Communication and Political Science Major Forwards University Diversity & Environment Initiatives
Joshua Castanedas, a sophomore communication and political science double major, has always had a passion for politics and activism. Originally from the Bronx, New York, Joshua transferred to Seton Hill after being intrigued by the campus website and because of the interest that the football team and coaches had in him. He said to himself, “Let’s go here and see how it is.”
Since transferring, Joshua has become a student ambassador and joined the football team. He manages to balance his coursework and his extracurriculars to maintain a high GPA.
“I was always naturally good in school, but at the beginning of my time here at Seton Hill, I tried to do too much at once,” he says. “I learned that balancing everything is about time-management, and if you love something enough, you have to make time for it.”
This semester, Joshua made the time for several important projects.
Caring About Diversity
In his internship with Keisha Jimmerson, associate dean of students for diversity, inclusion and international student services, Joshua introduced the “My Name, My Identity” campaign to Seton Hill.
“I had asked Joshua to think of a project that would be a part of the tradition here at Seton Hill, and he found the ‘My Name, My Identity’ campaign” Keisha says. “This campaign was developed in California in grades K-12. So, Seton Hill is the first college to take this on.”
The “My Name, My Identity” campaign helps build positive connections, promotes diversity in and outside the classroom, and builds the importance of understanding perspectives and others’ backgrounds.
Joshua received help from Keisha and Jen Jones, Ph.D., associate communication professor and communication department coordinator.
“I asked students in my Campaign and Event Development course what events they would like to participate in this semester, and they chose something related to celebrating diversity,” Dr. Jones says. “I talked to Keisha, and she brought up the fact that the month of April is Celebrate Diversity Month. She said it would be great for students to assist in the programming for diversity awareness on campus.”
To bring awareness and respect to the cultures and identities behind our names, and to bring people of all backgrounds together, events were held on campus for students to participate in. On April 10th, students had the chance to make their own t-shirt declaring their identity. On April 16th, students were able to take the My Name, My Identity Pledge and decorate a poster. Participants were entered into a raffle for Seton Hill merchandise. On April 21st, a poetry slam was held, and Seton Hill merchandise was given out as prizes. Lastly, on April 25th, an international food festival was held in the dining hall.
“I’ve learned more in a year here than I would have anywhere else. I feel I finally found a home in Seton Hill.”
For Joshua, the message of the “My Name, My Identity” campaign is important. “We’re in a time where political activism is highly stressed,” he says. “After all the events of the past year and current events, I believe it is necessary and important for a university like Seton Hill to embrace diversity and bring people together.”
“I want this event to be my imprint on the school,” he adds. “This is a good learning opportunity; to embrace diversity, emphasize it, and show the positive aspects of it.”
Caring About the Environment
Joshua has also been taking initiative on environmental issues in a project for a course with Jessica Brzyski, Ph.D., associate professor of biology. The course is called The Environment: Issues & Choices.
“The class project was to create a scavenger hunt to promote awareness of environmental sustainability on Seton Hill’s campus,” Dr. Brzyski says. “In my experience as a faculty member, students are consistently unaware of locations of natural beauty or sustainable initiatives happening on campus. Our goal is to entice students to visit various areas and then educate them on the environmental importance and the history of that particular location.”
For Joshua’s project, he and his group chose to focus on Mary’s Courtyard located next to Seton Hill’s post office. “Our group decided to do a ‘plant a day’ theme,” says Joshua. “We’ve created a QR code that takes contestants to a Google Doc that shows them a video and riddle to solve in order to get to Mary’s Courtyard. Contestants who are able to find Mary’s Courtyard will receive a seed and a pot to plant.” Joshua hopes that his scavenger hunt will cause people to care for the plant they receive. Thus, causing people to care more about the environment.
Caring About the Future
Joshua, curious about the university initially, believes he made “a great choice” in transferring to Seton Hill. He appreciates the support he’s received from his coaches and his professors in a variety of classes.
“I’ve learned more in a year here than I would have anywhere else,” he says. “I feel I finally found a home in Seton Hill.”
One of the things he’s learned is that he is ready to “change the world in a positive way” by pursuing a career in politics. He’s concerned about the lack of minorities in politics, and is ready to do something about it.
“One of the best ways to change politics,” Joshua says, “is to go into the field.”