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ASPLU religious relations director brings global awareness and action through campus programs and events


Shelley Johnson ’07 said she’s receiving much more than a strong liberal arts education at PLU. As ASPLU’s religious relations director, the 20-year-old junior from Tualatin, Ore., has discovered her enthusiasm for bringing global awareness to campus.

I want to be a voice for those who don't have one. My goal is not just for my time at PLU. This is what I want to do in my life. - SHELLEY JOHNSON '07

“It’s something I’m really passionate about,” Johnson said. “I really wanted to be involved in raising global awareness, even if I wasn’t in a leadership position.”

Before coming to PLU in 2003 as a freshman, Johnson said she wasn’t particularly attuned to international or global issues.

“I wasn’t involved in leadership in high school,” Johnson said. “If it wasn’t for PLU, I probably wouldn’t be exposed to the importance of global awareness.”

When Johnson was elected an ASPLU senator for the ’04-’05 academic year, her interest in world events and issues was sparked. Johnson explained that her inspiration stemmed mostly from former ASPLU president Joel Zylstra’s ’05 desire to establish a campus global awareness team.

“I noticed a weakness in myself,” Johnson said. “The idea of a global awareness team opened my eyes to bigger global issues.”

In the spring of 2005, a group was established to help inform students about the importance of becoming global citizens. At the heart of this new team was former religious relations director and Johnson’s predecessor, Dan Donohoue ’05.

“There isn’t an ASPLU position dedicated to global awareness, so the need for action was great,” Donohoue said. “The hardest part of motivating students to take ownership of global awareness issues is getting the word out. Posters just don’t work anymore, so we needed to figure out alternative ways to get students excited about this stuff.”

By the end of the ’04-’05 school year, the team, which consisted of only a handful of students including Johnson, had successfully sponsored a benefit concert for the Indonesian tsunami relief fund, as well as an AIDS awareness campaign called “Lives at Stake.”

The team’s success has continued this academic year in the form of another AIDS awareness campaign. This event, organized by Johnson in October 2005, involved about 350 students and faculty across campus wearing bright orange T-shirts with the word “orphan” written across the front.

In proportional terms, each “orphan” on campus that day represented roughly 100,000 children in sub-Saharan Africa, at least one-third of whom have been orphaned as a result of the AIDS virus. According to the United Nations, some 34 million children in the region today are orphans. That number is projected to rise to more than 40 million by 2010.

By drawing attention to such issues through campus programs and events, Johnson hopes to inspire those who have under-informed views about the importance of global education.

“There are so many great opportunities at PLU,” Johnson said. “But I think sometimes all we’re given clouds our vision of others in greater need.”

For Johnson, however, the vision is clear. She wants to build a foundation that will help PLU’s global awareness team last well into the future.

“Awareness is the first step; actions are the second step,” Johnson said. “Taking the next step is the ultimate goal.”

As Johnson has become more aware of global issues, her passion for activism has developed into more than just a short-term interest. After she completes a business degree at PLU, Johnson plans to work in Africa with a non-profit outreach organization.

“I want to be a voice for those who don’t have one,” Johnson said. “My goal is not just for my time at PLU. This is what I want to do in my life.”

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© Scene 2006  •  Pacific Lutheran University  •  Spring 2006

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