Reflecting on a Year of Community Building and Collaboration

14 May 2019

As the academic year comes to a close, fellows from each focus area reflect on challenges they faced, lessons they learned, and strategies they developed for building community and encouraging students involvement. Despite approaching their work from different perspectives, all four fellows emphasized the unanticipated challenges of increasing student involvement in CCCE programming, raising awareness about the work of community partners on campus, and fostering community among volunteers.

According to Health and Wellbeing Fellow Juliette Bobrow, “students volunteer with individual programs but don’t necessarily identify with the programming that goes on a larger level within our focus area, which is why getting people excited about their role has been a bit of a struggle.” Peace and Conflict Fellow Mallika Dargan agrees that lack of visibility is an obstacle to community building, observing that most people are unaware that community engagement is a part of other students’ lives here at Carleton. In order to increase visibility and encourage student involvement, Bobrow strives to raise awareness about the work of community partners through events such as the recent Careers in Sexual Health Panel. “The reason people potentially aren’t getting involved in certain programs is that they don’t know about the work that is being done and it is our job to communicate what that work is.”  To share your own stories and experiences click here!

Similarly, Environmental Systems Fellow Alle Brown-Law aspires to a multifaceted approach that engages people on multiple levels. “As much as you care about a certain issue your passion alone is not going to get people involved, and acknowledging that has been really important for me this year. My job is to connect people and I need to work on finding ways to do that well.” One way to forge these connections is through good communication, which all four fellows agree is the key to strong relationships. In her ongoing engagement with student volunteers and community partners in Northfield and Faribault schools, Education Fellow Nayoung Kwak strives to be a trustworthy and reliable source of support through consistent communication and notes of appreciation. She has found that consistency and reliability lead to the strongest relationships in the after-school programs she supervises.

Another way fellows connect with others is through collaborative projects. As the only fellow in her cohort, Dargan has experience with collaboration. Last term she organized a collaborative podcast listening series between Peace and Conflict and Environmental Systems about the Keystone pipeline. Dargan strives “to connect people to each other or to things that interest them, bringing them to an opportunity that they otherwise would not have had.” By offering an intersectional perspective, the podcast listening series brought in a unique audience, involving students who otherwise would not have participated. Likewise, Brown-Law reflects that “the best interactions and relationships that I have formed this year have been by being open to collaboration.” Working at the CCCE has pushed her to ask how she can involve and prioritize others, becoming a mediator and supporter of new ideas.

Collaborations within and between cohorts have been instrumental in the work of these fellows. The potential for such opportunities is increased by the focus area model, which has had a profound impact on the success of programming. Having previously worked alone, Bobrow reflects that “having two other people to bounce ideas off of and collaborate with has been so much better and has taught me values of teamwork and how we can each use our strengths to get something done together.” As they transition into life after Carleton, graduating seniors Dargan, Bobrow and Kwak plan to implement lessons learned about community engagement in order to take initiative and play active roles in their new communities. Thinking ahead to her next year at the CCCE, Brown-Law aspires to find a healthy balance between active engagement in the Northfield community and the behind the scenes work she does at the CCCE to make it all possible.