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The Community Action and Social Change Minor program at the University of Michigan hosted a virtual celebration Friday in honor of its 10-year anniversary. The event featured a lecture by Kim Katrin, an educator and activist, followed by reflections from CASC alums Amy Navvab and Hoai An Pham. 

The CASC minor is for students interested in social justice and engaging in community change. It has over 800 alumni, with students from a variety of undergraduate schools on campus.

Katrin has been an activist since she was 16. She discussed the challenges and rewards of student activism, offering advice on how to tackle adversity and uncomfortable situations. 

“We know that, regardless of when you started your process of activism, it is truly the most effective way of creating change,” Katrin said. “And it can be easy to feel like small groups of people don’t transform the world. But in truth, that’s all that ever has.”

Katrin said prioritizing “habits over goals” was an important step, noting that walking her dog over the past six months gave her an opportunity to connect with people in her neighborhood she hadn’t spoken with much before. 

“The grass is greenest where we water it,” Katrin said. “The most powerful, consistent change happens often in the communities that we live in, the places that we walk and the places that we nurture.”

Navvab said she appreciates emphasizing habits over goals, especially as a school district social worker.

“I work with students who are within special education, and they are bound to work on individual education goals,” Navvab said. “I often find that the best way to reach those students is to help them see what they are already doing, what is working and how we can celebrate and uplift what you’re already good at instead of feeling like your success is something that’s far away.”

Katrin also advised students to focus on “making maps, not monuments.” This means that instead of honoring individuals through monuments that can be controversial, society should transition to creating maps of a person’s life. 

“A map has the capacity to not only give us a path or a direction but also tell us about an entire landscape, where the peaks and the valleys are and where our challenges actually lie,” Katrin said. “We want to be able to make maps for the people who come after us so they know what we were able to accomplish, but they also know where we fell short.” 

Pham said creating maps and acknowledging past successes and failures is vital in her job as an organizer for the activist group We the People Michigan. 

“We don’t often like to pause to step back and think about all the ways that people have already tried to do something, or all the lessons that we can learn from those who have come before us,” Pham said. “There’s an incredible wealth of knowledge that already exists.”

Katrin also said activism is about building empathy.

“When I think about when people are motivated to do really significant things, it’s because they care, because they care just so much that it moves them and inspires them to really do significant things,” Katrin said.

Navvab asked Katrin to explain a time when she made a mistake and how she learned from that. Katrin recalled when an Indigenous attendee called her out at a workshop for not advocating enough for Indigenous communities in her presentation. 

She said she realized that she needed to do better. 

“I try not to run away from being wrong, and I just try to embrace that I’m wrong and apologize and work to make amends,” Katrin said. “If people don’t want to make amends with me, that’s okay too. But it is such a weight to carry to feel like you’re not going to make a mistake … because you’re going to, and then it’s going to shatter your universe.”

In light of CASC’s 10-year anniversary, Katrin stressed the significance of continued student activism. 

“This time is so crucial and so significant for all kinds of activism, but most of all for student activism because all of this world is inherited into your hands,” Katrin said. 

Daily Staff Reporter Martha Lewand can be reached at mlewand@umich.edu.

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