Student Advice: Campaigning for Causes Grants Valuable Skills
Activism has long been considered a fundamental stage in student development, with university campuses around the world serving as launching pads for campaigns and worthy causes.
What’s more, according to The Guardian, participating in such campaigns not only provides students with the means to bring about positive change in society, but in themselves as well. Activism helps students develop skills that will be of significant benefit to them, whatever career path they choose to pursue and whatever sector they choose to operate in.
And though some may feel that a background in activism marks them out as potential troublemakers in the eyes of large organizations, in truth such organizations are actually more likely to employ students with experience in campaign work. According to Karl Hobley from the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), campaigning shows that you “have something to say”, and most companies like that.
Here are some of the useful skills that students can develop through campaign work:
Campaigning requires students to formulate a clear message, and a means of delivering it. Participants will often be required to speak at public events, and promote their cause on radio shows and during interviews with the media.
Students who can work up the courage to approach random people on campus or on the street will have less difficulty selling their ideas to strangers in the future. They’ll have greater confidence in themselves when seeking assistance in advancing their goals.
Campaigning presents opportunities to meet a number of prominent political and public figures. Billy Hill – a third year history student at the University of Birmingham, met government minister Alan Duncan through his campaign work, and consequently became one of the few people in the world who can claim to have had their photo taken with a British MP whilst dressed as a sweet potato.
Raising funds for campaigns and achieving goals with a limited budget requires business know-how, organizational skills and a willingness to think outside the box, all of which are highly valued in both the profit and non-profit sectors.
The Power of Student Activism
Student activism played a vital in bringing about change throughout the 20th century. The American Youth Congress, an organization led by students in Washington, DC and supported by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, protested against racial discrimination and in support of youth programs during the 1930’s, and the 1960’s student protests would become symbolic of the opposition to the Vietnam War.
Of course, America isn’t the only place where student activism has made a difference. In Argentina, for example, the student protests of 1918 helped bring about the ‘University Revolution’ – the term for the modernization of Argentinian universities that enabled them to determine their own curriculum without interference from the government.
Pollution, healthcare and sustainability are some of the critical issues facing the world today. Tom Kalil – special assistant to the chancellor for science and technology at UC Berkeley and a former official under the Clinton administration, believes that harnessing the energies of students can help provide society with innovative solutions to such issues, and has launched initiatives with the aim of encouraging student activism.
One such initiative resulted in an affordable water filtration system for residents of the Mumbai slums, designed by Berkeley engineering students for the purpose of preventing the spread of diarrheal diseases. The students were required to negotiate with various authorities in the process, including government representatives, slum lords and community leaders.
As such, students were not only motivated to deliver impressive technological innovations, but to interact with power structures in a way that promoted cooperation rather than conflict.