December 8, 2016

Students learn ‘living generously’

Students of the keystone seminar “Living Generously” have spent the last few weeks coming up with ways to do just that.

The seminar, taught by adjunct professor of education Bob McMullen, is focused on how the concept of generosity affects those involved in the process of being charitable.

McMullen said one major focus of the seminar was using assignments and projects to teach students that they can use their financial resources, time and talents to be generous.

He said their most recent project exemplifies this focus.

“The project involved forming a group to work together, working through the logistics of everything, basically within a two-week time period, start advertising, and involving not just the class, but the Webster community and outside community the best they can,” McMullen said.

Molly Kinder (left) and Jesse Steffens-Willis lead the professional clothing drive as part of the "Living Generously" keystone seminar.  JULIA PESCHEL / The Journal

Molly Kinder (left) and Jesse Steffens-Willis lead the professional clothing drive as part of the “Living Generously” keystone seminar. JULIA PESCHEL / The Journal

Two groups formed in the class decided on different charity projects: one focused on gathering business attire for men and women in challenging economic situations, and the other on raising money to increase access to clean water in countries that lack it.

Dressing successfully

The first group, led by special education major Jesse Steffens-Willis, set up boxes around campus to collect clothes for the St. Louis Suit Project and Dress for Success between April 5 through April 8.

“We’re going to sort through them all,” said Steffens-Willis. “All non-business attire will go to Goodwill.”

The idea of empowering women is what initially inspired Steffens-Willis to pursue the clothing drive project. Dress for Success is devoted to providing women who cannot afford formal clothing with outfits for job interviews, but also with tips that can help them get well-paying jobs.

“I chose the organization because I really like that they go out of their way to train and empower women, and help them get interviews,” Steffens-Willis said.

Though Steffens-Willis initially wanted the project to emphasize support for women, she later decided to set up a complementary drive for men. For this, she chose the St. Louis Suit Project, an organization with similar goals.

Steffens-Willis said that her group, in combination with the other group, were able to work both within and beyond the Webster community.

“The clothing drives are directed towards St. Louis residents, and the water charity drive is global, so it grasps the whole point of the class that we need to help people around us and globally,” Steffens-Willis said.

Easier water access

Molly Kinder, also a special education major, participated in the group which collected funds rather than clothes between April 5-12.

“We are collecting money for the organization Charity: Water,” Kinder said. “They partner with organizations that are already in place, and they build wells in developing countries.”

The group set up collections around campus, created a GoFundMe page, and held a bake sale to raise money for their project.

“Water means something totally different to people who are lacking it than it does to us -there has never been a time in my life when I didn’t have access to clean water,” Kinder said.

Kinder said that she was also drawn to the project because her research showed that women are more affected than men in countries which deal with the issue of water access.

Both groups, along with their professor, said that working on a charity project can help the giver as much as the recipient.

“I think both groups feel benefit,” McMullen said. “I think the receiver does feel more if it truly contributes to a real change in life. The giver gets more, at least in the research, if they recognize that it’s helpful, or others recognize that it’s helpful.”

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