YOU/CSD Mini-Fest Reflections

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USP 140 Students stand in front of the Diversitree at the first annual YOU/UCSD Mini-Fest. Photo Credit: Susan Peerson

On Wednesday, November 28th, the USP Program’s Healthy Placemaking class (USP 140) held the first annual  YOU/CSD Mini-Fest next to the grassy “hump” near the Old Student Center.  Students, staff and faculty were invited to come out and be part of making a more inclusive, welcoming campus for all – that is – a culture and space that explicitly helps us to see, hear, value, honor and celebrate one another.  Although no single event can “fix” every challenge we face, it can 1) start a conversation, 2) introduce people to one another, to new ideas, and new possibilities; and 3) foster play, joy, connection and reflection about ourselves, one another, and the world.

Participants in the mini-fest started by signing in and picking up a passport.  They were encouraged to contribute to the UCSD Diversitreewhere they chose a colorful piece of fabric, wrote their hopes, dreams and aspirations (personal or global) on it, and then tied it to one of the other ribbons hanging from the tree.  In so doing, they connected their own hopes to the aspirations of others.

Participants could also:

1) share their strategies for self care, and read those of others at the Self Care Board;
2) select a card at the Conversation Card Table, leading them to ask a question of an individual they did not previously know, about a topic unrelated to work or academics;
3) visit the Do U C Me? station, where a polaroid photo was taken of them, and they then wrote something on the back about themselves that others would not know by just looking at them; and
4) hang out, chat, and enjoy Red Sambusas and tea

Once their passports were filled in, participants completed a brief survey, and received a $5 gift certificate to Art of Espresso (Mandeville Coffee Cart), a tiny succulent, and a lollipop.

Feedback from the event was wildly positive: 152 surveys were filled out; 100% of these felt that participation in the mini-fest was worthwhile, and 99.3% of the respondents thought that pop-up events like these help people on campus.  Written comments strongly reinforced the numbers.  One participant wrote, “All the booths inspired me as well as others and I believe that it could help students foster a sense of worth and belonging at UCSD, while also reminding everyone that self-care for your health and wellbeing matters the most.”  Another participant wrote, “I feel events such as this one are really important and needed on campus to help students engage with one another and also engage in discussions centered around their health and well-being.”

About the Diversitree, one person wrote, “It was colorful and beautiful and inspiringly amazing to witness all the other ribbons joined together to symbolize how we are all united despite how different we may be.”  Another participant appreciated the fact that space was opened up for being a multi-faceted human being (rather than “just” a driven, stressed out student, staff or faculty member).  He wrote, “The activity I enjoyed the most from this event was getting my picture taken in front of the tree while writing down a few things about yourself that nobody knows.  I may not have told anybody verbally, but the fact that I wrote it down and it is out there in the world made me feel like I am not alone about what I enjoy in my life.  There is something about writing your secrets and inner feelings down on paper and then talking about them with other people that makes you fell like there is a huge weight off your shoulders.  Being in a nice, open, green space momentarily took the focus off academics, and made you have a moment of transparency with other students, being that we were all exposing part of ourselves that we were not normally used to sharing.”

Finally, one participant shared this: “I’m very glad I attended this event because I believe that more events like this will be instrumental in not only promoting overall well-being, but also bringing people together in order to promote a sense of community affiliation and belonging.”

The YOU/CSD Mini-Fest was one of those events that had as powerful an impact on the planners and implementers as on the participants.  Professor Lewis and her student co-collaborators are deeply grateful to Vice Chancellor Gary Matthews, the Campus Planning office, the Healthy Campus Network, and the USP Program for helping to make it possible with their generous financial support.  They hope to make this an annual affair.

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