Grace Tibben-Lembke is a junior Environmental Studies major, who is also one of the Co-Chairs of this engaging student organization.
She admires how Building Bridges fosters a community invested in advocacy with the motivation to work towards educating the public about meaningful issues.
Ever since her first year, she felt intellectually stimulated by educationals the previous leaders organized, having the opportunity to learn and also engage in thought-provoking conversations.
It was clear how she got to know her best friends by partaking in these monumental projects. As this year’s Co-Chair, she has been dedicated to providing an enriching experience for fellow students who need an outlet to unleash their inner activism.
Because family separation and detention centers were in the mainstream news this whole summer, they figured immigration was important for educating people through honest, hard conversations.
Not choosing this topic would be doing a disservice to the community considering its relevance and how it affects everyone.
“That’s why we wrote the title we did. It pushes some buttons. It clearly takes a stance. We wanted to be clear that this is how we feel about this issue, and if [one] disagrees with us, that’s fine. Let’s talk about that, we’d love to have conversation about it,” Tibben-Lembke said.
Although it was a demanding process to find the keynote speakers, they were fortunate to have the help of Professor Maddalena Marinari, who pointed them in the right direction to contact David Fitzgerald.
Grace also gave credit to the countless Professors across campus that provided helpful suggestions in determining what perspectives to showcase.
In a large sense, she wants people to feel comfortable engaging difficult dialogue since Building Bridges is notorious for being a social justice conference.
Her favorite part is Action Piece because people undergo an emotional experience that makes them personally connect to the topic, and finally have debriefing sessions to review the simulation.
“That’s always the best part, to see people having revelations where all of a sudden they’ve now had a personal interaction with a topic distant to them. I hope people feel more willing to do that in the future, and it is okay to admit that you don’t know,” Tibben Lembke said.
She wishes people develop a more intimate understanding of the immigration process, and become respectful to immigrants as valuable assets to this country, and learn factual information about the way people get here.
“People are coming here to leave violence, among many other hardships. The system has made it impossible for hardworking, dedicated individuals to become citizens trying to live their best lives. It is not their fault that they are unable to obtain citizenship, but how this country has disregarded the fundamental rights all humans deserve,” Tibben-Lembke said.
Despite the trending negativity, Grace is an encouraging individual with high hopes for the future.
“People are voting, and participating in dialogue. They are not sitting and accepting things happening around them, but are actively doing something about it. That also gives me a lot of hope, and why I am very much an optimist,” Tibben-Lembke said.