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