Meeting Notes

Cohort Meeting Notes for Week 2 (10/26-10/30/15)

 

 

We began by considering factors in our identities that shape our approaches to community engagement. Here is a summary of the factors that were shared:

 

  • I’m drawn to thinking about large-scale systems, and it’s hard to balance that with need for grassroots activism.

  • I feel out of place in academia, and enjoy the relief from its presumptions and tensions when working in the community.

  • Because I love talking with people, I assume that people want to talk with me.

  • I’m an advocate of non-violent communication, and want to be very aware of how ideas and feelings are flowing between me and the people with whom I teach and engage.

  • I’ve been pushed by minority activists to focus on the limitations of the dominant culture and economic system, rather than thinking I have special gifts to offer marginalized populations because I’m part of the dominant system.

  • Instead of trying to change systems, I subvert and/or go around them.

  • I’ve seen communities mobilize to protect themselves, and want ours to be similarly able.

  • I’ve always been the “other.”

  • I saw my neighborhood deteriorate after a change in government, and realize it was because of how people were taught to think about their civic responsibilities.

  • I’ve always been seen as a “trouble-maker” because I have a strong sense of justice.

  • I’ve always been independent and driven, and don’t have much experience working in communities and teams.

  • I’ve always moved around to new places, and now am ready to put down roots and build the kind of community relationships that I had growing up.

  • I’m conflict-avoidant, and am always looking for how to help groups find the common good.

  • I have a lot of practice being in the role of the teacher, so sometimes I take on that role whether I’m asked to or not.

  • My success in my field distanced me from the people in my small home town, and so I’m eager to rebuild a sense of belonging and community.

  • I grew up outside the U.S., and so want to develop a sense of belonging here.

  • I like to see the tangible outcomes of my work—to be able to see it and quantify it.

  • I like thinking about the big picture, but know that I’m privileged to do that because I don’t have to struggle for attention and resources.

  • I’m a non-native person, but am committed to supporting the sovereignty and empowerment of native peoples.

  • My high school teacher enabled me to pursue my passion, and I want to give other people a chance who might otherwise fall through the cracks.

  • I have a strong family background in volunteerism and mission work—this inspires me to action but also can make me too eager to try to help in inappropriate ways.

  • I’m from a family of teachers.

  • I want to show how a woman can excel in my field, because women are so marginalized.

  • My family engages in deep philosophical discussions, and I want my students to see the value of asking big questions and trying to live out the answers.

  • I was the first to attend college in my family, and have always felt like an outsider in academia.

  • I want my students to admire me.

  • I grew up in a university town and that academic culture feels normal to me.

  • I feel a sense of self-worth when I feel I can offer something valuable to those who need it.

  • I want people to know that my profession can do good in the world.

  • I grew up as a white person in disenfranchised minority communities. I was privileged but also discriminated against.

  • Graduate school gave me a tendency to distance myself from painful realities of the world by theorizing about or categorizing the situation.

  • I grew up in an organized, wealthy neighborhood, and people with quite different socio-economic backgrounds may have trouble relating with me.

  • I grew up in two different home cultures, and so am drawn to seeing how the same facts can be viewed and interpreted differently.

  • I’m a parent of young children, and feel the tension between my family and professional identities.

  • My parents were dedicated to service because of their religious convictions.

  • My parents weren’t able to be very involved in my schooling because of language barriers, and I want to help others avoid this problem.

  • I plan to run for elected office someday, and I think about how the relationships I’m forming will affect that effort for better or worse.

  • I’m an able-bodied white male, and am often perceived by marginalized people as powerful and well-connected, but also untrustworthy.

  • I have a tendency to always think that bigger is better, like many Americans.

  • I’m a new parent, and feel anxious to create a world that is healthy for my child.

  • I’m concerned that I’m leaving my children with a less free country than the one I grew up in.

  • I had teachers who looked out for me, and think every kid deserves a chance.

  • I’ve always lived my life on an academic calendar, and can forget that others do not.

  • I was part of a desegregated elementary school, and it showed me the power of a diverse community.

  • My life experience has shown me how valuable and useful my discipline is, and this inspires my work.I need to recognize that its importance may not be as evident to my students.

  • My hometown was not diverse or stimulating, and I rebelled and discovered the larger world. I want to help students push beyond the boundaries of our limited campus culture.

  • I like to be praised, and avoid criticism.

  • My father was a political activist—showed me how to stand up for my principles no matter the cost.

  • My family immigrated and had to work hard to develop a supportive community in our new home place.

  • My life’s work has been breaking down institutional barriers that prevent people from supporting each other and recognizing humanity of others.

  • I worked in the business world and encountered too many people who didn’t know how to .

  • I come from a culture that values service to society above the needs of the individual.

  • I’m a member of a religious minority that was excluded from education in my home country.

  • I always played outside as a child, and think we all are better the more we’re engaged in the real world.

  • I see education as way of building world peace.

  • I sense that the system is hostile and destructive because so many voices are left out.

  • I learned early on that some people are truly disadvantaged.

  • I want to learn to balance my western education with my indigenous values and background.

  • As a high schooler I found my own path to get me out of a traumatic family situation.

  • I’m the youngest in a big family, and always like to work in the background making good things happen.

  • I’ve never been motivated by leaders or coaches who yell; I prefer gentle prodding and encouragement.

  • I’m trying to dis-identify with my identity, because I worry that identity politics lead us to demonize others.

 

 

We then discussed what advice we’d share, and give ourselves, about how to become better prepared to do effective, ethical community-engaged work.

 

Here is a summary of those tidbits of wisdom:

 

  • See students as an asset for effectively engaging the community.

  • Separate “engagement” from “service.”

  • Start small. Start successful.

  • Ask for help. Admit what you don’t know.

  • Trust others to care as much as you, and have as much to offer.

  • Pay attention to power relationships.

  • Value the margins, and the marginalized.

  • People are your teachers, not your subjects.

  • Start by looking in the mirror.

  • Keep reminding yourself of the big questions.

  • Observe deeply. Do nothing right away (instead listen, reflect, and learn).

  • Listen openly. Listen first. Listen more than you talk.

  • Understand that you have real impacts, even on day one.

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously.

  • Reveal your complex self, and see the complexities in others.

  • Be available, but have boundaries.

  • Expect difficulties, and for things to be “messy.” Give yourself a chance to do better.

  • Practice self-care (this includes getting enough sleep). “An empty well cannot give.”

  • Question respectfully.

  • Acknowledge your expectations, and those of your students and community partners.

  • Check in often.

  • Be humble, reverent, and patient.

  • Be collegial; talk with the people down the hall.

  • “Every idea is utopian until we turn it into social practice.”— Remember to begin.

  • Be open to new ideas and methods.

  • Avoid the cult of the iconic hero.

  • Link engagement work with other teaching and research obligations.

  • Be realistic about how much time you have. Make a timetable, and then multiply by 3.

  • Lean into existing connections—recognize you’re already part of “we.”

  • Step up, and step back.

  • Learn the history, but don’t be beholden to it.

  • Learn the names of the people you work with.

  • Bring food to share.

  • Invite your community partners to your house for dinner.

  • Make the process of relationship-building fun.

  • Find wise guides and mentors—especially elders.

  • Be honest about your intentions and capacities.

  • Write down what others talk about and care about.

 

 

We concluded by sharing specific actions we plan to take to prepare ourselves to propose a project by the beginning of winter quarter. These actions included:

 

  • Learning the culture and operating procedures of my institution better.

  • Talking with staff of a local office of a federal agency.

  • Spending more time in downtown Bellingham.

  • Following up on an invitation from colleagues at another institution.

  • Going to a city council meeting.

  • Talking with a colleague I met at a conference.

  • Talking with a colleague on campus that teaches the same course.

  • Talking with local business leader.

  • Taking a Geographic Information Systems course.

  • Digging into the resources in the Washington State Archives on campus.

  • Identifying community members with a particular condition.

  • Connecting with a national organization about starting a local chapter.

  • Deciding which of my many ideas I’m going to pursue.

  • Following up with the Center for Service-Learning about partners.

  • Reflecting on the outcomes and structure of an event I’m hosting.

  • Reading a particular book.

  • Restoring connections with a First Nations group.

  • Re-thinking an assignment in my spring course.

  • Learning how to make a Facebook page.

  • Talking with a local business network.

  • Learning about online teaching.

Our programming takes place on the ancestral homelands of the Coast Salish Peoples, who have lived in the Salish Sea basin, throughout the San Juan Islands and the North Cascades watershed, from time immemorial. We express our deepest respect and gratitude for our indigenous neighbors, particularly the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.

(For more information: WWU Tribal Relations)

Thank you to the numerous organizations that have empowered and continue to support this collaborative effort through co-sponsoring events and providing meeting space, expertise, and communication support. Special thanks to Eastern Washington University, Northwest Indian College, University of Puget Sound, Whatcom County Library System, and Whiteswan Environmental for their ongoing dedication to the work.

©2020 Community Engagement Fellows