MEDIA, Pa. — Penn State Brandywine’s Center for Ethics and Civic Engagement recently hosted a five-day Social Justice Fair on campus, featuring various events and activities throughout the week centered around the theme of this year’s event: belonging.
Since its founding, the center’s mission has been to develop pathways for students to become socially responsible leaders and citizens who are equipped with the self-awareness and skills to effectively create positive change in the world. Many of the students involved with the center also complete a minor in civic and community engagement.
“I knew that I wanted to focus on issues of belonging on this campus and in the larger community,” said Vippy Yee, Rosenberg Director of the Center for Ethics and Civic Engagement. “I felt like this was a theme that all members of our community could relate to and that there would be many opportunities and ways in which we could bring the campus and community together to discuss issues of belonging, reflect upon our sense of belonging and envision ways in which we could create a sense of belonging at Penn State Brandywine.”
To kick off the week-long fair, students were encouraged to share what belonging means to them through a mural located in the campus’ Student Union. Throughout the day, they wrote messages on the mural that described how they felt like they belonged.
On day two, students presented projects at a poster session for the campus community and outside guests that highlighted how they’ve created a sense of belonging on campus and within the local community.
Brandywine student Duc Luong, who works as an intern for the Center for Ethics and Civic Engagement and helped organize several of the fair’s events, said this year’s theme was very fitting because “your sense of belonging can affect how you perform in college. If you don’t connect with the campus community, it becomes harder to succeed.”
Day three featured a global dialogue lunch, which is a Brandywine discussion series where students of diverse cultural backgrounds share their global experiences and perspectives on different life topics. At the event, students talked about how their cultural backgrounds influence their sense of belonging. That evening offered a dinner and screening of the movie “The Hate U Give,” followed by a group discussion.
Day four’s event, called "Connecting through Conversations," allowed students to connect with each other through structured conversations about identity and belonging. The event showed students how to relate, respect and connect with others regardless of their differences. Also on day four was the "Voices of Belonging" event, where students listened to recordings of their peers discussing what it means to belong at Penn State and within society.
Brandywine students Chloe and Claudia Przybylski, who both played an integral role in planning "Connecting through Conversations" and presented at day two’s poster session, valued having a forum where discussions about belonging could take place.
“Belonging isn’t something students actually get the chance to openly talk about in a normal setting,” said Claudia. “We all know it’s important, but it was nice to have the opportunity to discuss it with our peers, as well as faculty and staff.”
“Some students might shy away from conversations like this because they don’t want to feel judged,” said Chloe. “This event gave them an opportunity to safely express their feelings and beliefs.”
On the last day of the fair, students connected with one another at the Community Day event, which featured Penn State Berkey Creamery ice cream and games outside of the Student Union.
“One of my goals was to bring people together and create opportunities for people to learn more about each other and build upon or find new connections,” said Yee. “I believe that each of the programs met that goal and often brought people together who wouldn't normally be in the same spaces.”