The use of websites and blogs to promote social and political causes has gained traction on campus. The Women’s Center’s Develle Dish blog, HerCampus and the editorial pages of The Chronicle are just a few examples of places where students are able to openly share opinions. With its new Write(H)ers program, the Women’s Center seeks to extend knowledge of effective use of media and communications strategies to undergraduates interested in feminism. In doing so, the program seeks to capitalize on the growing importance of media activism.
Write(H)ers seeks to use media activism as a tool for expanding student understanding of feminist thought. Through interactions with leading journalists, selected students are able to discuss issues of gender and campus culture and develop skills in writing op-eds that will enable them to effectively add their voices to campus dialogue. The program also seeks to counter the lack of visibility of feminist issues in the media by empowering and training students to share their stories and thoughts with others.
Writ(H)ers and the growth of activist-oriented media is a positive addition to student discourse on campus. On a campus where “effortless perfection” is assumed to be the norm, it can be hard for students to share their stories, even when other students are facing the same struggles. By training students to speak out on the issues facing them, the program helps its participants find their voice. In doing so, the program can help facilitate a shift in campus culture by making Duke a place where students can freely share their discomforts, struggles and frustrations. This in turn facilitates a stronger intellectual climate on campus.
Write(H)ers also promotes professional skill building in the emerging field of activist journalism. In a world of change.org petitions, political documentaries and social action campaigning, activist causes are constantly gathering steam. To stand out among the constantly growing amount of issues, it is important to convey one’s thoughts clearly and passionately. Write(H)ers affords its participants the chance to learn how to adapt to this field through a combination of workshops, seminars and experiential learning exercises. In doing so, the program provides a comprehensive training on a skill that will only grow in importance.
The professional possibilities opened up by the program are eclipsed by the substantive contribution participants’ voices can make to a wide array of social causes. In its goal of exposing more undergraduates to journalism and feminist issues, Write(H)ers facilitates social change by putting these issues on a more visible platform. While this goal is hardly exclusive to Writ(H)ers, the program serves as a strong example of the benefits of including student voices in discussions of local, national and global issues.
Write(H)ers is successful because it found a niche and uses its resources to train students in a certain area, but the hybrid education-experiential learning model it employs can be easily adapted to other media endeavors on campus. Student Affairs and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions are just some of the many campus communities that utilize blogs as a new source of communication. Looking at the strengths of Writ(H)ers may make their efforts even more successful.