‘The greatest growth always comes when ideas collide’ | ACC graduate selected for prestigious workshop

Marisela Perez Maita, a Journalism student at Austin Community College District (ACC) and a spring 2024 graduate, has been chosen as one of the 14 students nationwide to participate in the prestigious University of Chicago’s ‘The Point Program for Public Thinking Summer Workshop’. This fully funded, two-week workshop also offers college credit, marking a significant achievement in Marisela’s academic journey. 

She will join more than 3,000 students invited to participate in the Spring 2024 graduation Friday, May 17, at H-E-B Center at Cedar Park. 

Read more about this honor and what’s next for Marisela.

Written by: Marisela Perez Maita

The Point Program for Public Thinking is a summer workshop co-sponsored by The University of Chicago’s Parrhesia Program for Public Discourse and The Point Magazine. The first time I heard about it was after the Honors Program announced ACC alumni Angelica Ruzanova was accepted for the inaugural workshop. Since that moment, I told myself I would apply for their second session. I’m not exaggerating when I say I have been waiting since March of 2023 for this opportunity. That year, however, I still applied for many other Parrhesia Program summer courses and received a scholarship to attend the “Ethics in the Digital Age” remote course. In it, we discussed the work of philosophers, historians, anthropologists, and sociologists to explore technology as an integrated part of our everyday lives. After experiencing such a good summer course, I wanted to aim higher and apply for The Point Program once it was available again, which wasn’t hard to know because Dr. Anne Marie Thomas kindly sent the honors students the application as soon as it was open in January. 

This year, the workshop will explore “The Personal and the Political,” a topic that we examined in our own community college during the spring Great Question Seminars with the work of James Baldwin’s Down at the Cross and Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. I talked about both readings in my application for the Public Thinking Workshop and connected them with my experiences navigating politics, cultural values, and norms since I immigrated to the United States. I discussed, too how my role as a writer and officer of ACCENT, the student-led news team of ACC, has given me a purpose to advocate for dialogue and openness of mind. Every new idea we pitched and decided to write about in ACCENT, or conflict of interest we discussed and considered, challenged my established ways of thinking and helped me find new perspectives. To respectfully dialogue with people is to understand our values and beliefs more thoroughly, and I am looking forward to The Point Program for Public Thinking this summer to keep exploring freedom of thought and expression. 

The workshop’s final assignment will be to design a project to foster public conversation about the personal and the political on our own college campuses. My experience in my honors classes, the seminars, newsroom meetings with ACCENT, and many other student organization events has given me plenty of perspective on what makes a safe place to engage in meaningful and respectful conversations. I am grateful ACC has such a Liberal Arts environment that has enhanced my independent inquiry alongside students and faculty as curious as me. 

As an aspiring journalist, the workshop will be a key learning opportunity. Knowing how to observe, discern, and recount the reality we live in is a job that requires a lot of dedication and introspection. To have the opportunity to explore the most difficult questions to answer (how do we balance political allegiances with our intellectual, religious, and aesthetic values? Can we pursue dialogue, let alone maintain friendship and romance, across deep political disagreement?) will be a challenge that will help me understand the interconnectedness of human thought with its self and its environment, and most of all the “self” that allows to connect with others. The greatest growth always comes when ideas collide with each other, and it is up to the thinkers to unveil the truth together through dialogue. As a journalist, I want to be that bridge that allows more ideas and people to meet and recognize each other beyond the opposite views they may hold. 

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