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Blouin Leaders and Scholars Focus on Local Advocacy to Kick Off School Year

School News

Walsh students in the Br. Francis Blouin Global Scholars and Blouin Leaders in Social Justice programs began the new academic year with an Orientation and the first of several planned Blouin Forums, a series of workshops in which all of the Blouin cohorts will gather to connect, collaborate, and develop skills around a particular theme. This year's theme is advocacy.   

The group kicked off their Orientation on Thursday, August 24, with a presentation by the Blouin Scholar seniors about their experiences in Rome, Italy. Orientation activities extended to Friday with a welcome and introduction to the Blouin communities from Provost Douglas Palmer, Ph.D., and Assistant Dean of Experiential Learning Rachel Hosler.

Designed by Director of Service Learning Abigail Poeske and Director of Global Learning Michael Cinson, the Blouin Forums bring together both groups of students in the Scholars and Leader cohorts to develop skills related to leadership, advocacy, and communication. These skills can then be applied to their academic content and experiential learning programs to equip students to be transformative change-makers in the local and global community.   

As a first year Blouin, it was really amazing to learn about all the amazing opportunities that lie ahead. While all of the Blouin Leaders and Scholars were together we learned about what it means to be an advocate, which lead to the question of ‘what stage of advocacy are you?,’” said Chloe Jones. “It was truly inspiring to see how many of the senior Blouins and staff consider themselves advocates for social justice. It was a very enjoyable day, and I cannot wait to see what is in store throughout my college career!”

The first Blouin Forum included special guest speaker Adrienne Curry, the Director of Social Action at the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Youngstown, who addressed the Blouins about her commitment to lifelong work in advocacy. 

Following the presentation, the students participated in the "Advocacy 101" workshop where they explored the topic and definition of advocacy, reflected on where they are on the "activism spectrum" (apathy, awareness, action, or advocacy), discussed what tools and characteristics they need to be successful advocates for their cause, and talked about ways in which they could advocate on different levels among family and friends, on Walsh's campus, in the local community, and to government.  The students were then introduced to an advocacy assignment, for which each cohort will be completing advocacy projects for their specific themes before their final Forum, at the end of the year. 

In the afternoon, the Blouins split up into their cohorts to participate in activities specific to their topics and themes that included service projects and an introduction to the local community.

Blouin Global Scholars

Senior Scholars:  After the Blouin Scholars most recent Global Learning Experience to Rome, Italy, The Hague, Netherlands, and Krakow, Poland, the Living Learning Community spent the afternoon working on their capstone project of planning a conference in the spring semester. With guidance from Faculty Director Dr. Bradley Beach, the Senior Scholars are focusing on the theme of Genocide, Justice, and Reconciliation.

Junior Scholars:  The Blouin Global Scholar Class of 2019 has a focus of Technology, Entrepreneurship, and Society. To gain a better understanding of manufacturing, the cohort, led by Faculty Director Dr. Julie Szendrey, worked with Director of Advancement Carl Musille to arrange a visit to Timken Steel. Last December, the group traveled to Northern Uganda where they observed local entrepreneurs, manufacturers, and educational intuitions. In the summer of 2018 the group will travel to Rome, Italy to work on their capstone project.

Sophomore Scholars:  As a Living-Learning Community focused on Hunger and Food Sustainability the group used their cohort time to work in the community garden on Walsh University’s campus.  This time allowed their Faculty Director, Prof. Jennifer Vokoun to further delve into their mission. The cohort will travel to Moshi, Tanzania in December.

First Year Scholars:  Led by Faculty Director Dr. Amanda Gradisek the global issue the class of 2021 will focus on is Education, Equity, and Opportunity.  Students will investigate the question: how might communities ensure educational opportunities and programs that will aid in the elimination of institutional injustice?  This group used their cohort time to develop as a community and become familiar with their topic.

Blouin Leaders in Social Justice

Sophomore Leaders:  The sophomore class of Blouin Leaders in Social Justice took the Sarta Bus to downtown Canton where the met with Walsh alumnus Julie Sparks, Director of iCAN Housing and a leader in the Canton community. Sparks led the students on an assets-based social justice walking tour of Canton. The students explored the history, culture, community, and organizations in Canton which made it what it is today.  The tour focused on Canton's assets such as the Pro Football Hall of Fame, National First Ladies' Library, Arts District, and the committed community leaders who are leading positive change in the community. They visited and talked with people at the City Hall, Deli Ohio, United Way, and the Stark County Public Library before taking the bus back to campus.

First Year Leaders:  The First Year Leaders worked with Stark Parks at the Fry Family Park. The students learned about local environmental issues and how those connect to social justice issues. They were also introduced to ways in which they can volunteer at Stark Parks during their time at Walsh.  For their service project, the students broke into groups to test the hiking trails and provided recommendations for improvement. They also offered suggestions for Stark Parks' initiative to create a mental health exercise path at the Fry Family Park.

"I felt that the tour of downtown Canton was a positive eye-opening experience for our cohort. Many of us are not from the area, so we only know what other people have told us about Canton,” Brandyn Neal, sophomore Blouin Leader in Social Justice. “It was perspective altering to see firsthand that while downtown Canton is not the wealthiest area, there is a rich history and many hidden treasures that many of us had no idea are right under our noses."