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Seminar teaches students ‘Howe’ to spark social change

On Saturday, Sept. 28, about 15 Miami students came together at the Howe Writing Center (HWC) for a workshop titled “Writing for Social Action: Local Issues, Local Practices.” There, they met and worked with professionals in writing and rhetoric to improve their writing skills and knowledge on local social action issues. They also learned how to meet their own personal social justice goals.

The workshop was divided into three hour-long segments where students could come and go as they saw fit.

“I really care about different ways people, and myself individually, can solve, or at least try to make progress with different social justice issues,” first-year theater major Alexandra Leurck said. “I’m really passionate about our environment in general. I’m on the EcoReps team and I’m also the EcoRep for my residence hall.” 

Hosted by HWC Graduate Assistant Directors, Danielle Hart and Brenda Tyrrell, the event began with brief introductions from various student-based organizations focused on local social justice issues. These included Zero Waste Oxford, the Graduate Student Pride Association, Spectrum and the National Black Law Student Association.  

Following the presentation of the organizations’ goals, attendees made their way to the Advanced Inquiry Space (AIS) room in King Library. Here, they worked to compose letters to editors as well as create zines, which are non-commercial, non-professional and self-published mini-magazines typically associated with counter-culture. 

Stefanie Hilles, a librarian in the arts and humanities and a self-described zine connoisseur, talked about the importance of these crafts to social justice issues. 

“I think that they’re an excellent way for people to get out their message,” Hilles said. “It’s a very user-friendly, low cost way.”

Students were given instruction and time to create their own personal zines centered around whatever social justice issue they felt most strongly about. They were also offered a plethora of resources to continue their brainstorming process.  

“I think it was a really interesting look into organizing students and their activism,” said Sebastian Pratt, a sophomore music composition and diplomacy and global politics double major. “It’s good to take students that have these awesome ideas and help direct them because I feel like students, a lot of times, don’t know how to do things or they think they can’t do things because they’re students, but we can.” 

The last segment of the workshop was a recap of all the information and topics that had been covered. The staff ensured that all students would be leaving with a solid, work-in-progress plan for extending their personal social action ambitions.

“We would like people to see that there are other organizations that are working [against] systems of oppression, and that there are resources out there that they can utilize to create their own or add to their own social action work,” Tyrrell said. “Just making a more cohesive and united stand instead of divided stand.” 

By the end of the workshop, student-created zines decorated King Library’s AIS room. 

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The HWC Graduate Assistant Directors plan to hold workshops like these at least once every semester. For more information, visit the HWC website.