Civic Action Academy: Reflection by Louise Ba

January 12, 2024

Louise Ba ’24, a student at St. Catherine University in Saint Paul, was selected as a Newman Fellow in 2022. The experience of convening with the Newman Fellows in Boston, Massachusetts that year allowed Ms. Ba to meet  people from across the globe who served as inspiration and a source of community – one she continues to rely on. Ms. Ba states that “The values of connection, community building, and inspiration stayed with me throughout my experience.”  This also led her to continue to be involved in Iowa & Minnesota Campus Compact’s offerings for students, including this year’s Civic Action Academy, where Ms. Ba participated in the leadership workshop and served on our student panel during the closing plenary. She shares below her reflection on how those values were reinforced throughout the weekend event. 

Connection from the conference happened pretty easily, but connecting with unfamiliar faces came during the affinity groups. I felt so lucky to be in spaces with people who not only shared the same ethnicity as me, but the same passion and drive towards civic engagement. Community building came easily during the Social Justice walk, led by Dr. Ferguson and keynote speaker Dr. Scott. [The walk] allowed me to look into the complexities of Grinnell and its untold stories. Hearing stories from my peers intrigued me, and we built community through the stories that we shared. Inspiration was gained naturally throughout the breakout sessions, in connecting with student speakers such as the charismatic Camrie Miranda who led us in a session on campus representation or the intellectual Matthew Williams who guided us through the process of intentional systematic change on campus. My greatest inspiration, however, came from my co-speaker at the closing plenary, Houston Hamlett. Hearing her stories, her drive, and seeing her confidence grow as a speaker made me honored to share the stage with her. 

Ms. Ba (right) serving on the panel of the closing plenary at the 2023 Civic Action Academy with Houston Hamlett (left).

In my leadership roles, connection, community building, and inspiration are a must, and the lessons that I’ve learned from my peers at this conference will guide me in my leadership journey. Camrie taught me the importance of direct representation, and ensuring the communities that are marginalized have a seat at the table in important decision making. Matthew taught me the importance of inserting yourself into decision making within your campus administration, and to know that sometimes all it takes is an idea and a commitment to change. Dr. Ferguson and Dr. Scott taught me to look beyond the way things are and to challenge my perception of them, asking questions about the infrastructure that is built on the lands we frequent, who benefits from this infrastructure, who is left behind, and how we can change… [These questions will] further inform my leadership journey. The lessons I’ve learned from peers and faculty alike at the Civic Action Academy, guided by the values of connection, community building, and inspiration, have caused me to be a better and more intentional leader in all the spaces I claim and will step into. I hope everyone can experience the magic of this conference, because it has truly impacted me for the better!”

Thank you for sharing with us, Louise!