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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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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Converging Issues: Hunger and Homelessness

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 third 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.

by Meaghan Potter,BTC Student

The author, learning first hand about community gardening in Atlanta.

The author, learning first hand about community gardening in Atlanta.

Hunger and homelessness is an incredibly influential issue that impacts numerous individuals across the globe. While this has always been something I have been aware of, it was never something that directly seemed to impact my daily life. After joining Beyond the Classroom, I became more aware of the true extent to which hunger and homelessness is present in the world today through the foundation course with BTC Director Dr. Jim Riker. In addition, it is an issue that requires civic action. After learning a bit more about the true impact of hunger and homelessness in our society today, I chose to attend an Alternative Spring Break trip to Atlanta, Georgia in hopes of lessening the impact of hunger and homelessness in the Atlanta region.  Continue reading


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Converging Issues: Sustainable Development Challenges and Opportunites in West Africa

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 second 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.

The author in the middle of a rice field in Senegal.

by Krista Heiner, BTC Graduate Assistant

As a Fulbright Fellow, I had the opportunity to spend last year researching natural resources management policy in Mali and Senegal, which are two semi-arid countries located in West Africa. My research focused on several communally managed natural resources including  forests,  agricultural land, pasture areas and paths nomadic herders use to move their livestock, and water resources like fishing areas and wetlands. In both Mali and Senegal, a large proportion of the population lives in rural areas and depends heavily on these communal natural resources for their day-to-day survival, which makes their management increasingly important to the region’s sustainable development. Continue reading


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Converging Issues: Education and Rural Poverty

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 first in a new series “Converging Issues,” which are blogs that examine these issues from a student perspective – including what inspired them to get involved, how BTC encouraged them to take their learning to the next step, and how they have become involved in addressing their civic issue.

The author, posing by a picture she painted in a boy’s bathroom on her Alternative Break trip to Gaston, North Carolina.

by Anne Regan, BTC Student

When I was in the first grade, I decided I wanted to be a teacher after showing one of my sisters how to write her name. She was so proud of herself and went around making her mark on every windowsill in the house with a brown crayon. You can still see her name at a few of the windows to this day. Over the next twelve years she became increasingly interested in art and architecture and I became increasingly interested in teaching. As I applied for colleges and people started to ask me what I planned on majoring in I got mixed reactions. Most people were excited for me, but then there were the others who told me I was too smart to be a “glorified babysitter.” Harsh comments like these inspire me to be a better person and a better teacher because, as corny as it sounds, children are the future. For that reason, everyone should be heavily invested in building stronger, better informed teachers. I take every opportunity I can to broaden my perspective of the world so that I will be well prepared for when I graduate and set out to change the world through education.

I joined Beyond the Classroom because of the focus on civic engagement and social change. Education is something that is affected by everything and at the same time effects everything, so therefore, I want to know a little bit about everything. BTC was a good place to look for a taste of everything because of the diversity of topics discussed and unique people in the classes. Constantly talking about world problems and potential solutions reminds me to think outside of Prince George’s County Public Schools and the American Public School System in general. There are an infinite number of ways to be educated. Continue reading