What are weekends like at SEGL? With students crafting their collaborative document capstone (on China’s Belt and Road initiative) this week, we’re devoting this post to answering this frequently-asked question. In short: they are a lot of fun!
Perhaps the most important thing to say about weekends here is that they are student-run. Occasionally, the faculty will facilitate an SEGL tradition or an important discussion. But most of the time, a group of student volunteers does the planning. And this weekend was no different.
After classes, exercise period, dinner, and chores, Friday night “Flex Period” begins. Students often craft, organize, or inspire Flex Period, which brings our students closer together by posing key interpersonal questions. This semester we have discussed everything from race to consent to the famous New York Times “36 Questions that Lead to Love.”
This Friday we discussed an increasingly fascinating, complex, and important topic for this generation: gender. Students read four works from four different articles that each addressed a different key question. “What does it mean to be a man?” or “What does it mean to be a feminist?” “What is the best way to include transgender people in our society?” “What are the best public policy responses to questions of gender?”
The discussions that followed were helpful and powerful. Rather than pushing students to answer questions in a predetermined way, Flex Period (in keeping with SEGL pedagogy) encourages a robust exchange of ideas, perspectives, and personal stories that allow our future leader to decide for themselves.
Several students were up early on Saturday morning.
A group of students was planning an evening seder (a story-telling meal that is the heart of the Jewish Passover celebration) and it was time to cook! The menu? Latkes (potato pancakes), chicken schnitzel, falafel, salad, and two types of dessert (apple cake and, for those with gluten allergies, gluten-free brownies).
Meanwhile, another group was organizing a “Saturday Academy.” Saturday Academy happens most Saturday afternoons and is normally an opportunity for students to learn by exploring DC. This semester’s COVID-19 restrictions have allowed us to be more creative (though the Smithsonian is reopening next month–stay tuned!), and this weekend four hands-on art projects took center stage.
Some students designed colorful prints (inspired by the SEGL logo) which they transferred to plain tote bags, creating personalized–and practical–works of art. Others created collages and illustrations. And others met with Tamiya (one of our graduate assistants), who shared the secrets of her business, Mia’s Good Smells (follow her on Instagram here). A business major at Howard University, Tamiya helped each student create a unique scent to use for special occasions. She also shared a bit of business advice along the way, which should help our students as they prepare their capstone Social Venture Projects!
The art projects (some students participated in more than one) were a terrific respite for a group that is also focused on Chinese foreign policy, upcoming AP exams, memorizing the St. Crispin’s Day Speech from Henry V, and other cerebral undertakings. Taking time to work other parts of the brain not only recharges batteries, but allows students to see old challenges in new ways.
That night, the seder was a big success! Though we ensure students who do not want to participate in student-planned religious celebrations can opt-out, each student joined and shared in a well-planned, entertaining cultural exchange. The planners took care to social-distance, to decorate, and to ensure no one got drenched in the rain!
With so much activity on Saturday, most of Sunday was relaxed and full of studying, laundry, AP sessions, sign-outs for exercise (one student is planning a cross-country bicycle ride this summer!), and relaxing on the Library of Congress lawn across the street. Many also have sore arms tonight: by the end of the weekend, nearly all of our students had received at least one dose of Pfizer vaccine.
After Dorm Meeting (a weekly gathering, led by the week’s “Student Residential Advisor” co-leaders, to improve dormitory collaboration), students gathered outside for an optional Oscar-watching party. The evening featured one of the most interesting nominee line-ups in memory, and the students advocate for their favorites (as marked on prediction forms before the ceremony) as the evening progressed.
Future weekends will bring more student-led programming. For example, next weekend a group of students will help us confront the recent rash of anti-Asian hate. And another group is planning an SEGL prom next month!
Later this week we will finish our policy document process, host an online Networking Night (please join us Wednesday at 8pm Eastern via SEGL TV!), and prepare for our next case study, on the Second Amendment.