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UMD Strives for Change and Global Awareness


The "Be the Change" Conference takes place on Feb., 26.

This February, UMD is taking strides to make change. Two events stand out for their themes of social change and responsibility for one’s actions on a global scale; The Be the Change Conference and Action Day 2011 on Sat., Feb. 26 and Action Day and the Truth and Reconciliation: Having the Courageous Discussions Summit on Thurs., Feb. 17.

Be the Change Conference and Action Day takes place from 8:30 am-5:30 pm on Feb. 26 in the Kirby Ballroom. Students, faculty and staff are invited to learn, connect, and discuss issues related to global citizenry, sustainability, inclusion, and visionary leadership.

Joie Acheson Lee, assistant director, Student Activities & Leadership Development and the coordinator for the Kirby Leadership Institute (KLI) said "The message of the conference is to challenge students with the question: what are YOU going to do? We want students to learn to recognize local, national, and global issues and to transform that awareness into action."

Registration for the conference is now available. Space is limited at the workshops so pre-registration is encouraged.

Change at UMD

Ryan Penneau will deliver the keynote speech “You’re in the ‘change the world’ business” at 9 am. Penneau is an edu-preneur, business coach, author, and playwright from Minneapolis.

Lectures and workshops throughout the day, lead by students, faculty, staff and community leaders, will focus on facilitating change in the community, learning about social justice and ethical practice, and effective leadership. "We will talk about many of the current issues that directly affect students, our community and the global community," Acheson Lee said. “We hope the awareness leads to creative and innovative change. Thinking outside the box is strongly encouraged.”

(L-R) Mary Cowen, Rena Lettsome, and Neil Witzig are student participants in the "Be the Change" Conference. Photo by Rachel Kraft.

Student Leaders

Throughout the day, people are encouraged to participate in workshops led by UMD students, faculty and staff.

Rena Lettsome, a pharmacy graduate student, is a member of Multicultural Pharmacy Student Organization (MPSO).

"Our group's focus is to bring awareness about health disparities in securing bone marrow donations for minority patients," Lettsome said. "We want to facilitate giving people access to bone marrow donations."

MPSO is heading a workshop entitled "Get Swabbed, Save a Life."

"The focus of our workshop for this conference is about the health disparities regarding the small percentage of ethnic bone marrow donors in the national registry," Lettsome said.

Last year, the MPSO organized an effort to have students on campus get swabbed for a bone marrow drive. Over 1000 people were swabbed, resulting in four matches for donations. This spring, UMD will host multiple bone marrow drives as well.

"We want to inspire students to find issues and feel motivated to make a change," Lettsome said. "It doesn't have to be a big change like donating bone marrow. The little things matter too."

Neil Witzig, a sophomore English and history major, is a part of Students Today Leaders Forever (STLF). He is heading a workshop entitled "Revealing Leadership through 'Paying it Forward.'" The focus of his workshop is on the work STLF has done to create the Pay it Forward service trip over spring break.

Participants of this service trip will travel to five different communities and complete service projects. "We want to energize students and help them recognize that they are leaders who should take action," Witzig said. "Paying it forward is about spreading kindness and positive energy to others."

Climbing PoeTree will perform at 4 pm on Feb. 26.
Hurricane Season Trailer
View the trailer for Climbing PoeTree's "Hurricane Season" on Youtube.

Duluth Leaders

A lunchtime panel of young professionals from the Duluth area will educate participants on topics ranging from practical advice for young Duluth residents, to health care, to leadership through service.

The panel includes Tony Cuneo from the Duluth City Council and A.H. Zeppa Foundation, Paul Lundgren from Perfect Duluth Day news blog, Nate Stumme an assistant county attorney for St. Louis County, and Grete Udesen from SMDC.

Young Leaders

The event will culminate in a performance at 4 pm by Climbing PoeTree of “Hurricane Season," a spoken word, multi-media, musical event that will tie together the themes of the conference.

Senior Women's Studies major Mary Cowen works for the Women's Resource Action Center and also at the YWCA. She was instrumental in bringing Climbing PoeTree to UMD.

Cowen and YWCA will also bring a group of middle school and high school aged girls to the conference. The girls will participate in a Stitch Workshop with Climbing PoeTree that aims to help girls "share their voices and tell their stories with pieces of fabric," Cowen said. "We aim to make the invisible visible."

Cowen said that the goal of bring young girls to the conference is to help "empower young women and girls. It's all about leadership and developing a sense of community. These girls have a voice and that voice deserves to be heard. I don't think girls hear that nearly enough."

Tours of UMD and encouragement to attend college will also be a part of the activities.

Kirby Leadership Institute

The Kirby Leadership Institute (KLI) has played an integral role in coordinating this conference. Acheson Lee believes that KLI provides motivated students the opportunity and the skills to make a difference in their community.

KLI, a program which combines academics with curricular activities, was created to prepare students for the job market. It provides interested students with a leadership portfolio to document academic coursework, workshop attendance and community involvement.

KLI aims to make students aware of their own leadership strengths, provides leadership training and stresses cultural competency and involvement in the community. Any interested undergraduate at UMD is welcome to register. If a motivated student completes all of the KLI requirements, they will earn the UMD Leadership Certificate, which is awarded during the annual Student Awards ceremony in Kirby Ballroom.

Many leadership workshops are available each semester to all registered students, faculty, staff and community members. KLI works with the Office of Civic Engagement for community placements, the Knowledge Management Center for ePortfolio, University for Seniors for multigenerational leadership workshops, the Honors Program, and CLA.

Truth and Reconciliation

UMD will also host another event dedicated to making changes on campus. On Feb. 17, the UMD Diversity Commission presents the “Truth and Reconciliation: Having the Courageous Discussions Summit.” UMD faculty, students, and community members are invited to attend interactive seminars, lectures, and commentated films that address the issues of racism, discrimination, and inequality.

The Summit’s keynote event is an afternoon presentation by Dr. Karina Walters, professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Washington and the director of the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute.

Another major event will be the noon presentation by Wing Young Huie, award-winning Minnesota photographer who is best known for his many projects that document the changing cultural landscape of Minnesota. There will also be other presentations by UMD professors, students, and community members.

Both events are concerned with the belief that actions by everyday people can have an impact on the world as a whole. "I hope that students, staff, and faculty will find something that they are passionate about and then start working on the project," Acheson Lee said. "Once you start working, it changes your life and the lives of others around you."

Written by Mandee Kuglin and Zach Lunderberg

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Contact Cheryl Reitan, creitan@d.umn.edu

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