A Collective Constellation
Written by Ryan Mulrooney
photography by Aida Farrokh Ebrahimi
On campus, the Wisconsin Idea has its roots –
roots with a hundred-year heartbeat –
entangled in a lack of dialogue across lecture halls and library corners,
entangled in vagueness, and entangled in privilege.
It was historically strong,
yet now broken, rich, and wrong.
Now, this idea has a rare appearance in
Chadbourne Residential College’s communities of ILS 138,
where the Peer Mentors toss power in Mendota
so deep that even the hands of the men who
built the university can’t reach.
The Wisconsin Idea arises in this class
like the sun, its rays putting a twinkle
in students’ eyes and illuminating the room
for criticism, discussion, and vulnerability.
Here, students are empowered to embrace their education outside the classroom,
to stay a little longer in the sun,
because that’s where more communities can form –
communities where we can learn as much from the community
as the community learns from us.
This golden-hued intersectionality is the key to the Wisconsin Idea.
Because those inside and outside this classroom,
all their experiences and their perspectives,
form ILS 138 into a family, just like UW,
can instill a familial feeling with its idea across our state.
These insightful Peer Mentors are made of starlight –
stars that form a collective constellation with
the university, its students, and the greater community –
and the benevolent change that the WI Idea calls for
starts with their facilitation and students they empower.
If the university realizes this collective effort,
perhaps its rays can shine even brighter.
This piece was inspired by conversations with Chadbourne Residential College’s Peer Mentors.