WOOSTER, Ohio — Political cynicism seems to be sweeping across the country with renewed vigor, even in college classrooms where students are typically more idealistic about the future. Denise Bostdorff, professor of communication studies at The College of Wooster, noted the cynicism among students in her political rhetoric class during the past few years and decided it was time to do something about it.
Bostdorff structured an experiential assignment that she hoped would help her students understand the challenges of political action and respect the work of good civil servants. She developed a "Politics-In-Action" project to encourage students to follow their passions through a pathway that would enable them to become actively engaged in the political world.
One group of students in the course chose to organize a campus event to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), an organization that assists veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. To support its mission, the organization offers interactive programs, adaptive sports, and opportunities for higher education to soldiers.
Wooster juniors Tyler Campbell and Stefany Mandarino led the effort on campus with help from fellow junior Adrianna Young, and first-years Ethan Nichol, Daniel Gorzynski, and Andrew Stockman. “We chose the project ultimately because we did not believe the issue was receiving the proper amount of attention that it deserved,” said Campbell.
The students researched the challenges that returning veterans faced and decided to hold a walk-a-thon, titled “Strides for Soldiers,” at the Scot Center to raise money for and awareness of the WWP program. They drafted a proposal that would develop and progress through peer review as well as careful scrutiny from Dr. Bostdorff. The students then scrambled to organize and advertise the event, which they hoped would attract about a hundred participants and raise $500. Although they fell short of their participation goal, they more than doubled their monetary target by raising over $1000.
“Based on the parameters we set for the project, we found it to be an overwhelming success,” said Nichol. “It just reinforces how great a student body we have here at the College.”
Campbell hopes that this will become an annual event, while Bostdorff hopes that the exercise will help students shift from being cynical about politics to becoming more involved in civic and public service.
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