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Faculty of Arts encourages students to discover a passion for helping others

By Antoinette Mercurio

Arts students

Arts students share their outreach experience at the I Made My Mark Expo, an event which highlighted students' community involvement.

It was in Vietnam that Chuck Howard knew his life had changed forever.

The first-year economics student spent 10 weeks last summer in Da Nang, Vietnam working with Global Volunteer Network (GVN), a private non-governmental organization. Howard volunteered as a teacher tutoring college-age students who couldn't afford English lessons and also spent time working at an orphanage for children and teens with mental and physical disabilities. One resident made a lasting impression on Howard - Tam, a 27-year-old man who remained at the orphanage because his disabilities were so great, he had nowhere else to go.

"Despite Tam's challenges, he's the most positive person I've ever met. Seeing his strength helped me want to be a better person and seeing him make his mark, made me make my mark," Howard said.

Howard is one of 27 Faculty of Arts students who gathered at the I Made My Mark Expo recently. The expo highlighted the many ways arts students have participated in outreach activities, on campus, in Toronto and abroad. Posters displaying photos, project information and a quote summarizing each student's passion decorated the atrium of the George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre.

One of the event organizers Christina Smit said the event is meant to showcase their stories.

"The idea is using their education to make their mark to the wider community," she said. "Education is about creating a sense of responsibility and acting on that responsibility. Often arts students are questioned about their education and what they can do with an arts background. This expo illustrates the various ways an arts education can make a difference in the community."

Fourth-year arts and contemporary studies student Jasmine Holmes turned her work-study placement at Positive Space Ryerson into a passion. Positive Space is a student-faculty-staff coalition group that aims to create an inclusive environment for all members of the university regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Holmes has organized events promoting acceptance of the LGBTT2SIQQ community and building awareness about homophobia. Co-ordinating workshops and panel discussions has allowed her to partner with groups on and off campus - giving her an opportunity to build allies.

"This isn't just work anymore. It's turned into a passion to break down the barriers marginalized groups face. Positive Space has taught me to be an ally to all groups, to put myself in other people's shoes and recognize my own privileges," Holmes said.

The Faculty of Arts Student Experience Centre works with students to enrich their university experience. It helps co-ordinate participation in the more than 145 student clubs established on campus including those academic related, provides access to leadership opportunities in Student Services such as Tri-Mentoring and the Off-Campus Living Links program, and assists in international interests like Alternative Spring Break. Service Learning, a component of the Faculty of Arts which links course-based and co-curricular activities to community priorities, provides students with experiential learning benefits as well.

Faculty of Arts students interested in making the most of their student life can visit www.ryerson.ca/arts/sec/.

Chuck Howard

Chuck Howard, first-year economics, was one of 27 Faculty of Arts students who showcased their outreach experience at the I Made My Mark Expo.
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