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11/05/2018

Students Partner with Others a World Away to Learn about Civic Engagement

Driving Social Change at the Local Level

“There is a big issue with engagement in politics, and people thinking what you do doesn’t matter,” says Politics and Government Associate Professor Katharine Owens. “The worst case is that young people become apathetic.” Owens says one way to combat that feeling of helplessness is for people to get involved at the state and local level.

To help University of Hartford students explore ways to become involved in their local communities, Owens became a member of the Palestinian American Youth Civic Engagement (PAYCE) program. Through a grant from the Stevens Initiative, PAYCE brings American and Palestinian students together through technology, such as video chat, for “virtual exchanges.” This enables American and Palestinian students to share a curriculum designed to inspire civic engagement. In June, 2018, Owens traveled to the West Bank to meet with her PAYCE partners.  

Politics and government major Genesis Guzman ’19 of Fort Lee, New Jersey, prepared for the Fall 2018 PAYCE class by becoming a PAYCE fellow and attending an intense two-and-a-half-week podcasting workshop at Princess Sumaya University in Amman, Jordan in the summer of 2018. Now in Owens’s Power and Politics class she helpsstudents create podcasts about civic engagement. “My goal is to help students learn what aspect of the story they are going to follow, and how to really get personal and build a connection with the person they’re interviewing.”

“Now I’m more interested in finding out what’s going on locally and not just voting in an election. I wouldn’t feel that way if I didn’t take this class.”

Genesis learned about perspective while taking the podcasting workshop. She says that when she worked with Palestinian students on a podcast, they all took a different approach. “Although we interviewed the same person and asked the same questions, my perspective was more about the person’s feminist views of Palestine, and the others students’ were more political.”  

 Genesis is the third UHart PAYCE fellow. In the winter of 2017-18, politics and government majors Taylor Zitkus ’18 and Juli Dajci ’21 attended a PAYCE podcasting workshop at Iowa’s Drake University. Taylor and Juli also served as mentors to students who created podcasts about the topics of the changing American dream or political participation.

One of those students, Megan Samojla ’18 of New Britain, Connecticut, says the course helped her want to get involved in her local community.“Now I’m more interested in finding out what’s going on locally and not just voting in an election. I wouldn’t feel that way if I didn’t take this class.”