The annual Baldwin Wallace Social Change Summit, held this past MLK weekend, is a conference-style event where speakers from different areas within the realm of activism come together with students to teach about activism. The event stresses the importance of being educated on social issues while sharing firsthand experiences.
The event seeks to provide students tips and skills to help them use their voices to bring about positive change on campus and help them initiate change within the surrounding world and throughout their future careers.
This year the event, held completely virtual due to the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic, featured a keynote speaker and seven different breakout sessions. These sessions included speakers with a wide variety of experiences within activism, including disability rights, gender, food insecurity, LGBTQ+ rights, mental health, climate change, and information on steps to help students initiate social change. These breakout sessions provided students with firsthand experiences and information on specific topics which may interest them.
This year’s keynote speaker, Ken Schneck, professor, and director of BW’s leadership in higher education program, has spent many years working in activism within the college environment. Schneck teaches classes on development theory, race, class, gender, and college leadership while also utilizing his voice throughout many mediums.
One project Schneck is involved in is The Buckeye Flame. This Ohio-based LGBTQ+ newsletter seeks to share important stories, experiences, and information on the current goings-on within Ohio’s LGBTQ+ community.
During Schneck’s keynote speech, he provided some essential advice and actual steps students can take to advance their activism journey. He stressed the importance of having goals and utilizing your time to make a sincere effort towards change.
“If you see things that have a sense of inequality, you have a responsibility to make a change, start on campus,” urged Schneck.
Schneck stressed the importance of acting with a sense of urgency, understanding from his personal experiences that change requires determination and is fueled on this earnestness. He also seeks to help students, who are not always given the opportunity to lead the discussion and get more involved in prominent issues. He describes students as having “off the charts power that is mainly unrealized.”
A big part of this event for Schneck is helping students understand the value of their voice.
“Baldwin Wallace is an amazing place where students can make changes and lift unrepresented voices,” Schneck said.
Schneck stressed the importance for each student to take steps towards change and use their voices to talk about issues and use their positions to help lift others in the process. Student director for the Social Change Summit and senior public health major Gennette Saciri found this hit home.
Saciri explained how multiple influences in her life have inspired her to be more involved in her community. Saciri believes that understanding the experiences of those around her will help her become a well-rounded individual and a better medical professional.
Saciri understands that social justice is integral to the job of a medical professional and sees the Social Change Summit as the perfect low-stakes event to get interested students more involved in activism.
“Health can stem from social issues, so knowing a person wholistically can help treat patients better,” said Saciri.
The Social Change Summit provides a format for interested students to get involved in any capacity. Many students joined the project as change leaders. Others simply attended the event to better understand the issues within our community and what role they can play in doing something about it.