First-year students participated in an annual tradition as part of their First Year Seminar (FYS) curriculum. This project, known as the Unity Project is an interactive art display, which, according to unityproject.net, aims to “show we are unique individuals connected by a common thread.”
The Unity Project is positioned in the center of campus and involves 32 poles arranged in a circle with each marked with an identifier. The identifier is a statement the participants can identify with covering ethnicity, economic background, gender identity and more. Using colored yarn as their thread, participants wrap the yarn around each pole displaying a statement with which they identify. The result is a web-like canopy that shows the uniqueness of the individual and how each person is connected to the others.
The Unity Project first came to Reinhardt in Spring 2017. By Fall 2018, it was added to FYS. “I believe that the Unity Project is a critical experience for our FYS students as it gives them an opportunity to think about who they are as individuals, as well as see the visual representation of who they are as first-year students and as Reinhardt community members,” said Dean of Students, Dr. Walter May.
Dr. May hopes that students who participate in the Unity Project see how “diversity builds a strong and vibrant community at Reinhardt. In truth, we need to understand and learn that the world is a colorful, vibrant place full of diverse people and experiences. We may each have different identities, values and experiences, but one common value shouldn’t be questionable: we have to respect that we are all different but are each part of a greater inclusive community. The Unity Project circle teaches this principle.”
That lesson was evident to students as the project grew over two days. Students enjoyed participating and watching as their classmates added to the structure. “I think it’s really interesting and a good thing for a group of people to do because you can see with all the different colors on the strings how everybody is connected in some way and then also so different,” said Macy Fulton ’25.
Gabriel Anderson ’25 admits that at first, he didn’t really know what the Unity Project was when it was discussed in class. After seeing the project in person and participating in it, he believes it shows “that we’re all different, come from different backgrounds; we have different stories.”
The timing of the Unity Project is just as important as the project itself. “The Unity Project is usually conducted around the time of the year that the nation commemorates the lives lost during the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. This year, the Unity project is even more relevant as it followed the 20th anniversary of the attacks,” said Lydia Laucella, Center for Innovative Teaching and Engaged Learning (CITEL) assistant director.
Laucella hopes that students take away “that we are all unique, that there are various dimensions of diversity that define all of us and make up the very fabric of who we are. By completing this project, our first-year students have physically and metaphorically woven a narrative of who they are as a freshmen class of 2021. What is more, they have done so in the spirit of remembering the lives lost on Sept. 11…this sculpture represents our ability to come together as a unified Reinhardt community to recognize and appreciate diversity.”