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Leading students to be agents of social change

The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs at the University of North Georgia is seeking to empower students with the knowledge and skills to make a difference through a "Social Justice Journey."

"Journey" consists of discussions to explore the meaning of social justice, what it means in today's society, where it has succeeded and failed, and how students can contribute to its evolution.

"Each day we find ourselves faced with an opportunity to make a difference, to speak up, or to just lend a thought for the betterment of others. It is critical that our students understand social justice as a concept, and to take a step toward improving conditions for the less fortunate," said Robert Bryant, coordinator of MSA on UNG's Dahlonega Campus. "As we prepare leaders who will enter the global marketplace we want to prepare our students to be social change agents regardless of the magnitude — we just want them to know how and when to make a difference."

The first event, held on Nov. 4, featured presentations by Bryant and others in a discussion titled, "A Conversation on Leadership & Social Justice." The discussion gave students an opportunity to learn about past leaders of social change and current topics and opportunities for social change.

"Social justice will continue to evolve until we reach a point where all people are regarded as equals," said Mimi Fortune, coordinator of student leadership and commuter services. "If prejudice and inequality exist, then having a true sense of identity is impossible."

Students expressed their views of social justice and discussed ways they felt social justice could be improved. Amanda Manigbas, a junior majoring in biology and president of the Asian Student Association, spoke about the goals she wants to help her organization reach.

"Our group is very new as we became an official association in spring. We have many freshmen whom we as officers need to help in learning the skills and mindset needed to be agents of social change," Manigbas said. "This will also help our organization to flourish."

Dr. Bryan Dawson, assistant professor of psychological science, closed the discussion with an examination of the many roles in social change, such as innovators, reactionaries and controllers. In outlining which roles are crucial for social change and how students can support and make their own changes, Dawson identified several minor steps that can easily bring about positive results.

"Being a true agent of change includes advocating for all groups, not just groups you are a part of or identify with," Dawson said. "It's easy to ignore it when someone says something against a group you're not part of, and it's very uncomfortable to speak up and let that person know you disagree. But it is important that groups work together to advocate for themselves and for each other."

The remaining events for the series are:                                                              

  • Nov. 11, Dahlonega Campus, Hoag Meeting Room C, noon to 1 p.m.
  • Dec. 7, visit to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolence & Social Change

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