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Local and Global: A New Student Group Takes Action

December 19, 2017

Photo of Kate and Roman in front of UMN mosaic

Photo of Kate and Roman in front of UMN mosaic
Photo by Cullen Kobayashi, CLAgency student

People shuffled into Red Sea, a local hotspot for traditional Ethiopian food and live music. The crowd gathered and everyone took their seats, eagerly awaiting the first band to begin. Dim lights faintly danced upon the exposed brick pillars. Spotlights mimicked the rhythm of the feet tapping along to the beat.

Local activists and artists joined the some 70 students who came to support the Protest and Beyond benefit concert that was put on by the Global Studies Student Advisory Board (GSSAB). The concert was held in April 2017 and raised funds for local activism. It concluded a daylong event that also featured a panel discussion about careers oriented towards social justice, facilitated discussions around allyship, and offered workshops held by several student groups on how to be involved in community activism on and off campus.

Organizing Inward

GSSAB was formed just last year and the benefit concert was the highlight of the spring semester. The group was founded by students who were eager to participate in local activism for the benefit of Minneapolis communities. Roman Yanish and Kate Denney, two of the founding members of the group, are excited about developing the student-run community outreach organization.

Roman is a senior focusing on the impact of economic policies on the environment and public health. He is a part of the individualized degree program, and the majority of his courses are centered around global studies. “I’m investigating the processes of globalization from an economic standpoint and the impact of this on people’s well being in the field of public health and beyond,” he says.

Kate is a junior with a double major in global studies and Spanish. Her focus on human rights in Latin America was one of the factors that led her to founding the GSSAB. She says, “I was curious about learning more about local social justice and getting involved in this movement.”

Kate and Roman are excited for another semester for the GSSAB. They are focused on building community for current global studies students. “We want to create a relaxed environment where students can come together and get to know each other,” says Kate. The GSSAB created a registration event, where juniors and seniors met with new global studies students to discuss their experiences in IGS and to recommend courses.

“This semester we have helped bridge the gap between students at different stages in their academic career as well as between faculty and students,” Roman explains. “We wanted the event to give the perspective of older students in order to discuss the many different paths and tracks of the major. It was exactly the type of mentorship we hope to foster in upcoming semesters.”

Working Outward

Local activism was addressed differently by GSSAB this semester than last. Instead of hosting its own standalone events like the benefit concert, GSSAB helped draw awareness to social justice and human rights projects or events that already exist. In coordination with their outreach to global studies students, Kate and Roman hope they can simultaneously increase interest and cooperation of the student body and connect them with local activism opportunities--maximizing their impact on the community.

“We had several group outings throughout the semester,” Roman says, “including attending the Arab Film Fest and visiting the Somali Museum here in Minneapolis. These were great ways to give students an opportunity to connect not only with people who have similar interests to them, but also to the amazing opportunities in the Twin Cities.”

"It has been great to bring the Institute of Global Studies student community to a more local level,” Kate adds. “While we value the fostering of international awareness, education, and engagement, it has also been nice to raise awareness of the diversity within our own, local community, and the many ways to engage with it outside of an academic setting."

This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.