Interviewed by Stephanie South, Program Associate, AASCU
As part of the Civic Agency initiative, we are conducting a special “We the People” interview series. In this series, we interview intriguing people with different perspectives on the “We the People” phase of our work in ADP.
Frankie Beesley was born and raised in Las Vegas, NV. She is currently a junior at Northern Arizona University majoring in Environmental Studies with an emphasis in sustainability, community, and biocultural diversity, and a minor in journalism. She has been involved with the Action Research Teams (ARTs) since her freshman year. The ARTs focus on issues, challenges, and visions for a sustainable campus and community environment, as well as fostering student engagement in a democratic and just way. Frankie became involved with the Weatherization and Community Building Action Team (WACBAT) her freshman year, particularly because WACBAT focused around community building, sustainable initiatives, and student facilitation. During her sophomore year, she was given the opportunity to co-facilitate WACBAT and has held that position ever since. Working with WACBAT, Frankie hopes to continue efforts around community building and engagement as well as aiding and support the efforts of sustainable initiatives all around the greater Flagstaff region.
SS: Frankie, I understand you got involved with the civic engagement work at NAU your first year through a learning community. Can you tell me a little more about what a learning community is?
FB: I became involved with the ARTs (action research teams) my freshman year through an LC—a learning community. A learning community is a community of first-year students all interested and working around similar passions and ideals. Students join a particular LC because it meshes with their targeted interest, may that be law, the environment, nursing, etc. The learning community I was involved with was called SEED, which stands for Sustainable Environment Engaged Democracy. SEED is really a stepping stone for the rest of the ARTs, making students dig deep into their passions about social and/or environmental issues and discussing them amongst one another while pursuing these individual passions in some way or another. SEED was really a place where we built community as freshman students around our similar passions.
We were given the option to choose between a list of ARTs, and I chose WACBAT (Weatherization and Community Building Action Team) because the concept of community building was completely new to me and really piqued my interest.
SS: That was a lot of acronyms. What are ARTs? What is WACBAT?
FB: ARTs stand for Action Research Team and they focus around student engagement and leadership around environmental and social issues. The ARTs give undergrad students, and even grad students, the tools to create leadership skills amongst themselves, as well as a voice in their community that is so powerful and revolutionary in my opinion.
WACBAT is a student-led group that focuses around community building, as well as environmental sustainability around a just community and society. As a co-facilitator, my role in WACBAT is to have relational, 1:1 meetings with new freshman students of WACBAT, as well as community members in efforts of collaboration and participants of the other ARTs. It is my job to create a sort of open space for the students of WACBAT in order for their passions to arise while still maintaining the mission and vision of WACBAT. As a facilitator, I have to give students the tools to fostering leadership skills within themselves so that they can go out into the community and begin to build community, form relationships, and, basically, get stuff done. I work with three other co-facilitators of WACBAT, as well as a professor whose freshman seminar class is tied in with WACBAT.
SS: Looking back, why has WACBAT been such important part of your time at NAU?
FB: I’ve been involved with WACBAT for three years now, and it is honestly the reason I stayed at NAU my freshman year as opposed to transferring back home or to another school elsewhere. WACBAT has given me the tools to facilitate conversations, hold 1:1s, and, overall, achieve my passions and visions that I hold in regards to environmental and societal sustainability. WACBAT has really made me want to go into the community, become a part of it, and learn from that community. WACBAT has also given me the tools to be able to work across differences in creating this overall community sustainability.
SS: What’s been the thing you are most proud of having accomplished through WACBAT?
FB: I’m really proud that WACBAT is one of the longest running ARTs at NAU and is still going strong with students who stay with it for years. Each semester I am proud of WACBAT for different reasons, may it be because we had a successful event, really built community and relationships among our students, or even seeing those few students become civically engaged beings. I feel honored being a part of WACBAT and am very proud to be a member of it.
SS: Why is it important for students to be civically engaged on campus?
FB: This might actually be the most important aspect to me. I strongly believe that students should be civically engaged on campus because it’s their campus! I feel like a lot of students do not realize that they have the power to have their voice heard; they just need to work with outlets they have not thought of before. If a student is civically engaged on campus, I strongly believe that they will be civically engaged in all spheres of life, even after they have left college. Getting engaged in college is so important because college really gives you the opportunity to become engaged and create concrete change. It was just such an amazing experience for me in my undergraduate career to have been as engaged as I am. I can only wish that everyone has such a monumental and life-changing experience during these four years.
SS: What advice do you have for incoming freshman at NAU or any college campus?
FB: Don’t be afraid to get involved! Go out there and search for those clubs, groups, or organizations that relate to your interest because chances are, they’ll definitely be out there. Also, don’t be afraid to take chances! It’s a little cliché but extremely true. As college students, we have the ability to construct real change that is lasting and just. Work with people you never would have imagined yourself working with before. Chances are everyone around you has something to teach you that you may not even be aware of yet, and that could completely alter your way of thinking. Just be open to differences, new ideas, and opportunities!