Positive Expressions project spreads encouraging messages on campus

Last month, you may have stepped outside the Broadway Edison building to find the walkways and parts of the buildings covered in chalk. And if you looked a little closer, you could read positive and uplifting messages. This project was no random act of optimism; it was organized by student Paige Spicer and her peers as a final project for their Medical Anthropology class.

Each quarter, instructor Susan Barclay asks her students to develop ideas for activities that can be used for what she calls an “empowering final exam,” which the class can take together. Leaving her class knowing the subject matter of the class is important, but she also wants her students to feel their new knowledge makes them more effective in the world.

After approval from the Facilities department (which oversees the grounds), students began their final class day by writing positive messages in chalk on the walkways. Over the course of an hour, the class scribbled words of encouragement that inspired people walking by to join them.

“The intent was to touch the lives of passersby,” Paige said. “But it ended up inspiring us as participants in the experiment as well.”

After their class debrief, Susan reported that nearly all of the students felt encouraged and positive about the experience. “It was a simple but powerful activity in the context of our quarter-long conversations about social and cultural change,” she said.