The Motley Coffeehouse is crowded with people, but there are neither the usual stacks of textbooks nor mugs of London Fog in sight. Instead, the chairs are turned toward the stage and a PowerPoint presentation lights up the venue. The Student Speaker Event at the Motley on Jan. 30 featured 11 different presentations by students, each focusing on a different topic, and all addressing the question “Where do we go from here?” The event, sponsored by the Scripps College chapter of I Am That Girl, Scripps Residential Life and the Intercollegiate Feminist Union, was created by Laurel Schwartz ‘15 and Helenka Mietka ‘15 after entering the TedXClaremont Colleges student speaker competition.
“We weren’t selected to give our talks and really wanted to create a venue to share our stories with the community,” Schwartz said. “In academia it’s so easy to get caught up in class work. We write things, turn them in and get a grade. But, I think it’s so important to share what we’re working on with our peers and engage in discussion--that’s how we learn.” Both participants themselves, Schwartz spoke about girls and the media, or “what filmmakers can learn from girls,” while Mietka dismantled the silence around female pleasure and the word “vulva.”
“We chose [“Where do we go from here?”] because it’s one thing to acknowledge problems, but there’s a whole deeper layer of analysis when you can actually present a possible solution” Schwartz said.
Each speaker presented for approximately seven minutes on topics ranging from performances of Shakespeare in prisons (Olivia Buntaine ‘15) to society’s obsession with vampires (Veronica Mark ‘18). Louie Lemus-Mogrovejo (PO ‘15) addressed “Care and agency in autistic media representation,” Alex Washburn (‘15) explained why pizza is the most effective teaching metaphor in sex education, Claire Hirschberg (‘15) described “Gender Responsive Incarceration” in California, and Kaela Nurmi (‘15) reflected on the experience of being a female athlete at Scripps.
“I’ve always been passionate about food justice and the intersection between environment, health and animal justice,” Isabella Levin (‘17), whose presentation, “Mindfulness: Food for Life,” addressed conscious eating and the ecological impact of how we source our food, said.
In regards to the question “where do we go from here?” Levin said, “The way I constructed the talk is very open-ended... Where we go from here is anywhere we can go as long as we’re thinking about the implications that our actions have.”
The scope of the event extended beyond the borders of Claremont by featuring two out-of-state speakers who are both chapter leaders of I Am That Girl at their respective institutions. Alli Lindenberg, who spoke about connection and social media, attends Elon University and Monica Heisler, who discussed finding genuine passions and interests, attends Northern Arizona University.
“[The event] was exactly what I dreamed it would be and so much more,” Schwartz said. “It was absolutely breathtaking to see the Motley literally full to capacity with students and community members.”
“It was very empowering,” Leanna Namovic (‘17), who attended the event, said. “It was really just amazing to hear all of the things that people are passionate about that I had never even really thought about.”
“I really hope this continues in the years to come,” Schwartz said. With the overwhelmingly positive response, it is quite possible we have seen the first of many student speaker events at the Claremont Colleges.