Students Homeless for a Night


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Shiza J. Manzoor |

Wednesday night was a cold one for some students, with the temperature falling as low as 44 degrees. Danylle Kunkel, Assistant Professor of Management at Radford University, assigned her students a lesson in empathy on Oct. 25th – an assignment that asked them to sit outside in the cold along with their peers with nothing but a few belongings to last them till seven a.m. Thursday morning.

About 71 students took part in the activity – for some, it was mandatory, for some, it meant extra credit. They were allowed their cardboard boxes, which some of them obtained through the stores on Tyler Ave., to help protect them from wind and rain, and to offer them warmth throughout the night.

They could layer up, but they were only allowed to bring one personal item: blanket or pillow, and, although a few students used their phones, the use of them was discouraged.

Kunkel added this exercise to the curriculum just this year, and the reason she did so was that she realized that students were “having a difficult time identifying social problems.” Through this, she hoped that these future business leaders would come to understand what it was like to walk in the shoes of the homeless and coming up with solutions that were more human-oriented. In two weeks’ time, they’d have to turn in a reflection paper based on this experience.

“I have class an hour after this ends at eight a.m., so I’ll be staying here, doing homework,” said Carlos Cruz, a senior marketing major at Radford University. “I have an assignment to turn in at 10 and then another class at 11.” When asked when he planned to go to sleep, he laughed and said, “Tomorrow night. That’s why I hope to get a little sleep here – whatever I get is fine. It is what it is, just one day without sleep, I can make it up.”

Kunkel made sure to cancel classes for the next day, so she and students could catch up on some sleep.