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Three Moravian Alumni Look Back and Encourage Student Activism

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Photo by: Kaytlyn Gordon

Photo by: Kaytlyn Gordon

Photo by: Kaytlyn Gordon

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Alumni Jasmin Maurer, Courtney Wright, and Kelly Grab were asked to share their experiences while attending Moravian College. The alumni  were involved with The Comenian, as editors and copyeditors, and  heavily involved with numerous clubs and organizations on campus. All were asked two  questions: What were you mainly involved with at Moravian in terms of campus activism? and What ways do you wish you had gotten more involved in terms of campus activism?

Jasmin Maurer, Class of 2008

While at Moravian, I was peripherally involved in activism. Although I was a member of the Environmental Coalition and newly formed Anti-Iraq War Initiative, I devoted most of my time to The Comenian as the editor. I also took advantage of opportunities when they presented themselves to me, traveling to Washington, DC, for PowerShift (a conference on climate action) with other EnviroCo members and Lehigh University students.

Although I wish now that I had been more active, and taken more risks while in school, I also understand that that just wasn’t where I was then. It wasn’t until I moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and was surrounded by other young activists, including amazing students, as well as exposed to trainings and new opportunities that I was really able to grow as an organizer for social change. My time at Moravian primed me to be willing to jump into that work though, through learning opportunities and the small risks I did take.

As I return to the Lehigh Valley, I see an emerging activist spirit that I didn’t recognize here before, and am hopeful that we can build a real organizing culture here. I believe that taking action and standing up for what is right is vital to creating a better world for all, and that college campuses are an integral setting for that work.

Courtney Werner-Wright, Class of 2006

My first taste of campus activism came from joining the Environmental Coalition. Over the four years I was at MoCo, we hosted events for campus unity and education—like Vegan Thanksgiving—became involved in the local community by beautifying Sand Island (we added recycled wind chimes, put in fresh compost soil, dug up weeds and planted flowers while also collecting litter), and tried to create inter-campus unity by hosting joint events with the a coalition of progressive students organizations across LVAIC.

I was involved in other ways, too: I was an active member of MSAS: Moravian Students Against Sweatshops, and while I was on campus, we worked for the benefit of the staff particularly, hosting staff appreciation days and brunches where we cooked for and celebrated both the dining hall staff and the campus custodian staff. Finally, I was involved as a senator in USG and as an active member and later president of C3, all while serving on The Comenian as a staff writer and, later, head copy editor. In these roles, my campus activism seemed less…like social activism and more like just helping my peers. I took my work in all of these clubs very seriously: there was never a night when I didn’t have an organization meeting, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. These were the activities that helped me make lasting friendships and helped me to become invested in my school, my community, my generation, and my own welfare. I learned how to pay attention to the things that affected me on a moral, intellectual level as well as those things that would affect me financially and socially in the future.

Honestly, I wish I had been more politically active in college. I wish I had attended meetings with the Campus Republicans and Campus Democrats, and I wish I’d sought out other political groups, too. I wish I’d gotten involved more in organizations that took me into Allentown and South Side Bethlehem —areas that are more ethnically and racially diverse than the affluence of North Side Bethlehem. I wish I’d spent more time learning about people who had very different backgrounds from me. I wish I had been able to attend Multicultural Club meetings—or even understood some of why I would have benefitted by attending those meetings. I wish my extracurricular experiences with campus activism at Moravian weren’t so white, middle-class savior and were rather geared at understanding with empathy and compassion and an ear for listening what was asked of me rather than assuming what I could contribute.

Kelly Grab, Class of 2011

I was certainly involved while at Moravian; however, if asked at the time, and to some extent now, I don’t think I would have considered myself to be a “student activist.” I was the editor of The Comenian  and served as a student representative on several administrative and faculty committees. I fought to keep the film photography curriculum and dark room open as well as the continuance of the Latin language courses. I was also very involved in Residential Life as an RA and then SRA and valued being an advocate for student life and my peers. But my activism was narrowly focused on bettering the College I cared, and continue to care, so deeply about.

Examining my own privilege with the objective of dismantling systemic racism, cis-sexism, hetero-sexism, ableism, and the like, is difficult and cannot be accomplished because I sat through a “diversity workshop” one afternoon. It requires a lot of self-work, vulnerability, and a commitment to ongoing education.

I suppose I wish I had spent more time learning about and getting involved in local, state, and national politics. When I think about the current state of affairs it’s easy for me to become overwhelmed and to want to distract myself from feeling powerless. What has been helpful for me has been to identify a handful of things I care deeply about and to commit my attention to them. When I cannot personally commit time to a particular issue or cause, I donate what money I can to organizations that are doing good work. I also feel fortunate to have friends who are also committed to doing this kind of work and I’m glad that between us we can advocate on a breath of issues.

If current Moravian students are looking to get more involved I recommend getting uncomfortable; take a class on a topic you know very little about or go to an event hosted by an unfamiliar organization– anything that flips the script on your current mode of thinking. I also recommended getting involved in local politics — you’d be surprised how much uncontested control those governmental agencies, including school and community college boards, have that directly impact your daily life. Last, but certainly not least, use those critical thinking skills I know are reinforced in every course at Moravian to examine the world from multiple points of view and to fight for a more socially just world.

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