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FreeZONE Takes a Step Outside Its Comfort Zone
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FreeZONE Takes a Step Outside Its Comfort Zone
By: Kasi Jones, M.S.
Senior Assistant Director
Coordinator of Orientation Student Success
Purdue University

When students walked through the Purdue Memorial Union on the week of April 1st, they were given the opportunity to learn more about building community. Purdue University’s new student orientation program, Boiler Gold Rush, referred to this promotion of community as the FreeZONE Art Project. FreeZONE is Boiler Gold Rush’s diversity program that challenges students to keep an open mind to people’s different ideas, beliefs, and walks of life. This year Boiler Gold Rush hoped to take the next step in promoting FreeZONE by working with other organizations on campus, in order to build community while showcasing community to Purdue students at the same time.

The project’s involvement from student organizations included the Purdue Student Union Board, Swipe Out Starvation, The Timmy Foundation, and Boiler Gold Rush. The Purdue Student Union Board provided an interactive puzzle that allowed students to learn more about their campus community by including information about Purdue University. Swipe Out Starvation is an organization that allows students to donate their left over meal swipes to those living in poverty. The organization contributed a large floor map of all the continents with balloons representing levels of hunger. Amber Enyart, a Purdue student and member of Boiler Gold Rush’s Student Orientation Committee said, "It was amazing to see, especially when the United States had only one balloon and countries in Africa could have as many as ten.”

There was also a large poster provided by The Timmy Foundation where students could state how they plan to change the world. The Timmy Foundation at Purdue is a student organization that plans student medical mission trips to Ecuador.

Boiler Gold Rush displayed large letters that spelled out FreeZONE in the middle of the display. The letters were covered in photographs taken by students from each of the organizations involved. The students were asked to submit photos that showed the diversity in their lives. Diversity in these photos could include their activities, major, culture, music taste, skin color, and may more. Student written definitions of FreeZONE were also submitted and displayed all around the project.

Lastly students were encouraged to make a new friend inside the FreeZONE Ball Pit. Questions were prewritten on the plastic balls inside the pit, and were meant to help students discover their common interests and even their differences. These questions could be as surface level as asking someone’s favorite sport, or as deep as asking their ultimate life goal. The hope was that students could reach a topic of conversation that would result in a spark of interest based on similarities and differences that are not visible to the eye.

Students in the organizations said the project grew throughout the week and it allowed students to better understand some diverse organizations on campus as well as each other. Boiler Gold Rush leaders really enjoyed the conversation and interaction between the organizations, and said even some professors stopped by to check out what was going on. Overall, the students found the project to be a success, and they are challenging themselves to involve even more students, faculty, and staff from other areas of Purdue in the coming year.

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