C+V Special Edition Community Talks: Our DU Values: A Community Conversation
DU Community Gathers Virtually to Discuss Values in the Time of Covid
As we all become accustomed to our new reality due to COVID-19, DU is still continuing our work as an institution to come together as a community. One of the ways we are doing this is through the work of the Community + Values Initiative (C+V).
On Thursday, May 14, 2020, over 80 members of the DU community joined Chancellor Haefner as he facilitated a Special Edition C + V Community Talk featuring DU community panelists, Grace Sullivan, Dr. Johnny Ramirez, Dr. Allison Friederichs, and Wade Loo. As we navigate these unprecedented items, C+V recognizes that now, more than ever, how important creating community and exploring our values together is. In order to do this, the panelists were asked to tackle the essential question:
‘Crises have a way of testing us—as individuals and as communities and societies. And we all respond to these tests in a different way. What are you feeling personally, and what are you seeing in our community, as COVID-19 has such profound impact?’
The panelists grappled with the question regarding our values, priorities, and where we aspire to be as an institution while dealing with the crisis. Various themes emerged, including: equity and inclusion, agility, the value of mental health, acknowledgement of the whole person, healing, belonging, caring for each other, willingness to question things and have tough conversations, resilience, and optimism. These themes will assist the university and C+V in examining who we are, what we stand for, and why.
Starting off with the land acknowledgement, Dr. Johnny Ramirez, IRISE Postdoctoral Fellow, opened the space in a way that allowed us to center ourselves and experiences to allow for our authentic selves to show up. Johnny focused the conversation on equity and the impact COVID-19 has had disproportionately on communities, particularly Communities of Color. He highlighted the importance of understanding the need for having tough conversations where everyone can bring all their identities into a space and explore all the connections to one another in our community - a process he calls transformational. This special edition Community Talk highlighted the positive actions taken by the institution, but also spoke of the disparities that continue to occur in communities and the overall society and how we can take action to combat these. Grace Sullivan shared as a graduate student and staff member of International Students that she hopes that the university continues to center each and every student as part of our core mission and values, regardless of their identity, in current and future programming to ensure that we continue to create a community where there is a place for all these identities and ways of being.
As the conversation moved forward, the panelists did highlight that although there is work to be done, the community has shown up for each other in meaningful and important ways. Daniels Alum and Chair of the Daniels College of Business Executive Advisory Board, Wade Loo, shared that this pandemic has brought out the best in folks in his community and those around him as he has seen people show compassion and optimism towards each other as they have focused on taking care of one another. Wade shared that the value of empathy, openness, and friendship has transcended in his community as he has used this time to accept virtual methods of connecting to maintain relationships and build new relationships to extend his community. Dr. Allison Friederichs, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Associate Teaching Professor for University College, shared the importance of enacting empathy and thinking about others. As she reflected on this pandemic, she shared, “Community building is not just a physical space, but a space of belonging and inclusiveness... Don't mistake the weather for the sky.” Although our lives have shifted, connecting with one another is incredibly important, and we must continue to do this to build community. COVID-19 has affected our lives, but we must remember, “It’s never as good as you think it is, and it’s never as bad as you think it is,” stated Wade. Being together, being resilient, and supporting one another is the important thing to remember.
As the conversation progressed, the focus on mental health and understanding our holistic selves emerged as a major value for the panelists and the DU community. Grace shared that a value that has emerged for her is watching how agile DU is in responding to the pandemic to ensure students are supported as a whole person. Personally, Grace shared that the value of mental health has been prominent for her as many have focused on the crucial importance of mental health. It has been centered in programming and the work that the entire DU community is doing to support each other. It is important to have empathy and think about other people first with a feeling of openness so we can be authentic with one another as we connect virtually, said Allison. Wade reminded attendees that it is “important to achieve some sense of balance” as we become more attached to our screens in building connections that it is okay to disconnect with the news and all that is going on around us and simply take care of ourselves.
An additional theme that emerged from the conversation was the idea of putting values into action. As Johnny asked, “How do you put the values you hold into practice?” and further questioned what direction do we want to take to concrete these values and translate them into action items? As we continue to build a sense of belonging and inclusiveness and work to explore and boldly state our values, the panelists encouraged the DU community to think about how we live these values out. We must go back to our core values, to your people and find consolation with your community, and share and live out values with our communities to support one another, said Grace. Chancellor Haefner shared how proud he is of the DU community for putting values into action. He expressed his sincere thanks and appreciation for those how have stepped up and provided funds to our students in need during this crisis. As Chancellor Haefner stated, “if we really focus on our students, we can’t go wrong as an institution, and I believe that the institution is doing exactly that... I've thought about resiliency and optimism, and I do think that there are some concrete manifestations that we can share with others in that regard, and I think one of them is a sense of gratitude. And I think what I'm grateful for right now, is our ability to come together in this format, and share these various different experiences and ideas and directives, and really put that out there for the benefit of our broader community.”
The Special Edition Community Talk is only one out of many discussions to be had as we explore our values as a community. C+V hopes this Community Talk will continue to spark conversations at DU and help us as a community to begin the process of examining our values which will allow us to boldly state who we are, what we stand for, and why. We look forward to having you in our next engagement. Please head to our website for any content and updates on the C+V Initiative
Grace Sullivan is a full-time DU staff member and graduate student. She works in International Student Admission and is a M.A. student in the International and Intercultural Communication program. She will graduate with a certificate in public diplomacy and a specialization in strategic communication. Grace earned her Bachelor’s degree from DU in International Studies and Spanish, with a concentration in security and conflict resolution, as well as a specialization in Arabic. Additionally, Grace serves as the Vice President and Director of Finance of Graduate Student Government (GSG). In 2018, Grace was the recipient of The DU Media, Film and Journalism Outstanding Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion Award for her efforts to promote equity in her department and around campus. Like a true Coloradoan, she is a devoted dog mom and can’t wait for quarantine to end so she can go back to her favorite place, the mountains.
Her favorite thing about DU is the ability to find community and opportunity at DU no matter where her passions takes her. Whether it be learning new languages, traveling internationally, or tackling issues of racial inequality and inequity in Denver Communities, she has been able to find like-minded people making the most of what DU has to offer.
Dr. Johnny C. Ramirez received his PhD in Education with a specialization in race and ethnic studies at UCLA Graduate School of Education and a Master of Arts in Chicanx Studies at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). His research interests span the areas of Chicanx-Latinx school pushout, youth resistance, Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) and Latina/o Critical Race Theory (LatCrit) in Education. His passion for community-engaged research and critical pedagogical approaches derive from his personal experience as a low-income Chicano school-pushout, first-generation community college transfer student who had a transformative experience when introduced to Chicanx Studies and student activism. At DU, Dr. Ramirez teaches Critical Race & Ethnic Studies courses, facilitates an participatory action research project with the Gang Rescue And Support Project (GRASP) and serves as the co-faculty advisor for the Latinx Student Alliance.
His favorite thing about being apart of the DU community is teaching, mentoring, and researching with our Critical Race & Ethnic Studies minor students.
Dr. Allison Friederichs serves as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and an associate teaching professor for University College. Allison has taught communication courses for twenty years and has earned University College's Master Teacher designation for continued professional development. Outside of academia, Allison provides training to private-sector organizations on brain-based tactics for improving training efforts.
Allison is a contracted professor for The Great Courses with whom she will launch a Business Writing course in August 2020, and a course on brain-based tactics for improved communication in late 2020.
Also, she is really passionate about animals and cupcakes
When asked why she loves being part of the DU community, she said: "DU is my doctoral alma mater. I fell in love with it then, and it's always felt like home to me. I've developed relationships with people across multiple departments who have become supportive colleagues. But my University College community is extra special. We are so fortunate to have staff who are legitimately committed to our mission and doing what's best for our students, which means we all keep that mission in mind through tough times and work really well together. I'm proud of the UCOL staff every single day."
Wade Loo worked for 30 years at KPMG rising to Partner in Charge of the Northern California Audit Practice after graduating from DU in 1980. In addition to serving clients, he has significant international experience having worked in Beijing, Singapore and Tokyo. Since his retirement, Wade has served on both public company and not-for-profit boards. Wade is currently the Chair of the Daniels College of Business Executive Advisory Board and is also a Board Member at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the largest community foundation in the US. Wade is an avid cyclist and rode his bicycle, self-supported, across the USA back in 2016.
When asked why he loves being a part of the DU community, he said: "I very much appreciated the attention and support I received from all my professors and counselors while at DU and post graduation. Beyond just the academic aspect of obtaining a degree, I feel DU provided the values that helped me be successful in my career at KPMG!"