Profiles in Civic Engagement: Hinman Production Company Visits Local Middle School

By Laurie Silverstein, CCE Marketing and Social Media Intern

On Monday, March 3rd, a group of Johnson City Middle School students got to learn about theater and improvisation thanks to Hinman College and the Center for Civic Engagement’s School Age Youth Engagement Project. Twelve students in grades six through eight attended an improv workshop led by BU student Dana Vernetti with the help of fellow students Jessica Wallace, Alexandra Leslie, and Stephanie Gil—all of whom are all currently involved with Hinman Production Company, a campus theater group operating out of Hinman College.

For the BU students involved, the workshop was a way to give back to the community, share their passion for theater, and have a good time in the process. Says Dana Vernetti, "We had a ton of fun and were shocked at how enthusiastic and willing to participate the kids were. Improv is so dependent upon imagination and these students were completely uninhibited which was so great to see - I think we actually had a lot to learn from them!"

Johnson City Middle School teacher Mallory Gray was equally as grateful for the opportunity: "Having my students see that theatre can be a part of their lives for a very long time was great. These women were great role models for how someone can balance an academic career as well as a theatrical one. Thanks again!"

The workshop was organized by Pat Madej, the CCE’s Youth Engagement Coordinator and Americorps VISTA.


International Women's Day 2014: Recap

By Laurie Silverstein, CCE Marketing and Social Media Intern

International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities. – The United Nations, 2014

The first National Women’s Day was observed in the U.S. on February 28, 1909, and the first International Women’s Day (IWD) was celebrated on March 19, 1911 by over one million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. Today, IWD is an official holiday in 24 countries and serves as an occasion to both discuss and celebrate the social and political achievements of women across the globe. The day also provokes conversation about the challenges and inequities that women are still facing.

This year’s IWD theme, developed by UN Secretary-General and Spokesperson Ban Ki-moon, was “equality for women is progress for all.” Discussions around the world emphasized human rights, gender equality, and the empowerment of women. Specifically, the 1990 UN Millennium Development Goals most relevant to women were revisited and their progress reassessed

Some of these goals include:
  • Supporting women’s food security
  • Eliminating legal restrictions to women’s economic empowerment (such as land and inheritance rights)
  • Expanding paid work opportunities for women
  • Ensuring that all children will be able to fully complete primary school, and eliminating the gender gap in primary and secondary education
  • Reducing the “under-five” and the maternal mortality rates by providing more adequate care during pregnancy and childbirth
  • Providing universal access to reproductive healthcare and family planning
  • Halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal access to treatment if needed: women aged 15-24 have a 50 percent higher risk of contracting the virus as compared to their male counterparts
While some progress on these goals has been made, human rights activists are not entirely satisfied by what has been accomplished. "Commitments...which have enshrined women's rights on paper are important steps. But what do laws and global commitments mean when a third of women globally experience violence, while women are systematically kept out of decision-making and while millions still live in poverty?" says Helen Horne, Chief Executive of WomanKind UK.

Bodies such as the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, created in 2010, support the development and implementation of policies that address gender inequity, but, as Horne’s statement indicates, a global culture of misogyny limits the effectiveness of these reforms. “To make rights real for every woman, we need to work to change social norms, economic priorities and our own hearts,” says Yifat Susskind, Executive Director of Madre, an international women’s human rights organization based in New York.

At Binghamton University, International Women’s Day was spearheaded by P.U.L.S.E. (Powerful United Ladies Striving to Elevate) and the Binghamton University Globalistas (BUGs). They hosted a week’s worth of panels and workshops regarding health, politics, and identity formation, and screened the film The Help. Set during the civil rights movement, the film features the voices of African-American domestic workers who work for white families, detailing the challenges they face as women from a marginalized racial and socioeconomic group.

For more information on International Women’s Day, visit IWD’s website or check out #IWD2014 on Facebook and Twitter.



Profiles in Civic Engagement: Peter Liu and HackBU

By Laurie Silverstein, CCE Marketing and Social Media Intern

LS: Hi Peter! Thanks for speaking with me. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Peter Liu: I’m a junior at BU, majoring in math and minoring in economics. I intern at the Center for Civic Engagement and I’m one of the curriculum developers and instructors for HackBU.

LS: How are you involved in the CCE office?
PL: I’m a web development intern, which means I maintain the website as well as design marketing materials like flyers. I’m currently working on rebranding the CCE to make us look more cohesive as an organization, and I’m also working on a new website for our Bridging the Digital Divide Program.

LS: How did you first become interested in web design and coding?
PL: About a year and a half ago I decided to take a few online coding classes and I liked it more that doing my schoolwork, so I decided to pursue more opportunities to code. This led me to the CCE and eventually to HackBU.

LS: What is HackBU? How did it start?
PL: We’re an organization that fosters a community of individuals who solve problems through the innovative use of technology, and we do this by providing free resources for anyone to learn how to code. Daniel O’Connor came up with the initial idea, but I got involved because of a B-Line posting looking for someone to teach web development. We’re both web developers and didn’t see an opportunity for people at BU to learn to code, so we met up over winter break and brainstormed ideas for the next semester.

LS: What were your goals in starting HackBU?
PL: As an organization, we wanted to give more people the tools they needed to create what they wanted. Personally, I wanted to foster a tech community in Binghamton and encourage entrepreneurship.

LS: But isn’t coding just for engineers and CS majors?
PL: Absolutely not! Traditional education is a lot of theory, no practical application. People don’t have opportunities to really use their skills to build something useful, and coding allows people to create things and solve problems. There’s also a huge disparity between the amount of jobs that require tech skills and the amount of people who possess them, so knowing how to code can definitely help people get ahead in the workforce.

LS: For those who are looking to get involved, do you have any advice? When’s the next meeting?

PL: There’s a ton of helpful free resources online for you to learn to code on your own, that’s how I got started. If you’re interested in HackBU, we meet every Thursday at 8 PM. The meeting location changes every week but tonight we’re in Academic A G08. If you can’t come to the meeting, visit hackbu.org or feel free to connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!