$5,000 Approved for MLK Jr. Exhibit

Five thousand dollars were given by the University to refurbish the Martin Luther King Jr. exhibit in the Student Center. Two psychology students sent a proposal to the Diversity Innovation Grant (DIG), a program to provide financial and social support to campus community members’ ideas, in late June 2023.
Eugene Hardy, a senior psychology student, and Haley Tischler, a junior psychology student, received word from the sub-committee of the President’s Advisory Council for Diversity and Inclusion in August that their request was approved for the full amount they requested.

The current exhibit consists of three pictures of MLK, as well as the “Unsung Hero” award that was given out to students and faculty whose work reflected MLK’s ideals. The last time someone won the award was in 2015, leaving 12 empty slots. With $5,000, the students plan on adding more to the exhibit, adding murals painted by students, as well as moving the exhibit to the first level of the Student Center.
“We’re trying to figure out the best course of action to make something feel impactful and tell a story, but not tell a blatant story,” said Hardy. “We want it to be up to student interpretation so that everyone that comes and sees it has a different point of view about it.”

Raymond Klose, a Board of Trustees member, is a sponsor for the students’ project. He has contributed to other exhibits on campus, such as “Waves of Change” and the 9/11 Memorial. “When the story [surrounding an exhibit] encourages and motivates a single student to enact change, it gives me hope,” said Klose. Handly added that Klose has helped push the project to a larger scale.

Zaneta Rago-Craft, Ph.D., Advisor to the President for Diversity and Inclusion and member of the DIG’s sub-committee, said the proposal for the MLK Jr. exhibit stood out among others. “It was student-driven and student-written,” said Rago-Craft. “We know the project or initiative is something that students themselves want to see and are committed to seeing through.”

This idea was cultivated in Hardy and Tischler’s Social Justice Journeys class in the spring semester of 2023. The psychology course was taught by Lisa Dinella, Ph.D., Director of the Program in Gender and Intersectionality Studies. “The project that Eugene and Halsey took on on behalf of the class was not my idea,” explained Dinella. “Walking around and doing the tour [of campus] is what sparked the idea.” Instead of the initial final paper, she allowed the students to submit their grant for the grade.

Director for Academic Transition and Inclusion Claude Taylor emphasized the importance of honoring MLK Jr. on Monmouth’s campus. “We have a treasure of the civil rights era to reflect upon as we navigate the critical challenges facing us in our time,” said Taylor. “There is more that can be offered to demonstrate the commitments colleges and universities make to educating students around global citizenship, human rights, and social justice.”

Students feel similarly about the exhibit. Asad Whitehead, President of the Black Student Union (BSU) and music major, said, “I hope the new exhibit raises awareness and appreciation for MLK’s contributions to the campus community. It can spark conversations, inspire activism, and promote a deeper understanding of the ongoing struggle for equality.”

Within the past few months, Handly, Tishler, and others from the class have worked hard preparing for the presentation. The psychology students are hoping the new exhibit will be finished by the spring semester, but if not then, they are determined to keep coming back, even after graduation, to make sure it gets done.

“If there’s something you see that you feel needs to be changed, I hope that our work inspires other students to become more involved in their communities, to become more involved on campus, and to speak out against things that they either don’t agree with or things that need modification,” said Tischler.