Simmons Students Take On World Issues

January 25, 2017

Simmons World Challenge

We caught up with Maya Valentine '19, Ari Robinson '19 and Gratia Rowell '18 about Simmons World Challenge!

What are you studying at Simmons?

Maya: Public relations and marketing communications and journalism.

Ari: Neuroscience, on the neurobiology track. 

Gratia: Political science in the 3+1 public policy program. I'm minoring in economics and sustainability.

What made you choose Simmons?

MI like to describe my decision to attend Simmons as similar to the sensation of falling in love at first sight. The summer before committing to Simmons I attended an info session. I distinctly recollect getting lost on my way to the campus and ultimately finding myself on the academic quad. It was a beautiful summer evening and I looked out onto the quad, taking in the entirety of the campus and only one thought occurred to me in that very moment: I had to go here.

A: The queer community, small classes and the ability for students to create their own spaces. Simmons World Challenge was one of the things I saw as a high schooler that made me want to look into Simmons.

G: Because I loved the community feel I got when I toured the campus and was super excited to be a part of the 3+1 program. I felt that Simmons had lots of opportunities for me to learn about political science, both through my classes and other offerings.

Simmons World Challenge

Tell us about the Simmons World Challenge theme — Arresting Aggression: Non-violence as an Option for Change.

M: This particular theme is so incredibly relevant to so many identities including my own. I knew reading the initial e-mail for the program that I had to apply to it. There was something extremely special about understanding the nature of violence and being in a space where you and your fellow teammates attempted to solve issues that were personal and even relatable.

A: This year the Simmons World Challenge focused on violence and hate, and how to use non-violence to end certain problems our society faces. One of the problems that we focused on was police brutality. Especially the different ways that Black Lives Matter has approached police brutality with methods of non-violence.

G: The World Challenge theme this year had room for interpretation. There were multiple topics that fit under the umbrella of the theme. The focus was on the types of violence occurring throughout the world, and how non-violence could be used to address the same issues that are currently being addressed with violence. 

What kind of projects are you working on?

MMy teammate and I looked into gun violence. We were examining the conflict in Chicago. Our solutions centered around addressing the increased homicide rate in southern neighborhoods of the city. Throughout the project we were exposed to stories, reports and citizen accounts of violence. It became our main priority and desire to help in any small or major way we could.

A: Our larger topic was healthcare. We narrowed it down to the way that Transgender and Gender nonconforming (GNC) students are treated at the Simmons Health Center. We were able to speak with representatives from our Health Center and Fenway Health; a local practice which is known for its specialization of Trans healthcare. We came up with a few ways that we could further educate our own providers and make navigating Simmons healthcare considerably more welcoming to Trans and GNC individuals. These measures range from formal trainings on Trans specific health needs, to the basic understanding how to talk to a Trans person about their experiences.

G: My team worked on how gentrification is a type of collective violence — as gentrification is when large groups of people are displaced from their homes. We looked at how college students living in off-campus apartments contribute directly to gentrification.

Simmons World Challenge

What are some meaningful experiences you've had during Simmons World Challenge?

M: Recognizing my potential strength. It's not easy to be exposed to violence and traumatic experiences. Often, I became overwhelmed with the pure content of my project. This required a strength that my teammate and I had to really manifest, pushing ourselves past boundaries that we didn’t even know we possessed.

A: Being able to work closely with people that I had never met before to make Simmons a better place for everyone. I loved being able to create real change for a population of students that Simmons is learning to accommodate. On top of these things, I loved being able to spend these ten days with people who cared about so many incredible causes and learn so much about everyone around me.

G: Visiting the Community Legal Services and Counseling Center. Since I'm considering law school after finishing my degree at Simmons, hearing the work that lawyers are doing in Cambridge to help immigrants and refugees know their rights and how to advocate for those rights was incredibly inspirational to me.

What's your Simmons moment?

M: I have several validating moments that take form in my everyday interactions with very passionate friends and allies. There are people I know who will undoubtedly change the world. Simmons World Challenge especially allowed for some of those voices to be loud and clear.

A: I came to Simmons for the community and the experience of learning in a small environment. Being able to sit in one room with my group day after day, planning this big and beautiful project is exactly what I was looking for.

G: My Simmons moment would have to be the day I declared my major. I felt so much support from faculty, friends and family. It would be hard to get that community feel at a bigger school and I'm incredibly grateful for Simmons.

Top photo: Maya, Ari and Gratia

Middle photo: Ari

Bottom photo: Maya