Student Spotlight: Audrey Ruark
by Sabbaye McGriff
Audrey Ruark never would have imagined that in just one short year as a…
(Oct 8, 2009) —
by Sabbaye McGriff
Audrey Ruark never would have imagined that in just one short year as a student at
Kennesaw State she would be leading a campus-wide effort for an international organization
dedicated to eliminating global poverty.
Nor did she believe that after enrolling at KSU last fall as a first-year student,
she would have a chance within one year to confer in Washington, D.C with 99 other
student leaders from across the U.S. and return there for training to help campuses
throughout Georgia and Alabama mount successful global anti-poverty initiatives.
Yet this sophomore from Milledgeville, Ga., who is now “very close” to declaring International
Affairs as her major, has quickly stepped onto the world stage, embracing KSU’s “get
global” and engaged citizenship aspirations as her own.
“It still blows my mind that I’m the leader of something this great,” says Ruark,
whose only conscious step in the direction of a dream-come-true collegiate experience
was enrolling in a ONE-themed learning community that included a section of the globally
focused first-year seminar course.
According to its Web site, ONE is a global advocacy and campaigning organization with
more than 2 million backers worldwide dedicated to fighting extreme poverty and preventable
diseases, particularly in Africa. Although it is a broad coalition of people and organizations,
ONE has been very closely associated with its famous co-founder, Bono, and fellow
entertainer/activists Bob Geldof and Dave Mathews. Their series of “Live 8” concerts
in 2005 succeeded in pressuring leaders attending the G8 Summit to cancel debts and
double aid to Africa by 2010.
As KSU’s ONE Campus Challenge leader, Ruark initiated a series of campus projects
that have catapulted her to the leadership ranks, earning her the privilege of attending
ONE’s Power Summit in Washington, D.C. last February and a special training in August
to become a ONE campus outreach ambassador — one of the youngest among 14 nationwide.
In the last year, Ruark has succeeded in having KSU President Daniel Papp declare
KSU a ONE campus; spoken to 10 classes about global poverty and the ONE campaign;
set up tables at campus events and passed out literature;
; organized the sale of fair-trade and survivor-made goods, raising $1,300 for the Not
for Sale Campaign against human trafficking; and coordinated with local ONE representatives
to have Atlanta designated a “City of ONE.” In addition, on October 1, she collaborated
with Toms Shoes to organize a one-mile, barefoot walk around the KSU Green to raise
money to buy shoes for children in undeveloped countries. Toms Shoes sponsors a national
philanthropy to donate a pair of shoes for each pair it sells. More than 130 students,
staff and faculty participated in the walk, raising nearly $1,000 for the cause.
As a result of Ruark’s efforts, KSU was ranked 12th among more than 1,000 colleges participating in ONE’s national Campus Challenge,
which offers an alluring top prize. Last year, the No.1-ranked school won a campus
concert by Vampire Weekend, Rolling Stone’s 2008 pick for best new band. In addition, Ruark stands a good chance of being among
the top 20 campus challenge leaders to be selected to go to Africa in summer 2010.
While the trip, prize and recognition are great motivators, they are not the only
things fueling Ruark’s passion to make KSU a top ONE campus and help other schools
join the challenge.
“I love doing it,” Ruark said of organizing the events. “When I set up a table, the
first question I ask people when they stop by is: ‘Did you know that one in six people
in the world live on less than $1 a day?’ So many people just don’t know the scope
of poverty in the world. I’m glad I can help educate them.”
Like many global engagement opportunities for KSU students, Ruark’s emanated from
collaboration between university departments, faculty and staff. In this case, Karen
Heilmann,civic engagement coordinator for KSU’s Center for Student Leadership, presented the ONE Campus Challenge to a globally focused first-year seminar led by
Keisha Hoerrner, chair of First-Year Programs in the University College.
“Audrey stepped up right away to serve as the ONE Campus Challenge leader at KSU,”
Hoerrner said. “The rest is history. She has taken this further than Karen and I dreamed
to sign up for the ONE Campus Challenge and select Kennesaw State University to help
send Audrey Ruark to Africa.
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.