Student Activism and Global Development

Alexa Navas is a fourth year student from Nicaragua at St. Thomas University and the current president of the Venezuela 180° Chapter at STU.

Student activism is an important component of higher education. University students can play a key role in contributing to global development when their learning extends beyond the classroom. We do not attend class only to answer questions about the readings. Rather, during our time in university, we also engage with our community by volunteering with different clubs and societies on campus and/or getting involved with non-profit organizations. Why do we participate in these activities? Activism and volunteering, whether on a local or global scale, enriches the university experience in many ways.

Gain perspective on social and global issues

Activism enriches our university experience by allowing us to acquire a well-rounded perspective on a variety of social issues. As a result of getting involved with the wider community, we become global citizens who actively contribute to society. It also awakens in us a desire to address social inequalities through the work we do not just during our time in university but also wherever we go after we graduate. Thus, activism and volunteering enhances the meaning and purpose of our work.

Provides a holistic approach to education through experiential learning

It is worth noting student activism goes beyond simply volunteering for an event and writing that on your resumé. Student activism, instead, provides a holistic approach to education. It combines material we learn inside the classroom with experience gained outside of it. In doing so, students get the chance to make a meaningful impact on society while simultaneously learning important lessons for their own future career path. Thus, it is an empowering experience, because it allows us to develop skills that are increasingly relevant in the workplace and in society overall.

Develop skills and gain experience, and share that with others

What are the most important lessons one learns as a student activist? Founding a chapter club for Venezuela 180° on my university campus has helped me develop my leadership, communication, and critical thinking skills. As the club president, I have overseen the recruiting and coordination of a team of volunteers to organize fundraiser activities throughout the academic year in order to contribute to Venezuela180°’s mission. An important task in my role as the president of the club is to raise awareness among the volunteers about the organization’s vision and purpose. I have done this by providing opportunities for the team to learn more about the significant impact of the work we do. I believe our volunteers’ experience would not be as meaningful if the executive team did not have the dedication to provide these learning opportunities for them.

Overall, getting involved with clubs and organizations that address critical issues in our society allows students to learn in a holistic manner which becomes the perfect complement to our learning experience at university. We become better informed on a variety of topics that are increasingly relevant around the world and gain valuable skills for our future careers, all while contributing meaningfully to our global society. Therefore, student activism is a key element of our university experience.