Values Day, set to take place on Oct. 19, is a tradition unique to Stetson that allows students a day off from classes and a chance to engage in a wide variety of workshops in their stead. What many students see as merely a vacation day is actually a dynamic opportunity for personal growth. But many are left to wonder when and why this event was created in the first place, and even more importantly, why should students care?
In the early 1990s, our 8th president, Dr. Douglas Lee, decided to host a town-hall meeting at Stetson centered around the topic of diversity. This event was dubbed “Diversity Day,” and much like Value’s Day, it too had workshops and a keynote speaker. It was so successful that Dr. Lee continued the event for several years thereafter. Once former Dr. Wendy Libby took over the role of president, she decided to expand the event to represent all of Stetson’s Values, and thus the annual event evolved into the Values Day we see at present.
Values Day has a planning committee consisting of appointed Stetson students, faculty, and staff who are responsible for choosing a keynote speaker and organizing workshops as well as selecting each year’s theme. It is also their job to ensure that the theme and workshop topics reflect the needs and desires of the community.
Savannah-Jane Griffin, executive director of community engagement and inclusive excellence, has been the coordinator for Values Day for the past six years. She was kind enough to talk to me over Zoom about how her team approaches such a massive undertaking.
“There’s no way to find a theme that resonates with everybody, but we do the best we can to find at least one thing that everybody can connect with. It’s a lot of listening to and talking with students and leaders on campus,” said Griffin.
The Values Day committee evaluates the surveys from the previous events that consist of ideas and feedback from students and faculty which aids them in their selection of future themes. This year’s theme is “Building Cultures of Empathy and Respect,” and its workshops will be a hybrid of in-person and online sessions in order to be as accessible as possible in light of the ongoing pandemic.
One of the hallmarks of Values Days is its ability to connect students with knowledge and opportunities that transcend the borders of our tiny campus. Community members, as well as outsourced interested parties, participate in facilitating the festivities. Most notably this year, representatives from Volusia Remembers and the Special Olympics will be hosting workshops, and our keynote speaker is the nationally renowned and Pulitzer Prize winner, Isabel Wilkerson.
But why should you, an overworked and under-caffeinated student, forgo some extra slumber and participate in this event? Many would argue that it’s because Value’s Day offers educational, creative, and interpersonal opportunities that you just can’t find anywhere else.
As Griffin put it, “Values Day is an opportunity to bring our community together. It’s a chance for us to engage with people that we might not engage with regularly because it’s not bound by a discipline or one’s academic standing.”
Values Day allows students to step outside of their singular perspectives and learn from a diverse set of new ones. It’s an opportunity to broaden our horizons and learn about unique topics from experts in their respective fields. It facilitates future opportunities, allowing students to learn about study abroad programs, volunteer organizations, and even internships which offer chances to kickstart careers. It also offers the possibility to participate in engaging activities that you might not come across often, like guided Tai Chi classes or creative workshops.
If that’s not enticing enough, it’s also a phenomenal opportunity to rack up cultural credits, as many of the workshops offer that incentive. Moreover, there are some chances to snag a freebie or two. Notably, the global citizenship fair this year will be giving away Schmancy Pops and swag items like facemasks and vinyl stickers.
The passion and excitement that Miss Griffin has for the tradition of Values Day were made evident by her willingness to discuss it with me while she sat in the car outside of her child’s dance lesson. This event is an amalgamation of Stetson’s greatest desires for all of their students: that they are challenged by one another and grow from the experience.
“That’s my goal, and I know it’s a lofty one. But even if just one student walks away with an experience that might have changed their viewpoint on something and helped them learn something, that’s enough for me,” said Griffin.
The finalized schedule for Values Day 2021 can be found here: https://www.stetson.edu/other/values-day/media/Values%20Day%20Fall%202021%20Schedule%20No%20Links.pdf