Written by Logan Stott
No one ever said medical school was easy but with proper support, the gifted students at RVU can rise to any challenge. That support comes in a variety of ways: whether it be from family, friends, or in the case of Project Stewardship, from their student government. Austin Anderson, OMS II, President of the Student Government Association (SGA), knew he had classmates who didn’t receive the moral and emotional support they needed to succeed. “I got the creeping feeling that some of my classmates were really feeling disconnected from their school and from their peers,” SD Anderson said. “I asked my class council to be mindful of those that might be especially struggling with isolation and feelings of loneliness.” But even then, he worried that it wasn’t enough.
To combat this problem, SD Anderson developed Project Stewardship, an initiative designed to help student representatives better know their classmates’ needs, concerns, and struggles. When SD Anderson presented Project Stewardship to his peers, “It passed with a unanimous vote,” he said. It became SGA’s “vision and goal for this term.”
One thing that Project Stewardship emphasizes is communication between the SGA and students and that is accomplished, in part, by having each class council president send a direct, personal message to every member of their respective classes. SD Anderson typically sends two open-ended questions: “How are you holding up with everything going on?” and “Is there anything [your] class council can do for you?” So far, these simple questions have yielded great results. Messaging each student didn’t just build conversation, it also served as a foundation for receiving student feedback. “Most responses were cordial and people expressed thanks. However, I was shocked to see how many people were just waiting for someone to ask them that question,” SD Anderson said. “I got feedback for what my class council could do to improve curriculum, wellness, programming, and much more,” he said. Students who shared major struggles or tragedies were also consoled and made aware of RVU’s counseling and mental health resources.
In addition to friendly conversation and words of encouragement, the project also sends out physical gifts, including gifts to those in need. When the SGA learns of students who have recently experienced loss or trauma, they send a care package. “We have sent a few flower bouquets [and] preassembled care packages. Right now, I have members of my team constructing care packages [for the] students,” SD Anderson said. Oftentimes, students receiving care packages are on medical hiatus from RVU, and these gifts keep them feeling connected to their peers at the University. Gift cards are also given sporadically to students at RVU, in what the project refers to as “random acts of kindness.”
Even small gifts go a long way to brightening someone’s day and when students can connect with one another and feel secure in sharing their feelings, that makes a big difference. In a time of increased distance and decreased physical support from family and friends, SD Anderson’s efforts are bringing classmates together and creating a more effective and connected student government.
This article was originally featured in RVU’s Vista View Newsletter. To view the full issue, visit: https://issuu.com/rvucom/docs/2021216_vista_view.