Two students from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University have been named Newman Civic Fellows by Campus Compact, a Boston-based nonprofit organization working to advance the public purpose of higher education.
CSB’s Faith Gronda and SJU’s Fabian Venegas-Ramos are part of the organization’s 2021-22 cohort of 212 students from 39 states, Washington, D.C. and Mexico.
The Newman Civic Fellowship is a year-long program for students from Campus Compact member institutions. The students selected are leaders on their campuses who demonstrate a commitment to finding solutions for challenges facing communities, and are nominated by their presidents or chancellors.
Gronda, a junior biology and peace studies (Indigenous health and wellness concentration) double-major from St. Paul, Minnesota, is a member of the Wyandot Anderdon Nation. She has taken a leadership role to “transform how my college recognizes Native culture and acknowledges its past,” she wrote in her personal statement.
“My main goal became to decolonize our campus while transforming it into an institution at which Native and Indigenous students could thrive,” said Gronda, who has served as a co-facilitator of the new Native and Indigenous Inclusion Dialogue group.
“By creating this change together, I hope one day my college will serve as an example of an institution known for actively and honestly engaging with its past while uplifting Native and Indigenous agency, history, culture and perspectives,” she said.
In addition to her work for Native and Indigenous inclusion, she has conducted research on Wyandot women and how tribal sovereignty affected responses to COVID-19. Gronda is a member of the CSB/SJU Bonner Leader Program, interned with Dream of Wild Health, served as director of the CSB/SJU Community Kitchen program and is a volunteer EMT as part of the SJU EMT Squad.
“Faith has thoughtfully worked to promote awareness of Indigenous peoples on our campus, and to address root causes of inequity keeping Indigenous peoples from meaningful inclusion,” said CSB Interim President Laurie Hamen.
Venegas-Ramos is a junior sociology and gender studies double-major from Immokalee, Florida.
“My work to help create and organize space for queer folx to heal, exist authentically and have critical conversations about root systems of oppression is driven by my awareness of the violence and harm that stems from the lack of intersectional queer safe places to exist,” they wrote in their personal statement.
On campus, Venegas-Ramos has worked as a student assistant and a Safe Space Trainer with Intercultural and International Student Services, an area “that aspires to model transformative inclusion and serve historically marginalized students.”
“This also entails delivering safe space trainings by addressing the violence and harm that occurs to LGBTQ+, non-binary and transgender students on a cis-heteronormative campus, which includes learning and unlearning how society indoctrinates oppressive gender norms that lead to inequities and injustices,” Venegas-Ramos wrote.
“Fabian is passionate about creating awareness of not only the needs of these marginalized populations, but also about the many contributions they have made to our communities,” wrote SJU Interim President Eugene McAllister.
Through the fellowship, Campus Compact provides Newman Fellows with a variety of learning and networking opportunities that emphasize personal, professional and civic growth.
Each year, Newman Fellows participate in numerous virtual training and networking opportunities to help provide them with the skills and connections they need to create large-scale positive change. The cornerstone of the fellowship is the Annual Convening of Fellows, which offers intensive skill-building and networking over the course of two days. The fellowship also provides Newman Fellows with pathways to apply for exclusive scholarship and post-graduate opportunities.