Bryant University has recently cracked the Top 10 ranking for colleges and universities in the Northeast, a victory that has resonated through every aspect of campus. Truly, it is a deserved accomplishment. What goes into creating an institution of such stature? What separates Bryant University from the multitude of similar universities? While many students echo the cries of Bryant University being a top-tier business school, others may not know what is required to create such a diverse and powerful program. While the academic education and intricate interdisciplinary education are both large components to what makes the Bryant University business program the powerhouse it has become, it is outside the classroom that truly separates and illuminates the program. What is this outside component flowing through many a Bryant University student? Social justice.
A group of forty-plus Bryant University students engaged in a five-day social justice retreat before returning to the fall semester. Titled “Linked Through Leadership: CHANGE,” the program was headed by Susan Zarnowski, Associate Director of Campus Engagement, Liam Rice ’17, Jillian Guadet ’17, Elizabeth Oluokun ’18, Molly Gearan ’18, and alumnus Vernon Baskerville ’16. Featuring students with majors ranging from International Business to Communications and hailing from student organizations such as Student Programing Board and Sigma Sigma Sigma, the cohorts were diverse in both experiences and outlooks.
The goal of the program was simple: to educate Bryant University students on cultural and identity issues throughout the socio-economic community and identify tangible goals to combat these issues. Awareness and assistance were the words of the week. Each of the five days focused on a specific identity: General Education, LGTBQ+, Women/Dating Violence, Race/Ethnicity/Invisible Disability, Goals. Throughout each day, participants were provided educational experiences ranging from academic texts to activist presentations. During the experience, presenters and coordinators challenged students to harness the knowledge they were receiving and utilize it in an applied aspect at Bryant University. Participants, utilizing the design thinking skills learned during Bryant IDEA, brainstormed potential programs and goals for the university, settling on a sexual assault mattress campaign as their headliner. Additionally, each student pledged individual goals for the academic year.
Holding the idea that all students should be striving to create a more egalitarian community, regardless of any investment payoff, one cannot deny the power of such programs for increasing the university’s national clout. Social justice programs at Bryant University are intrinsically important in the separation in higher education rankings. Understanding how to interact in a diverse community, which the microeconomic workplace is rapidly approaching every day, is vital to employers. Through these programs, Bryant University business students learn how to effectively communicate on complex social issues and present them in a clear and concise manner. Understanding the social constructivism of identities and practices in our society allows students to free themselves from the chains of convention and enhance their entrepreneurial abilities. While the program hopes to illuminate these ideals, it is not the main purpose of the program, nor should it be. Linked Through Leadership CHANGE helps students become a better product to sell themselves to employers.