Saint Mary’s committee builds on Monthly Mingle initiative
Gina Twardosz | Thursday, December 7, 2017
The topics of Saint Mary’s Monthly Mingles — which take place on the first Monday of every month — vary from political issues to self-care. Sophomore Terra Nelson and junior Francesca Cervone, members of the Community Justice Committee, are Monthly Mingle co-chairs and responsible for planning each event.
The goal of the Monthly Mingle, Nelson said, is to gather everyone together in a comfortable environment to talk about the topic at hand.
“We try to get as many girls together as possible, of all different class years, and just talk about something on campus that we feel is a hot conversation or something that people need to discuss in a safe space,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s just about spreading awareness about the topic.”
Cervone said Monthly Mingles are centered around reaching out to everyone in the community and making sure they feel welcome and free to share their opinions.
“The Monthly Mingles focus on inclusion, and everyone is welcome to attend,” she said. “They’re important because, given the climate of today’s world, I feel all students at Saint Mary’s should know that they are welcomed and have a space where they can talk and share their opinions without being judged.”
Nelson said Monthly Mingle discussions focus on giving everyone a voice and making sure everyone is engaged.
“We like to engage everyone in the discussion so that when you come to a Monthly Mingle you’re not just sitting there listening to two people, but you’re actively listening to everyone’s opinions,” she said. “Most students come and share their stories. The first half of the Monthly Mingle is always giving everyone a basis of information on the topic. It’s definitely a space where Belles can come in, share their stories and experiences or ask questions.”
The topics are decided based on “need in the community,” Nelson said.
“When we sit and brainstorm about the topics, it’s from our perspective, which is the point of view of students,” she said. “We decide the topics based on what we hear people talking about.”
The most successful Monthly Mingle so far, Cervone said, has been the November discussion on healthy relationships and dating violence.
“November’s Monthly Mingle was very successful because we got to work with [director] Connie Adams and [the Belles Against Violence Office] and talk about healthy relationships,” she said.
Nelson said she felt November’s Monthly Mingle was successful because not a lot of students are able to recognize the signs of dating violence alone.
“Connie Adams from the Belles Against Violence Office came, and she did a lot of role playing and provided handouts,” she said. “We just kind of talked through what dating violence looks like, and through this we were able to open up a space for girls to be vulnerable and honest and ask questions.”
December’s Monthly Mingle topic, Nelson said, came about as the result of a participant’s suggestion.
“We’re doing December’s Monthly Mingle on self-care because one of the girls from the last Monthly Mingle asked us if we could,” she said. “If anyone has an idea, we’re more than happy to listen to them. We really want students to stay in tune with what happens on campus.”
The best part of the Monthly Mingles is seeing people go beyond their own biases and listen to the group’s differing opinions, Nelson said.
“Our own biases can drop by the wayside after the Monthly Mingles, and any pre-connotations can hopefully be proven wrong,” she said. “Then, we can all realize that some issues might be more complex than initially thought. Hearing other girls’ stories, becoming more aware, makes us better and more empathetic community members.”
Nelson said she wants future Monthly Mingles to be more inclusive and reflect what the community needs.
“The goal is to make the Monthly Mingles, not larger or more flashy, but make them more about what our community members need and craft them into a space where all Belles can come and feel heard and listen to other Belles,” she said.