Fairfield University’s year-long focus on activism, along with the Jesuit commitment to social justice, was this year’s topic at the annual Meeting of the Minds conference held on Saturday, January 30th. Dozens of Fairfield’s most involved students gathered in the Charles F. Dolan School of Business dining hall to share ideas and inspire each other to be an active part of the global community.
Special guest motivational speaker, Dr. Mary Frances Arnold, spoke about what it means to be an activist. Afterwards, several of Fairfield’s student leaders shared with their peers what had inspired them to be activists. The panel of student leaders expressed varied interests and causes, yet all demonstrated the same passion for activism. The panelists included:
- Marisa Taylor ‘10
- Cicily Collazo ‘12
- Marissa Tota ‘12
- Kelsey Greelish ‘12
- Zach Gross ‘12
- Chris Staysniak ‘10
- Sarah Gatti ‘10
- Shawne Lomauro ‘11
Student leader Chris Staysniak ’10 recently returned from a service trip in New Orleans. Chris shared his experience and the ways the trip it had changed him. Questions shot from the crowd like arrows, as panelists took turns describing personal experiences that had inspired them. A common theme of epiphany emerged as each described what had motivated them to dedicate their time and energy to a cause.
After a lunch break, the crowd dispersed into “breakout sessions.” Each group, led by a member of the student activist panel, focused on a specific topic relating to activism. Chris Staysniak spoke about service trips. He covered everything from the philosophy behind a service trip to travel logistics. The classroom in the Dolan School of Business could not spare another seat. Everyone was captivated by the humorous PowerPoint slides that both entertained and inspired.
The mood shifted from lighthearted interaction to a serious look at Chris’ experience in New Orleans. “It is the worst conditions I’ve ever seen people living in. Truly a sad and life-changing experience,” he stated as his tone quickly intensified. Meanwhile, the other panelists led breakout groups that focused on topics such as diversity, going green, and boosting turnouts at events.
Fairfield University’s mission statement acknowledges its “Obligation to the wider community of which it is a part.” This was clearly a concern amongst students and faculty. Everything from on-campus ethics to Haiti was discussed in an effort to help each student discover their passion. The seminar granted each person in attendance the opportunity to reflect on and synthesize an active part of Fairfield’s Jesuit mission, “to share with its neighbors its resources and its special expertise for the betterment of the community as a whole.”
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