Luther College Chips

Students learn effective activism at workshop

Jennifer Mandelblatt is a co-founder of Platform.

Jennifer Mandelblatt is a co-founder of Platform.

Kristen Wuerl ('18) | Chips

Kristen Wuerl ('18) | Chips

Jennifer Mandelblatt is a co-founder of Platform.

Kristen Wuerl, Staff Writer

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Co-founder of teaching organization Platform, Jennifer Mandelblatt, led a workshop on effective activism on Thursday, March 15. The political science department sponsored the workshop.

After graduating from Cornell University in 2017 Mandelblatt and three friends founded Platform, an organization that works to help others become activists and a training and lobbying organization for everyone who identifies as a woman.

According to Mandelblatt, Platform’s goal is to ensure that all voices are heard in rooms where political decisions are made. The organization works to provide tools and resources — a platform — for community members to familiarize themselves with policy issues. Platform also publishes weekly newsletters on key political topics, connects women to experts in their fields of interests, and provides tools for learning to become effective activists.

“Platform is about being a community,” Mandelblatt said. “Collective action to create change is important. One person can make a difference, but you’re so much stronger when you have this community around you.”

After introducing attendees to Platform, Mandelblatt described how she and her friends founded the organization, provided input on what makes activism effective, and explained how current students can apply effective activism strategies to their lives at Luther and beyond.

Mandelblatt then offered time for attendees to voice their concerns about issues important to them. Students discussed topics of women’s health, fear of the feminist movement, and how to recognize and address bias.

The workshop ended with an activity to apply what they had learned about activism. Mandelblatt split attendees into four groups and assigned each group to effectively advocate for a made-up cause to six student “senators” — to make either ice cream or popcorn the national food, and to make either “Party in the U.S.A.” or “Born in the U.S.A.” the national anthem. In the end, the student senators voted for ice cream to become the new national food and “Born in the U.S.A.” to become the new national anthem.

Workshop organizer Anna Phearman (‘19) met Mandelblatt while studying in Washington, D.C. as a participant in the Lutheran College Washington Semester Program. The two worked together to create a series of debates on disability rights for Platform. Phearman contacted Mandelblatt to host a Platform workshop at Luther this semester.

“This workshop is about joining in conversation and realizing you’re not alone [on certain issues],” Phearman said. “The goal is to become an advocate for yourself. I’m really excited to see Luther students find their voices, have empowerment, and start conversations.”

Associate Professor of Political Science Carly Foster felt that hosting the workshop had value for many students on campus.

“This event is sponsored by [women] for women’s issues, but it’s absolutely inclusive,” Foster said. “We want people to find effective ways to make their voices heard.”

Mandelblatt noted the importance of activism for everyone.

“[Effective activism] is something [anyone] can do, and it’s not scary,” Mandelblatt said. “It can feel intimidating, but democracy and its success hinders on young people getting involved. There’s so much at stake right now. We need to be heard and we have a right to be heard.”

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