Students for a Better World: The Beyond the Classroom Blog

Stories, Resources, & More from the Beyond the Classroom (BTC) Program at University of Maryland


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Beyond the Classroom Students Lead UMD Safe SHELLter Campus Safety Project

UMD Safe SHELLter

By Sydney Perlotto, BTC Student

This past Thursday, students in UNIV389L: Civic Leadership for Community Engagement held a Film and Focus Group event as part of our UMD Safe SHELLter campus safety project. We invited students to come to a screening of Living for 32, a powerful documentary about the personal story of Colin Goddard, a Virginia Tech massacre survivor. Throughout the film, Colin describes his path to reconciliation, having made it his life mission to stop what happened at Virginia Tech from ever happening again. Living for 32 portrays the emotional reality of the Virginia Tech shootings, and our class chose to show it because it raises important questions about safety on college campuses. Continue reading

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AIDS Walk Washington Raises Civic Awareness

Beyond the Classroom students Jeremy Hsiao, Tariq Jah and Cynthia Ezedike at the 27th Annual AIDS Walk Washington!

Beyond the Classroom students Jeremy Hsiao, Tariq Jah and Cynthia Ezedike at the 27th Annual AIDS Walk Washington

By Jeremy Hsiao, BTC Student

On the brisk morning of October 26th, 2013, over 12,000 people converged on Freedom Plaza in downtown Washington, D.C. to participate in the annual AIDS Walk Washington to raise awareness about a disease that has devastated this world, this nation, and this city. HIV/AIDS may seem like a disease limited to developing nations, but the truth is Washington, D.C. has one of the highest rates in the United States.  The disparity for minorities is even greater as the HIV/AIDS rate in the African-American community is higher than other communities. According to the Mayor’s annual report, in 2011, 2.4 percent of the Washington, D.C. population is living with HIV or AIDS with 718 new cases. Continue reading


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Beyond the Classroom Provides Real Life Experience

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world" -- Nelson Mandela at the University of Witwatersrand in 2003By Colleen McMullen, BTC Student

In college it is very easy to get swept up in academics, to only think short term, study all the time, and develop tunnel vision on getting good grades. While this may enable a student to master the concepts of his or her major, it is an incomplete way of preparing for the “real world”.  Even easier is failing to think about how what students learn at the University of Maryland applies and will contribute to the rest of the world. College is a rather sheltered environment in which students may learn about the issues facing the world today, but have little opportunity to see them in action and learn what is being done to combat them.

The Beyond the Classroom program has changed this perspective for me. It has exposed me to the world’s leading problems in new and engaging ways: through community service, activism, research, and meeting and speaking with those that are directly affected by challenges and work to fight them. Continue reading


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Converging Issues: Earth Day, An Inconvenient Truth?

Editor’s Note: Beyond the Classroom encourages program participants to identify civic issues that are most important to them.  Through activities, lectures, films, seminars, classes, events, and internships, students learn how they can address those issues through civic engagement, advocacy, and action.  This post is the fourth in the “Converging Issues” series, which are blogs that examine these issues from student and staff perspectives – including what inspired the authors to get involved in their civic issue and how they were involved or can be involved in that issue through BTC.
Kevin Lalama

The author

By Kevin Lalama, BTC Student

“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”
~ Chief Seattle

A recent Foreign Policy article caught my attention.  The post begs a serious question: Do we care about Earth Day anymore?  I thought to myself, how could we not?  But Elizabeth Ralph’s article poses some disheartening facts; surprisingly, worldwide, the Google search for “Earth Day” is at an all time low since 2004 (Graph 1 below).

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“We are Wisconsin” Illustrates Lessons in People Power

By Ross Heise, BTC Student

The nonprofit “We Are Wisconsin” continues to advocate for the state’s worker’s rights.

On February 25, I attended Beyond the Classroom’s viewing of the documentary “We are Wisconsin” as a part of the “People Power: Activism for Social Change” faculty and film series.  The film showed the historic events that happened last year in Wisconsin and the people that were a part of it. The film details everything that happened at the state capitol starting from when Governor Scott Walker proposed the bill SB11. The bill was his solution to the struggling economy.  He claimed Wisconsin was in a “budget crisis” and the only way to fix it was to cut benefits and wages for public employees. Not only that, but the most surprising development was legislation that would end employee’s right to collective bargaining. Continue reading


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Documentary Illustrates that a Civic Issue Can Take a “Lifetime” to be Developed…and to End

by Ross Heise and Ken Im, BTC Students

On November 26, BeyoIn my Lifetimend the Classroom’s “Voting as if the Issues Matter” series featured Robert Frye’s documentary film “In My Lifetime.” The film looked at the history of nuclear weapons starting at the early development stages leading up to the dropping of “Little Boy” on Hiroshima in WWII. It was amazing to see that the drop on Hiroshima happened only 21 days after the “Trinity Explosion” which was the very first detonation of a nuclear device.  Soon after Hiroshima, Nagasaki was hit with the second atomic bomb and an estimated 70,000 lives were lost. The film went on to show how after the first uses of the atomic bomb as a weapon by the United States, a new era began that was dominated by fear. Continue reading


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Documentary Asks: “What is the Cost of Democracy?”

by Pranshu Gupta and Kevin Lalama, BTC Students

“…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” — Abraham Lincoln

Comic by John Darkow, selected by the authors.

On November 5, we attended the Beyond the Classroom’s “Voting As If the Issues Matter: Spotlight on the 2012 Elections” discussion series.  On the eve of the Presidential election, the documentary Pricele$$, opened our eyes to the issues of an unregulated, campaign spending industry.  Directed by Steve Cowan, the film sheds light on the “out-of-control electoral system that obligates our leaders to the giant industries that bankroll their electoral campaigns.”  Cowan’s non-partisan perspective highlights the faults of both the Democrat and Republican political parties.  Continue reading