It’s a set of seemingly random letters with a purpose.

YANA, which stands for You Are Not Alone, is a new club housed within UNM’s Communication and Journalism (C&J) Department.

The mission of YANA is within the name–to make students of all ages on UNM’s campus understand their struggles do not have to be handled by themselves.

The group is headed by Professor Heidi Ricci, who was inspired to expand her classes on conflict management to extracurriculars. She understood after over 20 years as a mediator and a professor, opening emotional doors and sharing can be monumental.

“I found that it really brought all my classes so much closer. We had just a really amazing. close-knit community. It's just connecting, having a safe place to talk and be heard,” she said.

A one-time YANA campus walk aimed to share that message through walking and handing out hundreds of stickers. The need became clearer then, to create a real, safe space for students to meet new people, share what’s been eating them up inside, and learn from one another.

“It’s not easy to make friends in college. We can’t really talk to each other because we don’t know who we are. We’re all studying different things, and on these different paths, but shouldn't that connect us all?” club secretary Ginger Bauman said.

She, and the other members of the executive board, spent their summer with Ricci devising a plan to make this club a prominent part of student activity this semester, and for years to come.

YANA team booth

“I want what I wish I had. We're not offering therapy. Just to have a place that's led by other students, to have a group that specifically is like I know exactly what you are talking about is great,” club social media manager Joey Wagner said.

Ricci also offers the critical basics of conflict mediation and management to the YANA Club.

The core components include things like:

  • Active listening- listening to understand rather than listening to defend

  • Acknowledging- just addressing someone's feelings 

  • Summarizing- repeat and sum up what they say to let them know they’ve been heard

  • Reframe- you take the negative out and express what you’re feeling without malice

Mediators, Wagner says, are not there to tell you what to do, they're there to direct two people to come to a conclusion together on their own. 

Both Bauman and Wagner agree, now as certified mediators, they have learned a lot about how they handle conflict. That’s a skill set they intend to use in their careers.

“If I could help other people that’s great, but knowing how to work through it myself is something that's quite valuable,” Wagner said.

It’s important, they all agree to not just look at your neighbor, but to look inward. 

“The conflict we talk about is not just about interpersonal, it’s really intrapersonal because all conflict ends up going internally, and that's where the battle is,” Ricci said.

YANA conflict management training

She encourages journaling, finding common ground with others, and growing together. In turn, the world can grow to be a little less divided.

Now the YANA Club is looking ahead. Organizers hope to expand their campus footprint through workshops, podcasts, monthly activities, and the YANA walk.

“We're trying to build this form of connection for all forms of life. We’re making this community to be students together, but also be humans together at the same time,” Bauman said.

Learn more about the YANA Club on its Instagram page. The next meeting is Oct. 22 in the C&J Building.