By Pooja Mirchandani
When I first got involved with Sustained Dialogue, I had no idea that I would have the chance to work on a project that has the potential to benefit the lives of hundreds of Northwestern students.
Instead, I was originally trained as a moderator because as a Third Culture Kid (“a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside their parents’ culture”), I was looking for a place on campus to meet people with diverse experiences and a forum to really explore how my unique background plays into my life here at Northwestern. For both of those reasons, Sustained Dialogue seemed like the perfect group to join.
I spent my first quarter as a participant, and last quarter I had the chance to moderate for the first time. Our group was great. Everyone was eager to participate and had something to say or to share, which made my experience as a moderator that much more rewarding. This was especially true since every single person brought something completely different to the group in terms of their backgrounds, families, experiences, future plans, involvement on campus, and all other aspects of identity.
However, what we soon noticed is that the one topic that kept resurfacing and that everyone was passionate about was socioeconomic status – in particular, the socioeconomic status disparity that exists on campus and the fact that few people are aware of just how much of an impact that divide has on student life and extracurricular involvement.
As someone who grew up moving around the world, only attending private, international schools filled with students from extremely affluent families, hearing about the extent of the burden that socioeconomic disparity places on my peers here at Northwestern was truly surprising. It soon became clear that I wasn’t alone in that surprise either. As a result, we chose to focus our attention on figuring out how to take action on campus to open peoples’ eyes to this disparity that exists and to alleviate the burden that socioeconomic status places on extracurricular participation.
So we planned our Stage 5 project: to create a formalwear closet on campus where students can rent out suits, formal dresses, briefcases, etc. for any events that may require formal or professional attire. We call it NU Threads.
Through this project, I have had the opportunity to really hone and develop my leadership skills, especially because of how closely we are working with different administrative and student leaders at Northwestern. In addition, I have truly come to understand the potential impact of Sustained Dialogue. As an organization that enables students to talk about the topics that affect many of us but that we don’t really discuss, it has incredible potential to really transform the lives of students who both participate directly and who benefit from initiatives like NU Threads.
Furthermore, I am now in a position where I can truly impact the Northwestern community. Our group is made up of dedicated individuals who really want NU Threads to work out. We are well aware that we have incredible amounts of work to do and enormous obstacles to clear to even get the project off the ground, but – especially after analyzing the survey results – we are even more aware of the need and desire for a resource like this. So we’re willing to work to make this happen. And that is how I found myself in the position that I’m in today: where I can truly impact hundreds of Northwestern students through this single project and with this incredible group of people.
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