June 18, 2024

Two weeks ago, Witt got a little spark of excitement with the second annual SPARK Conference, a series of TED Talk-style lectures. This year, alumni Amanda Barth, English professor Rick Incorvati, PhD. and alumni Derrick Braziel gave talks on leadership, inspiration and change. I walked out of the conference feeling inspired, and I couldn’t help but think that Witt needs a little more SPARK.
Our university has been through a lot in the past few years. Between budget shortfalls, department cuts and shuffling around of faculty and administrative positions, my friends and I, among other students, have felt discouraged. It’s disheartening to attend a school that you know will never be able to live up to its full potential during your time there. And I can’t shake off this feeling of holding my breath, waiting for what comes next.
But after the SPARK talks, I felt inspired. I walked out of the CDR feeling like I could take on the world, like I could do something significant. As Incorvati encouraged listeners, I wanted to “respond with agency and urgency” to the things I care about.
We could argue about the issues facing Witt until the cows come home, but the fact of the matter is that this university is home to some pretty incredible people. The biggest problem Wittenberg students have is managing time, because we are all so incredibly involved in the multiple things we care about. I find that incredible. The students here are intelligent, service-oriented, externally-focused and eager to make a difference.
So why weren’t there more people in the CDR on Saturday night?
The answer is obvious. It was a Saturday night, and everyone’s exhausted from a week of student life. But I think the messages of presenters would resonate with most students on campus. All three encouraged students to look outside of themselves, to become engaged in a community they care about and to take action for the things that are important to them.
Over the past few years, Wittenberg has become important to me. The university has some pretty serious problems to solve, but that doesn’t make me want to run away and abandon my alma mater. I owe it more than that. Wittenberg has become my home, and I care that it continues to be a strong institution.
I think Braziel would agree with me. As he pointed to the Wittenberg seal, he said, “This is the obligation that we have as representatives of this quest and this motto to pass it on to others.”
So, let’s start at home.
Wittenberg’s power is in its people and their good ideas. Instead of bemoaning the shortcomings of the institution, what can we do about it? We, as students, have more power than we realize, especially if we unite for a common desire. We all have ideas about how to make this university better. How do we stop talking about it and start doing it? Let’s light the spark and make the changes happen.

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