A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
May 14, 2009 Volume 39 / Number 6

 

Students Surprise Professor with Good Works

(Top) These children and adults are from Mama Crisis Pregnancy Center in Gulu, Uganda. They are the recipients of clothing that Lea Vanderley, a student in Chunyan Song’s Interethnic Contact class, helped to collect through her church.

(Bottom) Chunjan Song
These children and adults are from Mama Crisis Pregnancy Center in Gulu, Uganda. They are the recipients of clothing that Lea Vanderley, a student in Chunyan Song’s Interethnic Contact class, helped to collect through her church.

Chunyan Song, Sociology, has a group of 72 students in her Interethnic Contact classes, one remote and one on campus, that is amazing her with their initiative and enthusiasm for community action. The course is about interethnic relations from a global perspective, said Song. Here, in her words, is the story of the power of the right materials and of a class that has taken off in wonderful ways.


In Sociology 354, Interethnic Contact, this semester, students learned about basic theories and then moved on to read three memoirs: one from Yugoslavia, one from Sudan, and another one from Cambodia. The Yugoslavian author, Savo Heleta, who wrote Not My Turn to Die: Memoirs of a Broken Childhood in Bosnia, talked to my class from South Africa through a Web camera after they read his book. My students were greatly touched and inspired by the author’s personal transformation and devotion to world peace. They decided to gather donations among themselves for a laptop with a Web camera, which the author doesn’t have.

In response to a suggestion from one of my students that we should suggest solutions to the problems we were reading about, I asked my students to write a short taking-action proposal on the Vista discussion board as part of the midterm exam. I was totally blown away by my students’ proposals, commitment, and actions.

For the midterm proposal, one distance student wanted to donate a tent to Tents of Hope for refugees in Sudan. She was going to purchase a tent for $500. After the owner learned about the purpose of the tent, he gave her three. She asked students at her children’s school to decorate the tents. Administrators and teachers not only said “yes” but also agreed to pay the shipping fees.

Another student organized a campaign in her church to donate children’s clothes. She gathered 100 pounds of clothes and connected with a man who was leaving for Darfur and an orphanage his mother runs the following week. The man purchased children’s books and paid to have them shipped. The results motivated her church peers to send clothing throughout the coming year.

A third student, who is a mother of three teens and works as a trauma nurse in Sacramento, chose to build a presentation board for her workplace. She wanted to involve her children and other nurses in sharing information that she was learning in class. The presentation board was to promote social tolerance with the theme “Acceptance and Respect for All.” These are just three of the actions taken by my students that not only inspired me, but each other and their families and communities as well.