-19, Snyder said. Ideas include spreading events throughout the year, with perhaps one event a month.

“I’ve gathered some student perspective about how we address social issues. One theme has been that because we focus on so many social issues, it’s hard to maintain commitment after a specific event is over,” Snyder said. “To the students it can feel like, ‘OK, we’re going to focus on this issue and then we’re done.’”

Jacob Thomas, a senior majoring in political science from Jackson, Michigan, is a member of the Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Committee. Thomas and his group of student leaders encouraged the re-evaluation of National Hunger and Homelessness Week activities.

“We see the resources we have and the opportunity to ignite change through collaboration,” he said. “We are currently attempting to get as many academic departments and student-run organizations to partner together and coordinate a powerful advocacy network.”