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 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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“For Once In My Life” Illustrates That Life Has No Boundaries

By Rebecca Marchwinski, BTC Student

On May 6, Beyond the Classroom showed the film “For Once in My Life” accompanied by the Director of Mission Strategy from Goodwill Industries, Inc. as part of BTC’s People Power: Activism for Social Change course and film series.The film followed a group of people that work as part of Goodwill’s training program and are also members of the Spirit of Goodwill Band. Each member of the band happens to also have a disability,whether physical or mental. The documentary followed the band as they prepared for a grand performance in front of a thousand people and simultaneously delved into the pasts of some of themembers. Before and after the film, Goodwill’s Director of Mission Strategy Brad Turner-Little described some ofthe missions and goals of Goodwill and reactions of the film. Continue reading


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An Evening on Creating Dangerously with Susie Erenrich

An anthology edited by Susie Erenrich

An anthology edited by Susie Erenrich

By Caroline Wilson, BTC Student

On April 29, I attended an evening discussion with Susie Erenrich, the Executive Director for the Cultural Center for Social Change.  The presentation was part of the Beyond the Classroom People Power Faculty and Film Series this semester.  She gave a presentation on her thesis about Albert Camus’ call for artists to “create dangerously” and what she thought this meant.  She defined “create dangerously” by asking the following questions about artists:

Do they…

  • Threaten the social, economic, and political status quo?
  • Mobilize for systematic change?
  • Introduce new practices and tactics into a community?
  • Openly express the hidden transcripts of opposing views?
  • Keep the stories of repressive power alive?

The three artists she covered in her presentation were Augusto Boal, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, and the Mississippi Caravan of Music.  She argued that all these artists “created dangerously” through their work. Continue reading


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Melinda St. Louis Informs and Inspires Students on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement

St. Louis, rallying against the TPP last year in Virginia.

by Nicole Urps, BTC Student

Beyond the Classroom’s “People Power” series welcomed Melinda St. Louis on March 4 to talk about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement.

This free trade agreement is currently being negotiated between the United States and ten other countries including Australia, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Vietnam, New Zealand and Peru.  St. Louis is considered an expert in the field as she is the International Campaigns Director with Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. She works with international allies to cease the expansion of harmful and dangerous trade agreements. Unfortunately, the TTP Free Trade Agreement that has been in negotiations since 2010, and is expected to be signed as soon as the fall of 2013 unless citizens build awareness and take a stand to fight back. Continue reading


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Take an Activist to Dinner: Dr. Margaret Flowers Illustrates That Social Change Requires a Global Approach

Editor’s Note:  Each semester leading nonprofit leaders meet with a select group of Beyond the Classroom students to share their personal experiences while enjoying a meal together.  This small, intimate setting enables students to gain valuable, first-hand advice about professional leadership opportunities in the nonprofit sector.  The guest speakers then address the larger Beyond the Classroom community to talk about their organizations and the exciting work they do on a wide range of civic and policy issues.  This story highlights students’ experiences with this semester’s visitor.

Dr. Margaret Flowers in action – here she is advocating for HR 676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act.

by Heran Abeye, BTC Student

On Monday evening, Beyond the Classroom Director Dr. Jim Riker invited a group of students to dinner, joined by Dr. Margaret Flowers. Dr. Flowers is a leading activist who works with the Physicians for a National Health Program, a network of over 18,000 physicians who are committed to affordable, universal health care for all citizens.  She was joined by her friend and fellow activist Kevin Zeese, co-director of It’s Our Economy and one of the original organizers of Occupy DC.

Dr. Flowers practiced medicine for over fifteen years before she realized she couldn’t continue ignoring some of the policies with which she disagreed. One major problem was having to rush time with patients so she could see more thus making more profit for private insurance companies.  She believes health care is a basic human right and shouldn’t be privatized and seen as a commercial business. Over dinner she told stories of getting arrested while protesting for many different causes – she reported being arrested at least five times!

“Real change like universal healthcare will not come through the Democratic party” she noted, “but rather by building mass movements of public education, protest and civil disobedience, which put direct pressure on corporations and the government.” Continue reading


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Mike Tidwell: A Lesson in Civil Disobedience

CCAN is a Maryland based grassroots non-profit that addresses climate change.

By Dr. Caitlin Haugen, BTC Assistant Director

There is a photo showing Mike Tidwell being arrested by National Park Police in Washington, DC.  It does not, however, show the other 1,251 people who were also arrested, nor does is explain why or where this photo was taken.  When Tidwell, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Action Climate Network (CCAN) and author of the 2007-2008 First Year Book Ravaging Tide (only two items on his admirable list of accomplishments), spoke on Monday, he clearly explained the implications of this photo.

In his talk entitled “The Environmental Movement to Stop the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Project” in BTC’s People Power seminar, Tidwell told a story.  It started last June with a phone call from 350.org founder and environmental activist Bill McKibben. North American Energy Corporation TransCanada planned to build a pipeline from Canada to the US to export oil extracted from tar sands.  According to Tidwell, the process of extracting oil this way is highly toxic and requires a great deal of resources, especially water. The only thing standing in TransCanada’s way was a presidential permit from President Obama.  He and McKibben decided that it needed to be stopped.  And they decided they would take their opinion to the President’s doorstep. Continue reading


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Beyond the Financial Crisis Course Offers New Perspectives

by Dr. Caitlin Haugen, BTC Assistant Director

BTC partnered with the Maryland Small Business Development Center to develop this seminar series.

Beyond the Classroom courses and programs challenge students to reassess the information they learn every day.  Beyond the Classroom, as the name infers, challenges participants to go “beyond” their everyday learning and rethink how they see the world.  This semester’s experiential learning seminar is no exception.  Titled “Beyond the Financial Crisis:  From Wall Street to Main Street, Toward a New Agenda for Prosperity,” the seminar walked students through events and actions that led to the recent financial crisis, the results of the crisis, and then introduced them to the innovations by industry leaders that has led or will lead to new economic prosperity in this country and the world.

The course grew out of a partnership between BTC and the UMD Maryland Small Business Development Center. It was co-taught by BTC’s Director Dr. Jim Riker and Casey Willson, the Retail Industry and Sustainable Program Manager at the center.  Continue reading