On Thursday afternoon, students engaged in conversations with peers and Fairfield University community members posing as human “books” about social stereotypes and celebrating our differences at the Dimenna-Nyselius Library.
The library hosted Fairfield University’s fourth Annual Human Library event on Nov. 7 from 1-4:30 p.m. According to the library’s website dedicated to this organization, “The Human Library is designed to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue. ‘Human Books’ are Fairfield University students, faculty, staff and alumni who have volunteered to share their story to break down barriers based on race, religion, sexual orientation, class, gender identity, lifestyle choices, disability or other aspects of their life.”
Junior Cynthia Moyano was a ‘Human Book’ whose title was “Low Income Students Can’t Succeed.” Her title was a stereotype she hoped to break through her discussion with fellow students. She spoke about her experience both applying to and transitioning into college, and the challenges she faced as a first-generation, low-income student.
Growing up in Bridgeport, Moyano explained that her mom decided to make the sacrifices necessary to send her to a private school so that she would have a better chance of getting into college. However, her path to college was not easy, and she described the obstacles she faced, application fees being at the top.
“I was constantly asking schools to give me a fee waiver, and I hated it. I would be so embarrassed,” Moyano said.
Aside from the embarrassment she felt, Moyano also explained that due to her financial status, she had to limit the number of schools that she had to apply to, and she had to base her final decision on what school offered the most financial aid. Additionally, she explained that her financial situation did not stop impacting her just because she got into college. She said that her transition was rough because her high school did not offer the best resources or opportunities, making her “ill-prepared” for the academic reality of college.
That being said, Moyano worked through the challenges and has been successful in her Fairfield career. Moyano is a student leader, a member of the rugby team and was able to study abroad. She expressed that she is grateful that she has been able to do all of these things.
“I found my place,” she said. “It just takes time.”
Moyano explained what led her to share her story as a ‘Human Book,’ saying, “I want to be someone that somebody that may be in the same position as me can look at and say, ‘if she can do it, I can do it too.’”
“It’s okay to have those ups and downs, it’s okay to have struggles, it’s okay to have a different background than everyone else,” she added.
Moyano was just one of the many “Human Books,” available for students to “checkout” on Thursday afternoon. Other titles included, “The New Normal-ish,” “Proud Mother of A Gay Son” and “What is A Refugee?”
Lisa Thornell, the Student Engagement and Outreach Librarian, and co-chair of the event, said that The Human Library usually is attended by 300 to 400 students each year, and that first year students can swipe in for an FYE Thrive credit after completing a reflection.
“This experience opened up my eyes about specific issues that happen not only here on our campus, but elsewhere, far and wide,” said Olivia Mahoney ‘23.
First-year Samantha Whitman said, “I thought it was pretty neat. Not only did our ‘book’ talk about her own personal experience, but we talked about many different things, and stuff that was bothering us all. We realized we are not in this alone.”
Thornell explained that The Human Library began in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2000. It has now spread to 85 countries throughout the world. She added that Fairfield’s event has been looked upon as a model by many schools in the area such as Central Connecticut State University.