In Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope, bell hooks advises readers to “work against the danger of evoking something we don’t challenge ourselves to actually practice” (2003, 163). Each time I reread hooks’ book, I think about how this quote applies to our work in student affairs and how our work impacts those around us. Working in an office that is focused on social justice and helping students to develop their activist identities exacerbates the importance of having our staff model the way for our students, especially when it comes to creating relationships and partnerships on campus.
We have always encouraged our student organizations to partner and build relationships with other clubs and organizations to increase the reach and impact of their programs. Last semester, one of our students gave a presentation about the changes they would like to make to improve the Women’s Resource Center. The student said that they would love to see us partner with the other cultural and resource centers on campus to create a more connected network of allies for social justice and inclusivity – something that our office is supposed to already do. At that moment, my supervisor and I looked at each other and realized that we weren’t challenging ourselves to create strategic campus partnerships to work to improve the campus climate.
On any campus, especially one the size of my current institution, it becomes easy to operate within a silo. We tend to forget that our division on campus is a part of much larger organizational puzzle and it is important to strategically partner ourselves with others to strive to create a campus climate that is equitable and inclusive. This upcoming year, our office is intentionally rebuilding our relationships with our campus partners to work towards our broader social justice goals. I’ve learned in the past year about intentionality and the importance of challenging myself to be a better educator and advocate. In order for our best work to be done, we must be able to practice what we challenge our students and each other to do.