On Wednesday, Oct. 24, Southern Miss’s Office of Sustainability hosted the Social Justice Fair in Shoemaker Square. The event aimed to engage students in their community by raising their awareness of on- and off-campus organizations that are available to them.
From 10 a.m. until 1 p.m., campus organizations like Amnesty International and Eagles Nest were present at the fair as well as local non-profit groups like Edwards Street Fellowship and Oak Arbor Veteran Support.
Melissa Covington-Olsen, sustainability coordinator for Southern Miss’ Office of Sustainability, said that the hope for the event was to get students involved in their communities and help them develop skills to produce social change.
“Once they leave the university, they can continue building on the knowledge they have gained and apply that to issues that they are most passionate about,” Covington-Olsen said.
Covington-Olsen said she wanted to give students the chance to talk to various charities and not-for-profit organizations and to find volunteering opportunities for their time at Southern Miss.
According to the Office of Sustainability’s Facebook page, its mission is to support conversations and actions within the campus and the broader community that create awareness of how their impact affects future generations. A major goal of the fair was to make students and other participants knowledgeable of social issues and give them tools to help solve it. This is the third year the Social Justice Fair has been held, and each year has been more successful than the year before.
“We are always excited to see new and returning faces at the information booths. The turnout was better than expected,” Covington-Olsen said.
Jaq Jefcoat, a junior English Licensure major, volunteered for the Prism Center at the fair on Wednesday. The Prism Center is Southern Miss’s resource center for its LGBTQ+ students.
Jefcoat said his table got a lot of visitors.
“We got around 10 or so students and a few faculty members interested in what programs and services our office offers here on campus,” Jefcoat said.
The many organizations in attendance advocate for various social issues, including human and civil rights like hunger and shelter, veteran and disability support and LGBTQ+ rights.
“In the society that we’re in right now, it’s best to support others who are stigmatized and considered minorities,” Jefcoat said.
Covington-Olsen said that because the Office of Sustainability is a member of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, she believes it is important to educate students on social and economic sustainability as well as activism.
“This specific event brings awareness to other issues dealing with inequality. In doing so, this allows different charities to be able to communicate their messages of respect, dignity and equality to the campus community,” Covington-Olsen said.
The Office of Sustainability is currently hosting a bra drive for women at the Lighthouse Rescue Mission and Fieldhouse for the Homeless in Hattiesburg until Nov. 2. More information can be found on their Facebook page or on their website at usm.edu/green.