Students of the week: Batha and Evans ’17

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Toni Batha
Class Year: 2017
Majors: Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies

Groups: Co-chair of “I”dentity Dialogues, Senior Admissions Intern, Gamma Phi Beta and Affiliate Caller at the Annual Fund

Q: What is the Social Justice Retreat?

A: The Next Step Social Justice Retreat is an on-campus retreat for students and faculty to learn about social justice through personal stories and experiences. The retreat allows students and faculty to share their stories and make connections with people across campus.

Q: How was it preparing for the retreat?

A: Preparing for the retreat was a really fun process because I got to work with great people! It was a very collaborative process and it is exciting preparing for something that has such an impact on people. I was a participant for the past three years, so I used that experience to plan for this year.

Q: What were some difficulties you faced preparing for and during the retreat?

A: The biggest difficulty for me was thinking about all of the different dietary restrictions and food allergies that participants could have. This isn’t something I normally have to think about but Kathryn was really helpful in making me think about all types of restrictions that could exist.

Q: What benefits do you think the retreat offers student?

A: This retreat provides time for self-reflection, combined with a lot of sharing and learning from fellow students. After the retreat, we encourage students to continue their social justice journey and provide them with support to do so.

Q: What would be your advice to someone looking to get more involved on campus?

A: Don’t be afraid to attend new events or club meetings! The best way to get involved is to become an active participant even if you are not an official part of a club. If you feel uncomfortable going to events alone, bring your friends and get more people involved.

Q: What is your favorite thing about Union?

A: My favorite thing about Union is the relationships that I have established with my professors. I have always felt supported in my academic career and have had a lot of great conversations with my professors outside of the classroom.

Q: Where is your favorite place to eat off campus?

A: I love going to Ambition because they have something for everyone, especially for brunch!

Toni Batha ’17 (left) and Kathryn Evans ’17 (right) stand next to Jason Benitez (left center) and Ryan Ribeiro (right center) at the 2017 Next Step Social Justic Retreat.    Courtesy of Matt Milless
Toni Batha ’17 (left) and Kathryn Evans ’17 (right) stand next to Jason Benitez (left center) and Ryan Ribeiro (right center) at the 2017 Next Step Social Justic Retreat. Courtesy of Matt Milless

Kathryn Evans
Class Year: 2017
Majors: Classics and Spanish

Groups: President of Bhangra Union, President of Alpha Delta Lambda, Vice President of Union Pride, Member of the Committee on LGBTQIA+ Affairs, Sorum House Council, Tour Guide

Q: What is the Social Justice Retreat?

A: Next Step is a one-and-a-half day event that brings together students, faculty and staff to learn from each other about social justice topics such as diversity, microagressions and privilege. Participants not only learn the academic side of these things, but hear real stories about what their fellow classmates have been through to make it all more real. It is the most eye-opening experience I have gone through at Union.

Q: How was it preparing for the retreat?

A: Toni and I had both been through the retreat all three years prior to this one, as both participants and facilitators, so it was interesting to now be on the planning side of things. We got to see just how much work goes into it – mostly done by Jason Benitez and Ryan Ribiero. Toni and I just planned out all of the food for the weekend and some brief games to do during the retreat and then obtained all of those things. The most stressful part for me was trying to make sure we would have enough food that people would like (and weren’t allergic to) without going over-budget.

Q: What were some difficulties you faced preparing for and during the retreat?

A: Neither of us wanted to make phone calls to restaurants. And we ended up having to make multiple phone calls to each place we ordered food from, first to order it, then to find out allergen information, then to find out if they were bringing plates and silverware…there are so many aspects to catering that we did not think of at first.

Q: What benefits do you think the retreat offers student?

A: This retreat asks deep questions that really help you get to know people in a way you never do outside of the retreat. It shows you that there are people who have been through some of the same things you have, even if you thought you were alone. You also learn that there is a great amount of diversity at Union. My first year at Next Step I learned that my fellow classmates had lived through things I had never even thought of.

Q: What would be your advice to someone looking to get more involved on campus?

A: Just start going to club meetings and their events! I know that it feels awkward to go to a meeting or event if you don’t know anyone and it is already the middle of the school year, but clubs are always nothing but excited to have new members show up. Even if you know nothing about the club or organization’s topic, getting involved in it is a great way to learn!

Q: What is your favorite thing about Union?

A: I love that students have the opportunity to be involved in so many different things. Being a part of various clubs and organizations has allowed me to experience new things, meet awesome people and learn about different cultures and identities. I love how the average Union student has multiple extracurriculars—and often they are completely unrelated. It makes life more interesting.

Q: Where is your favorite place to eat off campus?

A: Mexican Radio. They are one of the few places around that has multiple awesome vegan options!

 

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