November 2016. A University campus is a dynamic place, and students, staff, and faculty have opportunities beyond the classroom to engage with important issues and ethics. The CGO often participates with other student and campus organizations, and makes its presence felt by their consistent contributions and outstanding participation in events on and off campus. Pictured here are some of the three dozen Carnegies who turned up on a Friday afternoon to show support for their fellow students and share in the concern for a safe campus and a tolerant society.
Harley Emery is in the middle of her second year at the University. She didn’t start out in the CGO, but joined us in the Winter term of her freshman year. Harley promises to be a mover and a shaker in this group and last summer landed a competitive internship with the new Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSVF) program. This internship can be completed from anywhere and requires interns to start an on-campus branch of the No Lost Generation Initiative (NLGI) to raise awareness and funds for refugees of the Syrian Civil War. Her goal is to create a scholarship fund to bring Syrian refugees to study at the UO. She also wants to find ways to allow UO students to get hands-on experience assisting refugee youth and to build relationships with those youths affected by the civil war. Last summer she traveled to Amman, Jordan to volunteer with the Princess Taghrid Institute, an organization that works with refugee youth, as well as vocational training with children and teens in Jordan’s refugee camps. While there, she met with the organizing for the NLGI through UNICEF, to see that project implemented on the ground. This is exactly the type of project that the CGO wants to help foster, and we’re working with Harley to make this project a reality at UO.
Harley heard about the CGO through another member, Nina Green, and was immediately compelled to visit and eventually join us when she heard about our focus on global ethics, international issues, and especially the idea of student-led projects. She was also impressed by our long list of guests, who range from locally to internationally renowned.
When she graduates, Harley wants to obtain a master’s degree in Foreign Service, with a focus on international development. Her dream job is to work for an international organization like UNHCR or UNICEF, specifically working with refugee youth in conflict and post-conflict states.
If her time in the CGO so far is any indication, she will meet her goals and we are investing in her success!
Two years later and not a day goes by that I don’t think about my time in the Oregon State Penitentiary. As the youngest of the group, I was in under special circumstances. Looking back now, I know without a doubt that I was supposed to be there.
I had been chosen to participate in one of University of Oregon’s most unique and special programs, Inside-Out, headed by our own fearless CGO leader, Professor Shaul Cohen. Every Monday 11 others and myself, all students University of Oregon, students drove the 60 miles to spend our evening in class in the Oregon State Penitentiary (OSP) in Salem. We voluntarily checked ourselves into OSP once a week for “GEOG 410: Geography of Inequality” not to learn about the criminal justice system, but to learn with our criminal justice system and in the end to learn from it. We came to learn alongside men who experienced such a radically different social system from our own.
The truth is, I ended up learning so much more from the men at OSP. From forgiveness, to perseverance, to redemption, to despair our Shaul-style “wagon wheel” exercises left all of us discovering the strengths and shortcomings of our respective societies beyond the covers of our assigned readings. I have never so clearly understood the coexistence of justice and injustice as I did during those days in the Oregon State Penitentiary. I have also never so fully questioned these terms.
Perhaps the pinnacle of this questioning came when we took a tour of the prison grounds. It was surprisingly easy to forget where I was and I found myself enjoying getting to see the places my “inside” classmates had told me stories about. I still have the price sheet from the small store in the prison taped into a page in my journal. But this Disney world attraction came crashing down as we approached the execution chamber in the Death Row block. I felt my knees go weak and tears stream down my face as my body refused to let me inside the room where so many lives were taken in the name of justice. But it was justice… right?
Even today, my mind floats to Ray Hinton. One of many men in the past decade to be exonerated of a crime they didn’t commit because of DNA evidence. Justice almost sent these men to the execution chamber similar to the one I was standing outside of that day. That day, I knew I had to choose. I had to choose how I would define justice in my life, how I would let others define justice around me, and how I would treat those who “justice” told me to hate. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment.
Each Monday that winter, in a small corner of the maximum security prison, 12 U of O students and 12 Oregon State Penitentiary inmates convened in the prison library. We read books, wrote essays, shared experiences, debated, laughed, and (if you’re me) cried.
On the last day of class, I walked out of OSP with nothing more than a bound collection of my classmate’s favorite essays, our letters to the class, and a single photo of the men and women who changed my perspective on life forever. That was actually all I had in my hands. I felt like I had been simultaneously filled and drained of everything else I thought I knew. I was emotionally exhausted and yet at the same time completely recharged. I suppose the best things in life do that to you.
Ironically, I found freedom behind the bars of Oregon’s maximum security prison. Freedom from unmerited fear of those different than me and freedom from accepting the status quo as the gospel truth. It took me going to prison for me to truly learn about justice. And what I learned was not to look for justice solely from criminal justice system, because you will be sadly disappointed.
Jan Raether came to the University of Oregon from Pittsburg, PA for a change of scenery and is leaving with so much more. One of the first freshmen to join Carnegie Global Oregon’s residential FIG program four years ago, Raether takes the time to reflect on how the CGO has impacted his journey through college.
“Getting to know different people, from different backgrounds, from different places in the country at different points in their life has just been really eye opening,” said Raether.
Raether is a Residential FIG Assistant at the University of Oregon graduating with a degree in Geography. Over the past couple years his coursework has focused on climate change and environmental racism. When asked what ethical issues he is most passionate about he chuckles and says, “It changes every week, I swear!”
When Raether looks back on his four years with the CGO, he talks about meeting Sister Helen Prejean, a highlight of his college career.
“Getting to hear somebody that is so passionate about something and who has maintained that passion so late into life is really inspiring,” said Raether. “It’s daunting trying to figure out what you’re passionate about but knowing that there are people out there that can maintain that passion until their late 70’s is so inspiring.”
“What is that quote?” CGO student Kate Connolly asks herself. After pausing for a moment she repeats the words of Socrates. “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Connolly, 22, is a senior at the University of Oregon double majoring in International Studies and Spanish with a minor in Nonprofit Administration. Originally from Chico, CA, Connolly was one of the first freshmen to sign up for Carnegie Global Oregon’s residential FIG program four years ago. A decision she feels has changed her life.
“Just in the CGO I’ve learned about so many issues in the world and issues on campus that I wouldn’t have necessarily thought about otherwise and I wouldn’t have connected with the things that I’m passionate about otherwise,” says Connolly.
The ethical issues that Connolly is most passionate about are social justice and education and how the two of those interact. Connolly has been involved with the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program for two years alongside CGO junior Patrick Miller. The two also run Side by Side, a new program that consists primarily of Inside-Out alumni and CGO students. Side by Side is what Miller describes as an “inspired straight” program that empowers youth to reach for academic opportunities.
“It’s really incredible to see it actually happening,” says Connolly. “It’s one of those things that since I became a part of Inside Out I’ve been hearing about this idea and now it’s actually happening.”
Connolly is also the co-president of University of Oregon Beyond War, a local group that is a part of the national movement towards a world without war and violence. Beyond War throws on events called “Breaking the Silence” that encourage the community and students to talk about a variety of issues like incarceration, immigration and homelessness.
Surprisingly, my time in the Carnegie Global Oregon Ethics Program has taught me very little about ethics. Instead, I attained a better understanding of leadership.
Most importantly however, I discovered the real meaning of courage and bravery.
When I left Paris to come to Oregon, I was looking for a “fresh” education that encourages students to ask seemingly unanswerable questions, to solve controversial problems and to come up with groundbreaking ideas that will shape the world of tomorrow. I have found this–not in classrooms at the University of Oregon– but during my time with CGO.
CGO fosters an environment that truly promotes leadership – one that I would never be able to have in France. By this, I mean leaders who empower others to become leaders themselves.
CGO students have a vision. They take initiative and find the means to achieve their goals. They proactively create space for new ideas and help conflict blossom into innovations. What is most particular to CGO leadership is students’ sincere desire to serve their community with humility, morality and dedication to justice and ethics.
Despite their significant differences in cultural, socio-economic and political backgrounds, they are not afraid to broach difficult topics. They engage each other on contentious ethical questions. They are bold when challenging each other’s value systems and their very own as well. More often than not, they cannot agree to what is right or what is ethical. Yet they are still willing to tackle difficult issues together. CGO students are courageous enough to think about social dilemmas that no one else would like to talk about.
They argue and stand up to each other in order to come to a more humane and constructive conclusion. As Albus Dumbledore once accurately pointed out: “there are all kinds of courage […] it takes a great amount of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” Each and every member without exception strives for and accomplishes excellence. Students in CGO have taught me what leadership and bravery truly mean and for that, I will eternally be grateful for the opportunity that was given to me as a hashtag.– Claire Weil
Claire Weil recently helped promote a screening of the film Girl Rising on the University of Oregon campus. See the trailer for this important film here:
Patrick Miller, 22, is a junior at the University of Oregon studying Planning, Public Policy and Management. Originally from Portland, OR, Miller signed up for the CGO as a freshman after taking a year off from high school to do a City Year in Boston, MA.
“I got here and I got connected to the CGO and it’s a great group of people,” said Miller. “We’re doing a lot of interesting things on campus and it’s a really good community that’s benefited me for the past 3 years.”
One of the many programs Miller is involved in is the Inside-Out Prison Exchange program. In this program, led by CGO director Shaul Cohen, UO students take classes side by side with inmates who are currently serving a sentence in prison. Miller explained how the program changes common misconceptions of inmates.
“You go there and see these guys and you kind of have the perception of, oh he did this crime he’s a terrible person,” said Miller. “But they are some of the smartest and most compassionate people you’ll ever meet.”