Visionaries - Changing the World One Story at a Time

Presenting our 19th Season on Public Television

Association of College Unions International

Building Campus Community - Episode 1901

Some things are woven so integrally into the fabric of our society that they go unnoticed...unappreciated, yet often it is these threads that hold our society together. Such is true in the non-profit world. We see the colorful, relief workers in exotic foreign lands or the urban street workers feeding the hungry and housing the homeless and we marvel.

But, in a way, their stories are easy to tell. The these of stories follow the unheralded who have changed the lives of millions of young people across a century. The organization is called Association of College Unions International...ACUI.

Every day, on hundreds of college campuses around the world, members of this organization are introducing thousands of students to experiences that have the power to change their lives and ultimately the very nature of our world.

Part 1: University of Wisconsin

It’s homecoming day at the University of Wisconsin and there may be no time or place to better witness the remarkable role a college union can play in building community and inspiring a generation of future leaders.

In 1914, students from seven colleges came together to wonder aloud what might happen if learning was extended beyond the classroom. They imagined a welcoming, physical space, on campus, where ideas and feelings could be exchanged to give meaning to facts learned in the classroom and in books.

Wisconsin Union was one of those seven colleges and you about to see the idea in full bloom.

Part 2: Davidson College

Once we gathered around a fire. In that flickering light we shared our fears and our dreams. In doing so we began to feel like we belonged. That emotion… belonging is what community is made of. It is also the raw material out of which a college union is built.

We take you now to the hearth around which the union at Davidson College in North Carolina is constructed. It’s a small liberal arts school where students give meaning to the lessons they learn in classrooms by creating a community in which individuality and differences of opinion are honored, like instruments in an orchestra.

Association of College Unions International

Broadening Campus Community - Episode 1902

We can all grasp the notion that there are institutions in our lives that have the power to make us better by providing the physical space and organizational support to bring people together in a way that enlightens the individual and bonds a group…sometimes for life. Youth organizations, fraternal clubs and religious and community centers come to mind. What you may not know is that for the last hundred years an organization called ACUI, Association of College Unions International, has raised the concept of emotional learning to an art-form that complements and gives meaning to classroom education while allowing students to learn how to contribute to the greater good.

Part 1: University of Vermont

It is one thing to go to college and learn about lofty issues like environmental sustainability. It is quite another to live it. For a hundred years college unions on thousands of campuses have been the ideological laboratories for important social causes from civil rights to world peace.

At the University of Vermont, the college union is more than a place to think about the environment, it is a living example of what sustainability looks and feels like. But it is also a place that reflects the culture and ideas of the community in which it resides.

Part 2: California State University–Northridge

The College Union is the place on thousands of college campuses where students, faculty and the wider community come together to interact and learn from each other outside the classroom. Don’t think melting pot. That analogy suggested a lot of ingredients churning into one thing.

At California State University–Northridge, the union serves as the visionary force that honors each individual and values diversity, braiding together different lives and experiences and then fastening them into a knot through friendships, discussions, and cooperation.

Crane Trust - Episode-1903

We called them pioneers. The men and women who dared to go west. When they arrived in the place we now call Nebraska, they were memorized by the stunning beauty of lush grasslands brimming with life. It was awe-inspiring because the prairie seemed to go on forever.

But now this prairie is being challenged by the world’s demand for food and the once endless grassland is now abundant in corn that feeds the world. It is estimated that ninety-nine percent of the tall grass prairie and the habitat that was home to thousands of species is gone forever.

But the good news is, a new breed of pioneer is on the last vestiges of prairie. They are in places like the Crane Trust in Grand Isle, Nebraska where 10,000 acres of prairie is being nurtured back to its original state by a dynamic group of environmental scientists and government agencies-- working with local farmers and ranchers toward ensuring that future generations can experience the prairie as their ancestors once did.

We take you now to the only place in North America where half a million sandhill cranes are drawn to roost on their spectacular annual migration.

Jewish Homes Foundation - Episode 1904

It seems like the really tough stuff never has an easy answer. Magic bullets can’t cure cancer. And, at least for now, the scourge of Alzheimer's disease can’t be addressed with a pill or a treatment.

What is needed, in every community in America, is a continuum of professional services that are delivered by people who genuinely care. So, you wonder… what would that look and feel like? It would look like home, and would feel like family.

We take you now to Rockleigh, New Jersey to meet the people behind The Jewish Home Family. It is an extraordinary organization that begins by helping the victims of Alzheimer’s stay in their homes for as long as possible. But, Alzheimer's is a progressive disease. It always gets worse. So at The Jewish Home Family, regardless of your religious heritage, you have a home and a family and a level of care we all want for our loved ones.

TreePeople - Episode 1905A

There is a danger in the story you are about to see. It’s that you might not see the forest for the trees.

Forty years ago, a teenager from LA began organizing thousands of people to plant trees to restore the forests around Los Angeles that were being killed by the smog that engulfed the city.  Today, the air is improving, but Andy Lipkis, his organization TreePeople, and joined by more than two million people, have in spectacular fashion, planted over two million trees in and around LA.

But that is the trees. The forest is far more remarkable. The great truth that can be obscured by TreePeople's singular accomplishments is that Andy Lipkis has found a way through the bewildering wilderness of the urban environment to discover a solution to climate change.  

Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy - Episode 1905B

Public Education in America is going through a period of great introspection. Everything from standardized testing to the length of the school day is up for debate. 

Today Visionaries begins a series of programs that looks beyond the controversies to take you inside schools that offer new models that give us insight into the impact a school can have on young people and the society they will soon lead. 

You are about to meet Irasema Salcido who will take us on a journey through a school day at the Chavez schools in Washington DC. We will meet students from every walk of life who come together in four schools to discover the power they have to make a positive impact on the course of local, national and world events.