It goes without saying that it has been a hard summer. While students were away and the campus turned quiet, the world we live in was filled with tragedy, conflict and uncertainty. The events of Minneapolis, Baton Rouge and Dallas were heartbreaking and yet felt all too familiar. In response to these events, the Duke Office of Institutional Equity convened an Open Forum: A Gathering of Community Support and Dialogue on July 15. With more than 80 attendees, the room was full of diverse perspectives at Duke. The microphone was passed around to anyone who felt moved to speak. At times, I was overwhelmed with anger and frustration — feeling the circumstances of our world are not changing quickly — while at another time, I quietly wept with deep sadness for the shared pain and suffering so many people of color face every day. However, the people in the room provided hope and buoyed my spirit to accept that listening and conversation can change us more than I had initially believed possible. Leaning into these conversations with our co-workers, community members and families can perhaps open up the possibility of more compassion, love and justice to break through in our world.
We hope that Duke is a place where members of this community can engage in thoughtful and critical dialogue about civic engagement and issues affecting our world. This blog will feature voices from across the campus and community — voices that will share expertise and opinions on how to lead us and inform our work. When I first arrived at the Duke Office of Civic Engagement during the final days of the last academic year, I witnessed civic engagement in action. I assisted with DukeEngage’s two-day training academy for student volunteers. I met with faculty members whose passion for civic initiatives plays a pivotal role in their scholarship and their research. I saw students protesting for fair wages for non-exempt employees and non-regular-rank faculty successfully forming a union. While protests and unions can be complicated and controversial, I am hopeful Duke is a place where we can engage in controversy with civility. It was inspiring to see campus community members engaging in the spectrum of civic engagement, which includes volunteerism, advocacy, activism, engaged scholarship and service-learning. Continuing to “do good work well” requires us to push ourselves into more critical thought and action, to form reciprocal and sustainable partnerships and to become active and positive members of our communities. Figuring out how to do that together is what drew me to this work here at Duke.
To begin the process of identifying ways we can strengthen, build and maintain civic engagement activities, DOCE convened two sessions this summer to generate ideas for Duke’s Civic Action Plan. The Civic Action Plan will provide our campus framework within which we can prioritize strategies to strengthen our collective and individual civic engagement efforts. The timing of this work coincides with the university’s strategic planning process and the curriculum revision, positioning our plan outcomes to align with other important initiatives and priorities at Duke. If you have not yet participated in a Civic Action Planning session, we hope you will attend an upcoming session in the fall. These sessions are exploring and shaping how civic engagement can continue to be a vibrant part of the Duke campus and community. From the renewed ways to amplify civic engagement work across campus to collaborating with members of the campus community to develop a Civic Action Plan, DOCE is here to support and strengthen the work both within the campus and in our communities.
Photo credit: Chris Hildreth, Duke Photography