Thursday, May 24, 2018

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Stephanie Wahl

Ohio University Zanesville senior Stephanie Wahl is seen with one of the containers of candy Z Bobcat Bucket List placed around campus to lift people’s spirits.

Photographer: Christine Shaw

Z Bobcat Bucket List

Members of Z Bobcat Bucket List left this package of goodies for an instructor on the Zanesville Campus.

Photographer: Jeni Gaswint

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Zanesville student launches random acts of kindness program on campus

Z Bobcat Bucket List focuses on student unity, building a sense of community

Ohio University Zanesville student Stephanie Wahl isn’t one for regrets.

Wahl doesn’t regret leaving her longtime career as a business representative to pursue a degree in social work at the Zanesville Campus. And as she works to complete her senior year at the Zanesville Campus, she knows she doesn’t want to end her college experience with regrets. It is a premise that prompted her to create an initiative designed to connect students on the campus while helping to lift people’s spirits.

With graduation looming, Wahl admits that she began her senior year feeling as though she lacked the renowned Bobcat pride of OHIO students and alumni. She made it her goal to feel more connected to her school. The result is what the Zanesville Campus community now knows as Z Bobcat Bucket List.

The mission of Z Bobcat Bucket List is to encourage and promote student unity, increase Bobcat pride and create positive energy on campus through random acts of kindness.

“I literally woke up one night thinking, this is my senior year and I don’t feel connected to my school,” Wahl explained. “I do my class work and I go home and I’m mom, but this is my only shot at a college experience.”

At the same time, Wahl’s friend and fellow Zanesville student Laura Waggle, a senior studying education, was celebrating her birthday by performing random acts of kindness for others. Wahl saw Waggle’s random acts of kindness as the perfect way to fulfill her quest for Bobcat pride.

“I thought it was so awesome that that was what she wanted to do for her birthday and realized it was something that I could do here on campus,” said Wahl.

The idea was also fueled by Wahl’s social work studies in class and her experiences during an internship with a local child welfare agency.

“You’re constantly being hit with staggering statistics on abuse, poverty, neglect, and honestly it can be paralyzing,” said Wahl of pursuing a degree in social work. “Z Bobcat Bucket List for me is a way of putting my feelings to action. By myself, I am not going to solve the nation’s poverty problems today, but what can I do today? I know I can make somebody smile.”

Wahl and Waggle began performing random acts of kindness for students, faculty and staff throughout the Zanesville Campus this past fall. They hung Post-it notes with handwritten messages of encouragement throughout the campus. Post-it messages such as “Celebrate your achievements this semester” and “You’ve got what it takes” could be found on everything from bathroom mirrors to chalkboards to computer keyboards. Each message was signed “Z Bobcat Bucket List.”

When Christine Shaw, public relations coordinator and interim director of continuing education at the Zanesville Campus, heard about Z Bobcat Bucket List, she wanted to get involved and had pre-printed Post-its and magnets made. According to Shaw, people sometimes think that regional campus students don’t have the opportunity to have the full college experience. Z Bobcat Bucket List, she said, proves just the opposite.

“Stephanie's project is an example of the creative ways students benefit from the small campus feel and engage one another,” Shaw said. “When students encourage one another and show genuine appreciation to their faculty in small and personal ways, the feel of the campus changes.”

Shaw’s favorite part of the project has been hearing the reactions to the random acts of kindness from members of the campus community. She recalled an instance in which one student read a note that said, “You are beautiful just the way you are.”

“I heard a student say, ‘I just read the nicest thing on a note. It made my day.’ She was beaming ear to ear as she headed off to take a midterm exam,” said Shaw. “What Z Bobcat Bucket List does makes people's day in little ways."

In addition to posting positive messages and words of encouragement, Wahl and Waggle have placed goodie bags throughout the campus, given apples to professors and distributed Frisbees around campus with the message “Get out and enjoy the sunshine.” According to Waggle, there are even plans for a Z Bobcat Bucket List flash mob this spring.

Z Bobcat Bucket List has even spread to another Ohio University campus. According to Shaw, Sara Secoy, a student studying social work at the Lancaster Campus and who had a class on the Zanesville Campus, is bringing the positive messages delivered through Post-it notes initiative to the Lancaster Campus.

While Wahl’s and Waggle’s Z Bobcat Bucket List adventure will end after their graduation this spring, the duo hopes their random acts of kindness project will continue, whether through Z Bobcat Bucket List Facebook page or simply by word of mouth.

“We hope it will be something self-sustaining and next year’s students can pick up where we left off, and hopefully it’ll keep going for a really long time,” said Waggle. “I am really excited about the sense of community I see developing on campus as a result of the group's efforts.”

Whether Z Bobcat Bucket List continues after Wahl and Waggle graduate, it is clear that Wahl’s desire to connect with her campus has also brought smiles to the faces of countless members of the Ohio University Zanesville community.

“I have reached the goal that I set out to achieve,” said Wahl. “I feel more involved and connected to the student body and Bobcat community. I know that I have brightened someone’s day, and, in doing so, I have taught myself that I can truly make a positive difference.”