By Celeste Huecias and Julia Terbeche
Students decked out in Dunder Mifflin t-shirts lined up outside of the Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center for Associated Students Inc.’s “An Evening With” featuring Rainn Wilson and Shabnam Mogharabi.
Wilson and Mogharabi both self-hosted the ASI Beach Pride event Tuesday night. The two shared the story about their project SoulPancake as well as discussed Wilson’s experience with his role on the hit television comedy, “The Office.”
“I really feel a great rapport with college students,” Wilson said. “I feel like they’re the future. Our planet is hurting, and this is turning on some minds and some hearts into some new ways into looking at things.”
Wilson explained to an audience of about 300 students that the internet only shows the worst humanity has to offer. Once he and Mogharabi met, they knew that they would be able to create SoulPancake to be a fun and safe platform to explore life’s biggest questions and promote the best of humanity.
SoulPancake is described as a media organization that chews on life’s big questions. The organization creates video content that celebrates positivity.
“SoulPancake was like my brain-child,” Wilson said.
Wilson and Mogharabi identified three key tips to encourage students struggling with loneliness and depression.
First, they emphasized that joy is not a bad word. Students should express positivity and empathy. Second is the importance of practicing gratitude, and third is requiring vulnerability to make meaningful human connections.
Despite that the night was focused on SoulPancake, many students were drawn to the event because of Wilson’s well-known role as Dwight Schrute on “The Office.”
Insha Khan, a third-year communications major, attended the “An Evening With” event to see Wilson in person for the first time.
“That show was a big part of something that me and my sisters would watch together, and even now I feel like [the show] has a longevity to it where people now, even young people, watch it,” Khan said.
Khan was not the only student whose love for “The Office” drew them to the event.
Several attendees brought their favorite Dunder Mifflin memorabilia to show their appreciation for the show as well as the quirky character that Wilson played.
Toward the end of the program, Wilson addressed “The Office” fans as he boasted about black bears, cited his favorite episode, “The Injury,” and mentioned his favorite prank being when Jim moved Dwight’s desk into the men’s restroom. This prompted major fans in the audience to cheer.
Throughout the night, Mogharabi and Wilson challenged students with complex questions with the intention of changing their perspectives about life.
Students were given sheets of paper to jot down their biggest challenges as well as the people that bring them the most joy in life. From there, members of the crowd folded their sheets into paper airplanes and tossed them into the sea of students.
This exercise allowed students to understand the struggle everyone faces in life and that they are not alone. Audience members were vulnerable with their responses and empathetic to the ones they read.
“This is maybe my favorite thing in the world to do,” Wilson said. “To talk about the issues that SoulPancake is digging into and to talk to college students.”
Watch our video coverage of the event!
Video by: Julia Terbeche & Celeste Huecias