If you’re pursuing a liberal arts degree at Shimer College, you’re already familiar with our philosophy of dangerous optimism. Students here are characterized by their defiant refusal to accept the status quo, their interest in divergent ideas, and a staunch resistance of prejudice and inequality. Shimer students think for, and speak for themselves.
Informed and Engaged
As students of history, philosophy, politics and literature, Shimerians acquire a unique understanding of the human animal. They’re well acquainted with our struggles to coexist, to stake out common ground, to find a way of flourishing as a society. And it’s this critical appreciation of our failures and triumphs that so naturally draws Shimer students (and faculty) to humanitarian work.
Our alternative liberal arts college community is focused on engaging with and drawing attention to some of our world’s most pressing and contentious issues. Here are a few ways to get started on the path of humanitarianism:
Flex Your Artistic Muscle
Some of the most inspiring moments in history have been sparked by artistic production – painting, literature, film, dramatic arts. The pen (or iPad) is indeed often mightier than the sword, and can be wielded as a compelling tool for humanitarian purposes.
You might create sculpture that draws attention to social issues like the Toronto-based South African-born installation artist, Ilan Sandler. His work occupies public spaces across North America and Europe, encouraging audiences to reflect on a number of themes, such as the rights of victims of violent crimes.
Or, you may produce a documentary about a social justice issue that is close to your heart, helping others tell their stories to increase audience awareness and spark reform. Liberal arts students possess the skills to compose music, stage dramatic presentations, create podcasts or blog series – or any number of unexpected and unusual creative expressions of activism.
Take It To The Street
Natalie Warne, TED presenter and human rights advocate started her own humanitarian career by joining a local group committed to ending child soldiering in Uganda. At the age of 17, she was spurred into action by a single documentary on Joseph Kony’s reign of terror, and was determined to help save the children he had enslaved. She joined a local organization called Invisible Children, began coordinating protests, rallies, and fundraising efforts, and travelled across the US to garner recognition for the cause. Through persistence and hard work, she was noticed by none other than Oprah Winfrey, who featured Invisible Children on her show – and the group was instrumental in pushing through legislation against child soldiering in Africa.
Look For Local Inspiration
Shimer’s own Professor Steven Werlin is an inspiring humanitarian who heads up Haiti’s largest microfinance institution. Using their understanding of human nature in the face of extreme poverty, plus their knowledge of local economies, Werlin and his team help Haitian women find independence and confidence as entrepreneurs.
If you’re looking to get involved in a project like this, but are in the midst of a liberal arts degree, why not volunteer over a summer? It’s important to research the group or activity with which you’d like to get involved, and consider how your unique talents may be of use; but ultimately, the best place to learn is in the field. And that field could very well be your own backyard. Local charities are almost always looking for dedicated volunteers – you don’t need to fly across the world to lend a hand and make a lasting impact.
Which humanitarian issue resonates most strongly with you?