"It really was an experience that allowed me to see the world differently and opened up my views to diversity, to social justice in general."
CESL Program: IMPACT!
Major: Environmental Design
I’m an environmental design major with an economics minor. I chose IMPACT because I was looking to get that personal experience with college. I heard of the RAPs, and I thought it was a great opportunity to meet people around me, take class with them, live with them, learn together, and build a smaller community within a very large university. I was also interested in community service, as well.
IMPACT was like my rock because I came in undecided, not really sure what I wanted to do with my life, not really sure what I was going to study. It was something to grab onto because I had people around me who were taking the same classes. I was meeting friends; I was able to learn about social justice. I was getting involved in my community, too; I was making networking connections at my service site and with other faculty members on a more personal level. I think it’s a great program for anyone to start out with because that way if you’re not sure what you want to do, it gives you some connections.
For me, what stands out the most about my IMPACT experience are the connections I have. Most of my close friends as a senior in college three years later are the people I met freshman year. We all had similar interests in what we wanted to do and what we wanted to learn. It was really cool for a bunch of students to come together with these similar desires and goals and to learn and grow from them through this program, and then to continue the relationships even past the program.
Going off that, the personal relationship I have with Katja, the IMPACT professor, is still really important to me. When I told my mom, when I told my sister, when I told other students who weren’t in IMPACT that I have gone to my professor’s house for brunch and tea, they were amazed because it’s such a large university. People find it crazy that my professors actually know who I am; but that’s why I appreciate and value what IMPACT brought, because it was a smaller setting, and I was able to develop this awesome experience for myself, but also with Katja. Even today we talk all the time.
On the learning side, one of the biggest things I took from IMPACT was awareness. It really was an experience that allowed me to see the world differently and opened up my views to diversity, to social justice in general. I became more aware of the environment I’m in, my surroundings, the people in my environment. Learning that I fall in the privileged category of being a white male, middle class, etc., it helped me discover my own identity, what I recognize myself as, and what I’m seen as. That put things in perspective for me, too, and helped with understanding myself better. Overall, it was a really eye-opening experience.