First semester of “Art, Design, and American Politics” a success

Professors Mark O’Gorman and Adrienne Schwarte introduced a brand new course this semester to help students execute social action campaigns and initiate change on campus. Now, at the end of the semester, they are overjoyed with the progress their students have made for LGBTQ+ students, opioid awareness and recycling initiatives. 

When students first chose their topics early in the semester, they utilized guidance from O’Gorman and Schwarte to learn how they could make a lasting impact on our campus. But, as students developed more detailed plans for their campaigns, the professors stepped back and let students carry out their ideas, hoping to build their confidence in their ability to make change.

For many groups, these student-driven plans included tabling outside of Pearson’s Hall and talking to passing students about how they feel about opioids, recycling and Queer issues. For other students, it meant getting out of their comfort zone by meeting with staff and faculty to address potential missteps in the system or utilizing design skills to promote social media accounts and make posters. No matter what strategy they used, though, students from this class could be seen out and about on campus advocating for their issues. 

Schwarte said, “My favorite part of the class has been seeing the students develop knowledge and passion for their topic and work in strategic ways to meet their demands, never wavering even in adversity.”

O’Gorman has loved being able to watch these students become more confident. “We see it, but I hope they recognize they have more confidence than we saw 12 or 14 weeks ago… they can take on any challenge,” he said. 

These campaigns really did make a difference. The recycling group had tons of helpful responses to a survey on students recycling habits; the opioid awareness group met with community leaders in opioid awareness to learn how best to raise awareness; and students in the LGBTQ+ inclusivity group met with staff and faculty to discuss allowing more name changes in the Registrar’s Office and improved professor training. 

One of O’Gorman’s favorite moments was when Students for LGBTQ+ Inclusivity (SLI) hung up posters with survey links around campus but ran into some issues with people marking out words on the poster. Students in that group decided to double their efforts and put up even more flyers in response to the vandalism, even going so far as to post a picture of the vandalism on instagram with the caption, “This is why our issue matters.” 

Students would come into class everyday and update everyone on developments. “When we would do group updates and with each group, there was a time when something new for progress had happened and listening to them tell us about it with excitement and hope—those were good moments,” Schwarte said. 

For one group in particular, calling on the professor’s expertise during those updates was essential to a diplomatic and successful campaign. SLI students noticed that during the Student Government Association (SGA) President and Vice President campaign that one candidate group was taking up the issue of allowing more name changes in the Registrar’s Office. After discussion with the professors, SLI had a plan. 

Once they saw that it was important to the candidates, SLI offered to pass the torch to SGA and met with several excited campaigners. Now, as the group dissolves and the class ends, newly-elected SGA President and Vice President Kelton Bloxham and Josh Cornell will continue to work with members from SLI to support and advocate for non-administrative members of SGA to take up the issue. 

For both professors, this class and its success has re-instilled a confidence in social action. “More of a reinforcement for me that progress takes time; it’s uneven, sometimes messy, but always worth it in the end,” Schwarte said. They are extremely grateful for the opportunity to encourage students to take matters into their own hands. 

O’Gorman and Schwarte would like to thank the students, faculty, and staff that interacted with their student groups, as well as the Bonner Foundation’s generous grant in support of the class. Students in the class share the same gratitude and excitement, especially since some of their unfinished projects could be picked up on the next iteration of the class slated to occur in 2024. 

One thought on “First semester of “Art, Design, and American Politics” a success

  • May 1, 2023 at 11:03 am

    I’m glad you offered a class with a social action emphasis, and it’s exciting that students want to take the course!


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