Mr. Hudson’s Neighborhood
How one alum is making his corner of the world a friendly place
by Michelle Barber Lyhnakis (MPC ’06)
It’s a beautiful day in Austin Hudson’s (’08) South Jordan, Utah, neighborhood. While the sun is shining and the birds are chirping, the primary reason the day is so beautiful is that Austin has made it his mission to build a community devoted to kindness.
“Fred Rogers is my man,” Austin says, thinking about the person who inspires him most. “I grew up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. He encouraged us to get to know our neighbors, to be courteous and considerate, to become friends.”
Austin is a graphic designer by trade, working for Nutshell Marketing in West Valley City, Utah, since graduating from Westminster. His work received international attention when a poster he designed after the 2016 presidential election popped up in areas with large refugee populations.
Austin’s poster depicting Uncle Sam extending his hand with the words “You Belong Here” has been translated into 16 languages and downloaded all over the globe. The posters serve as a reminder that all Americans are loved and welcomed in this country.
“Kindness is not a political value; it’s an American value,” Austin says. He got the idea for the poster campaign in the days after the election when people he cared about in his neighborhood became silent. “They were not leaving their homes; they were not posting on social media. I knew they felt unsafe. I wanted them to know people in our community wanted them.”
He started by hanging the posters at a local elementary school; then friends called him to hang them in other locations and post them on social media. The posters went viral in a matter of days, and Austin got requests to put them online and translate them.
The “You Belong Here” poster is just one example of how Austin is actively building an inclusive and caring community. More than a year ago, he started camp Oquisojo, a nonprofit community-service organization proving small acts of kindness can have a powerful impact.
“I always wanted to go to summer camp but didn’t have the opportunity as a kid, so I decided to create my own,” Austin says.
He believes people want to serve others, and kindness does not have to be complicated.
“Camp Oquisojo gives people a framework to make change, create community, and live happier lives.”
The concept is simple: Austin posts a camp challenge on the group’s Facebook page. Challenges include things like writing a thank-you letter to people working in service industries on holidays, letting someone take your spot in a checkout line, or paying the lunch balance for students at a local elementary school. Austin even hand-delivers merit badges to campers who go the extra mile in completing challenges. Austin says the project has been a lot of fun, giving him the opportunity to know his neighbors and see positive impacts in his community. Austin was recently recognized as one of three nominees for the City of South Jordan’s 2016 Community Hero Award.
You can learn more about Austin at AustinHudson.com.
About the Westminster Review
The Westminster Review is Westminster University’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.