With events designed to create spaces for faculty and students to grow and learn, the Department of Social Sciences presented the Oxford Consortium for Human Rights (OCHR) workshop in this one goal. Held in Healdsburg, 10 SSU Social Sciences participated in the event from March 31 through April 3.

OCHR offers seminars on human rights, global conflict, humanitarian relief, peacebuilding, and related topics based on teaching and research. Their website states that “our goal is to understand and develop constructive solutions to today’s problems, drawing on scholars and students from a wide variety of disciplines.

Of the 10 students who participated, three were sponsored by the First Generation Office and three faculty members were sponsored by Troi Carleton, the Dean of the School of Social Sciences.

Carleton said, “Our students have come up with some great ideas for addressing wildfire season and its impact on students.” Wildfire season is such a prevalent issue in Sonoma County, so it’s important for students to address this topic for the SSU community.

Sonoma State students have been evacuated from campus twice in the past four years. In the past, there have been many communication issues between students and the school due to the unpredictable nature of fires in Sonoma County. Having a meeting on this topic allows the university to understand what students need to thrive personally and academically during an evacuation.

One of the students who was able to attend was Yodite Gebre, a first-year graduate student who is earning her master’s degree in counseling. Gebre said, “The workshop helped me recognize the different experiences and moments in my personal life that have accumulated over the years and made me want to be an advocate for others. It also taught me the importance of hearing and including other stories from people who are directly impacted by the social issues I want to raise awareness about.

Gebre was among the students who came up with ideas for addressing fire season and the impact on students, which stems from her personal experience as a student. Gebre also went on to say, “This workshop opened my eyes to how social and political human rights issues do not just exist far away in other countries, but are here, in my environment. immediate, who need more votes. I was given the formula for what it takes to create a successful campaign and I am eternally grateful and only hope to spread this knowledge further.

Another student, Orleana Plytas, a first-year sociology student and president of the sociology club, said, “In my life, I have lacked the empowerment of possibility. However, I am grateful to the professors and the Dean for supporting my participation in the workshops. They gave me confidence to receive the message of the workshops. Their confidence in me gave me the ability to support, encourage and inspire others to see themselves capable in equity and equality work.

The Oxford Consortium raised awareness of the importance of people’s experiences and how they could provide insight into human rights challenges that remain prevalent in Sonoma County, such as climate change and the rights of agricultural workers. Students who attended this workshop came away inspired by the speakers as they shared their successes in helping marginalized and underrepresented communities.