Hands raised with one holding a sign that says "vote"

Graphic by Amber Chin/The Paisano

Exclusive seminar for UTSA students centered on effective communication

“What can I do to make a difference?” A question people ask themselves throughout their lifetime. It is reasonable to feel that everyday UTSA student issues — like receiving the wrong coffee, may feel miniscule compared to fellow citizens’ having to recount their trauma on national television or the attempt to diminish the Great Pacific garbage patch, the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world. However, making a difference and fighting for what you believe is not solely encompassed in protests, marches and sign holding. Making a difference begins with you. Change can start small but accumulate fast, especially with the combined efforts of a large group of people — like UTSA students. But where can we go to discuss these difficult and sometimes sensitive topics?

Earth Day Network has calculated that “about one trillion single-use plastic bags are used annually across the globe.” This equates to nearly 2 million every minute. Cities such as San Francisco, Calif.; Washington D.C. and Seattle, Wash., have either implemented taxes or completely banned the distribution of plastic bags and have seen successful progress in the reduction of overall plastic consumption. Since the June 22 Texas Supreme Court ruling City of Laredo, Texas v. Laredo Merchants Association which rescinded plastic bag bans across Texas. It is up to the citizens to reduce single-use plastic from all sources including single-use food packaging.

The most straightforward solution to combat the growing waste is to use reusable bags and totes. These bags can be kept in the car or a reminder can be set to bring them along when leaving home. Additionally, they can hold more items than a standard single-use bag, provide a stronger structural integrity and keep the necessary foods cold when stored in insulated bags. Remembering to bring the bags along can take some getting used to, but it soon becomes second nature to scoop them up before walking out. Additional measures to reduce plastic waste can involve reusable eating utensils, buying certain groceries from bulk bins and storing them in reusable containers and using a reusable insulated container for drinks.

Effective change does not end with the environment, however, as it involves people and groups as well. With so many deeply systematic institutionalized issues, it can feel overwhelming deciding what to do or even discussing what many consider a sensitive topic. When someone enters a higher education learning environment, it is natural for questions to begin to develop like: “how do we maintain an open mind, how can we educate ourselves in order to communicate better with others, and what role does communication play in social change?

Ann Margaret Trujillo, the associate director of the Inclusion & Communication Center at UTSA, is hosting a structured dialogue exclusive to UTSA students entitled Let’s Talk For a Change focusing on everyday activism and how to create effective change through communication. “We wanted to create a space where we can have these difficult conversations. When [the center was] thinking about change [we asked] how do we deal with it and how do we cope?” Trujillo said.

Communication professor Sara De Turk, Ph. D. has partnered with Trujillo for this upcoming event. “Engaging in open, respectful dialogue about controversial social issues is one of the most important skills that students can develop, and these sessions are opportunities for the entire university community to practice. Facilitating structured dialogue, moreover, is an essential skill for leaders, and students in COM 4813 [Theory and Practice of Social Interaction: Training and Group Facilitation] are developing this skill through a variety of service learning opportunities throughout San Antonio,” De Turk said.

The event will take place on Oct. 4 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on UTSA’s Main Campus in the SU Harris Room; refreshments will be provided. It is never too late to start making a difference.

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