A Student's Introduction to Activism

A Student's Introduction to Activism

written by: Maddie Jaggars '17

There is a rise of awareness among millennials. As times are changing and we are slowly moving into the adult world, questions are posed to us more than ever, and the answer to how we will affect the world around us is a constant presence in many of our lives.

So, who are “we,” and what do we want exactly? 

Millennials have been brought up in a world of rapid change and development, and as the last of ’95ers are being thrust into the real world, we are beginning to think more critically on what we want in ourselves and in the world around us. When it comes to the working world, this generation wants opportunities to evolve.

In a 2015 article by Cheryl Lebon, “What Do Millennials Want and How Do We Reach Them,” she explains that millennials don’t have a solid career path as their parents before them. The career market is also changing and developing, and we want to be able to change with it. It takes more than just sitting in a cubicle and performing the same task for eight hours a day. We want room for change, feedback and authenticity. We want something of substance and meaning. 

Another common interest in millennials is that of a global-centric future. Our generation has the potential to navigate change, and with an appreciation of diversity, we’ve grown increasingly aware of the world around us. It sounds cliché, but we really do want to change the world. This is evident in the growth of social movements across the country and the world. 

In our small town of Lamoni, diversity is great here at Graceland University. It’s been a common trend on campus this year for students to come together to join national conversations and create a larger human awareness to what is happening outside of our tiny community. 

Though we are small, we have come together for big impacts. I recently spoke with Assistant Professor of English Dr. Tim Robbins to gain insight on this growing pattern of student social awareness on campus, as he has helped many students with these topics and discussion panels. 

“There’s a difference in students and their approach,” said Dr. Robbins. “I build my classes based on interest, and students insist on these topics!”

Dr. Robbins explained how he never pushes activism onto students but brings light to these movements. There is an outspokenness between faculty and students at Graceland, and this push for these conversations creates this “multi-cross racial alliance on campus.” Those of us with whom these topics resonate ask ourselves if we are amplifying everyone’s voice.

In the last semester alone, Graceland students have created several advocacy events with the push of social media and partnership with organizations like BSU (Black Student Union) and Campus Ministries. I’d like to highlight a few that I believe have created an impact on our community.

The 13th

Last semester I had the opportunity to take one of Dr. Robbins’ courses: Poetry and Social Justice. Just as the title tells you, we looked at social justice and injustices produced in poetry throughout time, from the great grandfather poet Walt Whitman to the rapper Tupac. Tim really gave us creative freedom when it came to making an event as our final project. He had shown us that you can’t just sit around and talk about social justice, you have to act in order to make an impact. The event was co-sponsored by BSU, and we offered screenings of Ava DuVernay’s Netflix documentary, “13th,” a film explaining the history of racial inequality in the United States. We chose this film because it speaks to large, ongoing social movements: Black Lives Matter and institutional racism.


photo from http://www.activistpost.com/

Another forum that was created on through a partnership with campus ministries was a discussion on the Dakota Access Pipeline. Not only was this a political topic, it was also an indigenous rights movement. Dr. Robbins explained this discussion panel as “emerging consciousness and coming to grips with contradictions.”


The legend of the ghost light is a practiced tradition in theatres everywhere. Theatres are known to often have ghosts that haven’t finished their performance on the stage. The ghost light is left on, on stage, when the theatre is unoccupied to gratify the ghosts in hopes they won’t curse or sabotage performances.

On Jan. 19, in each time zone across the country, people gathered in theatres and turned off all lights but the ghost light as an act of solidarity and for struggles that may be ahead for 2017. Students, faculty, staff and community members came together in the Shaw Family Auditorium and pledged to protect and stand for values of inclusion, participation and compassion regardless of race, class, religion, country of origin, status in the U.S., (dis)abilities, age, gender or sexual identity. We all stood together as a community with millions across the country. It was incredibly moving to see so many from our small town come together for support.

Town Hall Meeting

At the beginning of the spring semester, another event was created in which we came together to learn about a current event happening in our country; one that is both personal and political. The topic was immigration, and we gained insight on the economic, historical, political, federal and personal variables that go into immigration policy and cultural views.

We, the Graceland student body, are Millennials. We want to speak up on issues that are very real to us, even though they are not happening in Lamoni. But what’s even more impactful than us having these discussions is that we as young adults are eager to listen to opposing sides in a respectful and open space; to understand, develop and create the changes we want to see in the world as citizens of the world about to enter the real world.