by Tamara Shue (tshue@gsu.edu)
     Phones attached to their hands, short attention spans. Instructors often think of these characteristics when we think of millennials. By the same token, millennials live in a world that—thanks primarily to technology—is smaller than it has ever been. But how aware are millennials of local, national, or global events and politics? Often, the answer is: not very, beyond what pops up in their social media feed. Since a college education is supposed to broaden students’ horizons, I have crafted a multi-step process and paper dealing with wealth to help them look beyond the walls of the classroom.
      What is wealth? What do we desire to do with it? Do we have any responsibility to share it with the less fortunate? The students explore these questions as a part of this multi-step assignment. Yes, a majority of students talk about buying a new car and traveling, but, to be honest, I would spend a portion of my wealth that way, too. However, some of the students write and share about how wealth comes in other forms aside from monetary like health, family, and education.
For the next step of this assignment, students write about a charity they currently—through monetary contributions or their time—support, would like to support one day, or would like to start. I added this last option because, when I first started this process, I found most students could not name a single charity.
      The responses to the writing about charity offer insight into what is important to the students. They write about supporting research for cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s; children in war-torn countries; and supplying water to those who do not have a clean and nearby source.
      Ultimately, the students write a paper about the charity of their choice. The charity can be local, national, or international, based here in America or anywhere else in the world. International students often choose to write about a charity that works in their home countries.
      Do students love writing this paper and come to class eager to talk about it or work on one of these steps? No, but they are engaged and appreciate it differs from a typical essay. However, the assignment does impact students. One student recently noted that “I did a paper . . . on the charity UNICEF. . . I learned about the conditions which many children around the world have to live through every day of their lives and how they are affected by the struggle they have to experience. It came as a shock how many children actually experience famine and poverty and are not able to receive a proper education.”
      Ultimately, I do believe students make the connection that they can do something about whatever unjust or difficult circumstance they see going on around them. And that is what I want—students thinking about and engaging in the world beyond the classroom walls.

Beyond the Classroom Walls Presentation

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