Published Dec. 3, 2012
Springfield, Ohio – Wittenberg University’s Office of Student Involvement encourages students to participate in organizations and programs that reflect their interests as a foundation for leadership opportunities and a broader college experience, a message five students who share a common interest in promoting peace have taken to heart.
Surprised to learn that Wittenberg did not have an active student organization to meet their concerns, the students began initiatives to establish an organization to represent their interests. In October, their efforts were rewarded as Student Senate officially approved and recognized the Wittenberg Student Peace Alliance.
Courtney Biede from Highland Park, Ill.; Alexa Konowal from Canton, Ohio; Leslie Goshia from Bryan, Ohio; Rachael Mains from Columbus, Ohio; and Maggi Quigley from Elmhurst, Ill., all members of the class of 2015, received assistance from Professor of Geography Olga Medvedkov and Sociology and Geography Department Assistant Peggy Hanna, who is a longtime activist in peace issues, politics and community service.
Hanna, who received the Wittenberg Women of Accomplishment Award in 1986, is the author of Patriotism, Peace and Vietnam: A Memoir. She directed the students to The Peace Alliance, which is described as “an alliance of organizers and advocates throughout the United States taking the work of peace-building from the margins of society into the centers of national discourse and policy priorities. Our network includes volunteer grassroots teams in hundreds of cities, towns, colleges and high school campuses.”
Quigley has a background in Model United Nations, which taught her to write resolutions for debate and articulate problems and solutions, skills that have already come in handy as a founding member of the Wittenberg Student Peace Alliance.
“We learned to discuss why we disagree, to take what we were learning and how to speak up,” she said. “We did so much research. It was amazing how much digging we had to do to find information.”
The organization’s founding members started out by meeting regularly to focus on local initiatives, like encouraging peaceful actions against conflict and bullying. They have worked with children in the Springfield Promise Neighborhood, and they visited the Dayton International Peace Museum.
As they sought to discover campus interest in their proposed organization, the students received more than 70 responses from other students who shared their desire for a more secure and peaceful society.
“We are planning to get in to the school systems in the Springfield area with an anti-bullying campaign, which I hope that will grow into more of a connection with the kids as a mentor program that will make a greater impact for them,” said Biede, president of the group. “I hope to help them see how being a peaceful person can improve their daily life so that they will continue with it.
“My hope is that this group will affect the Wittenberg and Springfield communities and then those people will take their peace with them to wherever they go, and they will help the people they meet there, and this will continue so that more people can see a more peaceful way of living.”
Konowal, vice president of the organization, knows first-hand the benefits a group such as theirs can bring to a community.
“I come from a very service-oriented family and have been involved in community service from an early age, due mostly to my mother's influence, and her habit of volunteering me for things,” she said. “My experiences have made me realize how much anger and hostility is in this world, but also that violence can be prevented. I believe in the Wittenberg Student Peace Alliance's mission because its members understand the importance of spreading peace, and we are determined to see change happen.”
Written By: Phyllis Eberts