Nov. 1, 2017
Lorenzo Santavicca (above in green and white, obviously) is a senior studying international relations and political economy in James Madison College. He is serving in his second term as the president of the Associated Students of Michigan State University, the undergraduate student government.
With digital “likes,” “retweets” and “direct messages,” we’re living in a time where we are societally more connected by online profiles and means of communication. But, the unintended consequence is that we have become increasingly disconnected in listening and empathizing with one another in person. In my time as a student, I’ve wanted to demonstrate my “Spartans Will” and do something to change that.
By invitation, I recently participated in an inaugural summit called the Intercollegiate Diversity Congress at the University of South California Shoah Foundation. I attended in my capacity as the undergraduate student body president at MSU and as the only student representative from the State of Michigan.
Dedicated to indexing testimonies in our world history, the foundation currently has stocked more than 55,000 video testimonies, a bulk of them that particularly expound on the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide. The foundation’s work in compiling these stories is exemplary for my generation, in particular to recognize that we all have a story to tell and a narrative that we live.
The summit hosted more than 20 student leaders from around the country to brainstorm and strategize how we can foster a better culture of active listening with one another and the power of storytelling that follows.
Most importantly, we discussed what it means to arrive at disagreement in dialogue in a civil manner – a true sign of polarizing times. I could not be more thankful to have been a part of this conference, considering our desperate societal need to reach out and listen to our peers, whether we agree with them or not.
I found so much resonance at a conference that engaged on a topic that requires everyone to be a part of something bigger: being vulnerable. By way of being vulnerable, eventually we encourage empathy for one another and the ability to actively listen.
While it may seem like an elementary concept, sometimes we have been taught to keep our “head down” and “mind our own business.” Today, we can’t keep doing our own thing and expect everyone else to be alright. Every day, Spartans are demonstrating why we should celebrate our victories in the classroom and on the field together, and learn from each other by talking to one another.
On a note closer to home through the Associated Students of Michigan State University, we have continued a storytelling campaign of our own, Stories Behind the Spartans. This effort, largely to attract the narratives of our peers and encourage each other to listen to their importance, has garnered great support.
Students are asked to elaborate on a simple question: Why did you come to Michigan State University? It has been our hope that through this method of storytelling, we create a culture that builds inclusive communities at MSU.
Going forward, we only can encourage our peers to look around us and ask each other the tough questions. It will require logging off and living in the “now,” but sometimes, we might surprise ourselves and hear a story that we’ve never heard before.
Photos courtesy of University of South California Shoah Foundation.