Reflection from Different Angles

by Clare Creighton & Marjorie Coffey

Many of us are already looking ahead to when we’ll shift from fully remote operations to more in-person work. One of our values in the Academic Success Center & Writing Center has been approaching this work intentionally and with awareness of how the decisions we make impact our student staff, professional staff, students using services, and campus partners. As part of our planning process, we’ve engaged in few activities and thought exercises that we want to share in the event these might support your own planning.

Naming and Revisiting Values

Prior to fall 2020, we engaged in an exercise to plan for remote service delivery. As a group, we named our values as they related to supporting students and staff during times of remote work. As we anticipate a return to campus in the future, we now are returning to that document for reference. While many things are still up in the air and our process will be guided by university and public health guidance, we also are mindful of how our values can shape our individual, team, and programmatic decision-making process. Having those named values as reference points helps us ensure that when we do begin to transition from remote work, we are centering support for students and for each other in that process.

Reflecting & Designing Intentionally

March and April have provided a valuable liminal space where we lack the detailed information needed to start planning fall logistics, but we have experienced enough remote operations to begin to reflect on the year. We want to be intentional in our return to campus and move forward deliberately in our practice rather than defaulting to what we’ve done previously. We’ve dedicated time to unpacking experiences and learning from the past year and to looking at a return to campus from a few angles: What have we noticed this past year? What did we learn? What did we like and want to continue? We’ve asked these questions about our individual experiences as well was our program and service delivery. Creating space and time for these conversations and committing to action based on learning is helping us design a more intentional process.

Using Equity Framework Tools

We’re not the first to see an opportunity in the current moment—an opportunity not just to reflect on the past year and acknowledge lessons learned, but to critically examine our assumptions and our approach to work. Using Creative Reaction Lab’s “Equity Centered Community Design,” the Center for Racial Justice Innovation’s “Racial Equity Impact Assessmentv,” and ProInspire’s “Crisis as a Catalyst,” we have been working through a series of prompts as a team to think about the path forward. These tools help us shed light on barriers and inequities in how we do our work, which is particularly useful in higher ed where historical structures, systems, and assumptions are prevalent.

One important element of this process has been building awareness and humility in the limitation of our knowledge by asking questions like how might my own experience create gaps in my understanding of what others experienced/need? Getting in touch with our own experience and limitations then prompts us to think about who we can invite into the conversation to gain perspectives and insights. We’re asking questions like whose voices and perspectives are missing from our meaning-making? What do we still need to learn or answer about the past year and the path forward?

We’re still in the process of reflecting and gathering input from others, and our hope is that by the time we have completed that process, we will have greater clarity about the parameters that will guide our fall planning. Creating space now for this type of contemplation prepares us to braid together the reality of what is possible logistically with a renewed and intentional vision of what will best serve students.

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