Bianca Brown (pictured to the left) is a WKU alumna with a BA in Professional Writing and Philosophy, and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Social Responsibility and Sustainable Communities. Bianca is also one of two Public Achievement Coordinators for the Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility (ICSR), which is currently housed in Garrett Conference Center.
If you’ve ever wondered how to successfully integrate an English degree with other seemingly unrelated interests, there’s no better example than Bianca Brown. Bianca has recently earned a prestigious and rare honor from the American Democracy Project. By way of a creative video submission, combining her knowledge of professional writing and rhetoric with her passion for civic engagement, she has been selected as a keynote speaker at this year’s conference. Through her role as Public Achievement Coordinator for the ICSR, she has proven herself an excellent example of collegial and community involvement. I was fortunate enough to meet with Bianca outside Java City, enjoying the warmth of spring while we discussed her video, her passions, and her professional goals.
The theme of Bianca’s video is civic engagement, which she defines as “more than just being involved in school— it’s being involved in your community and your country and its politics. It’s being an active participant in public life and being knowledgeable about issues, even looking for information so that you can be better informed about things that are going on.” Her video answers three questions centered on the obstacles of campus and community involvement. Though most schools now have campus activities centers, Bianca believes there is still a shortage of available “civic engagement hubs that have become the beacon for this kind of work.” Fortunately WKU has the ICSR, which houses civic participation and encourages involvement. Through her video, Bianca also explains that colleges and universities can better prepare students to be informed, engaged citizens by making civic participation a part of every day life. “Students must be encouraged to identify the many ways they can live informed and engaged lives within their chosen career path,” Bianca said. “This will prepare students to seek out information and civic engagement opportunities post graduation.” If you haven’t already, you can view Bianca’s video here.
Bianca’s passion for civic engagement is driven by her teaching goals. Through teaching English, she hopes to reach students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds that may otherwise be overlooked. “What really drives me is my goal to teach English. I want to teach students who will really benefit from it,” Bianca said. “It’s fine to have your own vernacular when you’re with your friends and family, but you have to be able to switch into a professional mindset. People don’t always grasp that about English sometimes, especially in certain economical situations. Part of what we’re learning in this [master’s] program is understanding the dynamics of how people find themselves in these situations in the first place. The better informed you are the better teacher you can be. I want to continue helping people help themselves.”
Bianca is motivated by her mother, who was consistently involved in her community. “She was always involved in different types of activism and even took me to protests,” Bianca said. “She always pushed me to be involved and take an active role in community building efforts. She’s a big part of why I’m driven to do this work.” Bianca is also grateful for the aid of Dr. Paul Markham, who originally introduced her to the ICSR. “Dr. Markham’s own diverse academic background, I feel, enables him to direct students across the curriculum to ignite their passions for campus and community involvement. And the ICSR is the perfect venue for that, as has certainly been the case in my own experience,” Brown said. “We encourage students from every discipline to consider how they can apply what they learn in the classroom to the betterment of public life.”
So, how can you get involved? Bianca works specifically through an ICSR program called Public Achievement— a national youth initiative developed on the idea that societal issues are everyone’s responsibility. This program educates youth on becoming effective civic participants, and helps them learn to think and act as citizens. If you’d like to learn more about the program and how you can become involved, the ICSR is hosting a recruitment informational session this Thursday at 6 PM in Garrett Conference Room 109. They would love to see you there!