Student Group Spotlight: The Citizen Student Movement

The Citizen Student Movement at the University of Minnesota was established just last year in 2017, and it’s made up of students dedicated to tackling important social issues and changing the world. These movers and shakers are going against the current by doing meaningful work on our campus, and encouraging others to channel their passions through community action and discussion. I contacted Alison, a member of the Citizen Student Movement, and she provided me with a little more information on the student group and what they do:

Q: What is your best memory while being a part of this group?

A: Our favorite memories while being part of this group are all centered around having the opportunity to see people change through their involvement with our work. Many students come into the group feeling frustrated by what life has thrown at them and how society is set up for us to simply follow along and not question the status quo. Then, they learn that they as people, students and citizens, hold power. This moment is the most rewarding part of the work that we do. When people realize that they have the resources and capacity to make change in their own community, they start to get more engaged with the world around them. They speak up in group discussions. They start making plans for the future and ways in which they can change it. This is our favorite part of the Citizen Student Movement.

Q: What are your group’s goals?

A: Our group’s goals are simple - we strive to empower everyday people to make positive change without waiting for the government to do it for them. We accomplish these goals by giving them the skills and confidence to go out into the world with agency and organize with other everyday people to get things done to improve their communities.

Q: What upcoming activities or events will your group be hosting or a part of?

A: This semester, we’re holding a variety of events, all centered around increasing civic engagement on campus. All of our events are completely free and open to all.

First, we will be hosting a “Red/Blue Skills Workshop” in conjunction with Better Angels, a bipartisan nonprofit that was started in 2016. This workshop will teach students how to effectively engage in productive conversations with people who think differently than them. Our first Skills Workshop will be on Friday, March 2 from 1-3:30 p.m. in Blegen Hall 135.

We’ll also be putting on an on-campus rendition of the “Circle of Peace”, which is a weekly community conversation that is normally held in St. Paul. This “circle” focuses on the impacts and disparities of the criminal justice system and how community members from all walks of life can get involved to help better the situation. Our conversation will be open to college students and outside community members, and will feature the stories of formerly incarcerated felons.

Finally, throughout the semester we are hosting various dialogues in our “Let’s Talk About…” conversation series. These conversations serve to help participants learn about relevant public issues from a variety of perspectives and backgrounds. They’re not debates, because the goal is not to convince anyone to change their opinion, but they involve the expression of diverse viewpoints for the sake of learning and mutual understanding across differences. One of these conversations, held in collaboration with Project Recognize, is about re-humanizing homelessness and will be held on Thursday, March 29.

Q: How does this group contribute to the community on campus?

A: The Citizen Student Movement isn’t just another community engagement organization–it’s about empowering people to make change in their own unique ways. We strive to address the systemic, underlying roots of the social issues that face us today instead of simply providing “band-aid” fixes to them. This framework, which we call “public work,” involves lots of organization, building relationships and tapping into community resources. It also involves lots of patience and perseverance. Our group enables students on campus to learn how to organize for this change, work with people who are different than them, and ultimately go out into the world as agents of productive and meaningful change. In the end, we’re not only improving the community around us through our work, but we’re training agents of change through the process.

 

Q: How does one get involved with your organization?

A: Simply show up and be ready to learn. We meet weekly on Thursdays from 5-6:30 p.m. in Peik Hall 335, and our meetings are open to anyone and everyone. If you have any questions or want more information, reach out to Ali Oosterhuis at [email protected]. Also, check out our website!

 

 

A special thank you to Alison Oosterhuis, Citizen Student Movement’s Strategic Alliance Coordinator, who talked with me all about this amazing student group. Check out their Facebook page to learn more.