Each month we will spotlight a member of the WKU or Bowling Green community and highlight their research/experiences in their field in connection with our mission at the Center for Citizenship & Social Justice.
- 2019 -
Author: Amanda Beavin
Alayna Milby, a 2014 graduate of WKU, is the current Crisis Intervention Specialist at Hope Harbor, a local sexual assault crisis center. The center was created in 1985 as the Rape Crisis and Intervention Center in a rented basement of a government building by just two women. Volunteering their time, these women provided a 24/7 crisis hotline and free emergency advocacy services to women dealing with experiences of sexual violence. The organization continued to grow in size as more volunteers joined in and government grants provided funding. In the early 2000s, the organization renamed itself Hope Harbor: A Sexual Trauma Recovery Center. Now, the non-profit provides completely free services, including educational outreach, legal guidance, counseling, 24/7 hotline support, and emergency advocacy, to 10 counties in the South Central Kentucky region at four separate locations. Milby’s position at Hope Harbor encompasses a wide range of duties, including event organizing, community education, and fundraising, but mostly, her job is to coordinate the many volunteers of the organization. Their largest group of volunteers are the advocates who help with the hotline and attend to emergency responses requested by medical centers or law enforcement offices. These advocates must complete a 40-hour certification program that is offered three times a year at Hope Harbor. However, the organization recognizes that this role is not for everyone, so they offer additional volunteer opportunities, such as helping around the office or in the garden or serving on the fundraising committee. Milby thinks these volunteer positions are especially valuable to young people, who often display such passion for the issue of sexual violence but are not old enough to become certified advocates.
Milby’s passion for sexual violence work originated in Dr. Kristi Branham’s Intro to Gender and Women’s Studies class her freshman year at WKU. Already a self-identified feminist, she stated that the class changed her life and introduced her to topics she had never contemplated before. The Gender and Women’s Studies (GWS) program introduced her to Hope Harbor during her four years at the university, during which she volunteered at the organization and participated in their yearly fundraiser, Vagina Monologues. Before this introduction, Milby expressed she “didn’t even think about where people went when those things happened to them.” She graduated from WKU in the Spring of 2014 with a degree in English. Not exactly sure what she wanted to do for a career, and not in a hurry to figure it out, she worked full time at the local Mellow Mushroom and volunteered once a week at Hope Harbor. She helped out around the office for the former Crisis Intervention Specialist since she has missed the latest advocate training program. When shadowing the job and realizing all it encompassed, Milby realized this was her dream job.
“The thing that intrigued me, because I did go to school to be a teacher at first and then I did my observation hours and was like no, I can’t do this.” Milby said, “So, the things I was intrigued about in teaching, basically educating other people, I get to do that[…] in training, doing the meetings, you know, educating them about these important topics, these things that we don’t learn about in school and we don’t learn anywhere else.”
After the previous Crisis Intervention Specialist stepped down, she was urged to apply, and she was hired in 2015. Since then, Milby has found great joy in her job. She describes interacting with volunteers less as work and more as making friends with people who care about the same issues she does. She hopes to convey the message to other liberal arts students that non-profit is a viable and meaningful career option.
“Having purpose in your work goes so much further [than a high income]. Knowing that every day, something I do here has impacted the life of somebody, especially in the work that we do,” she said when describing the fulfillment her work gives her.
Milby, the staff of Hope Harbor, and other campus organizations will be hosting events all April in recognition of Sexual Assault Prevention Month. To view a full list and description of the events, visit https://www.wku.edu/news/articles/index.php?view=article&articleid=7471. If you are interested in volunteering at Hope Harbor, contact Alayna Milby at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Martha Sales
Author: Amanda Beavin
As I walked through the Intercultural Student Engagement Center (ISEC) located in DSU 2041, I was struck with an overwhelming sense of community. During the short walk from the entrance to the office of Dr. Martha Sales, the director of ISEC, I witnessed students socializing, offering homework help, and collaborating on projects. As we passed through, each person we encountered engaged Dr. Sales with a smile, greeting, or playful banter. From just these few interactions, I felt as though I understood the mission and meaning of ISEC before I even heard from Dr. Sales.
In 2017, ISEC was started to serve as a community center fostering academic success and cultural programming. Described as a “safe haven” by Sales, ISEC provides an inclusive space for campus and community engagement for students of color. Sales has promoted the importance of community and collaboration within ISEC through her personal motto, “We cannot educate and isolate.” This is the philosophy behind the central location of ISEC, the student-developed and student-led programming, and the ISEC Academy, an orientation program and living learning community.
Dr. Martha Sales is also the executive director of the WKU TRIO programs. Made up of eight different programs, TRIO was developed to promote college access and success for first-generation students and low-income students nation-wide. The programs serve individuals ranging from middle school-age to adults and veterans. All but one of the programs, Student Support Services, engage with pre-college individuals, helping them connect with and prepare for their best college experience. When Sales started her career at WKU in 1997, she worked as a talent search counselor. At the time, WKU only housed four TRIO programs, but through the grant-writing efforts of Sales, TRIO has now expanded toprograms. Many of the students who become involved with ISEC started in a TRIO program.
Being a TRIO and WKU alumnus herself, Sales was also a first-generation college student. She attributes much of her success to her start in the TRIO program. She states, she was able to get to where she is today “because of the love that TRIO has shown me back in the 1980s as a first-generation, minority, low-income female, just letting me know that I can do it. And I did do it.”
After her initial counselor position, Sales continued to climb in ranks until she reached executive director of all TRIO programs. In 2017, her success with the program led to her being asked to spearhead the new ISEC. She took the same philosophy of recruiting, retaining, and graduating low-income and first-generation students of the TRIO programs and simply applied it to students of color. Through this model she found great success. Sales wants to make sure all students, of every background, know that they matter.
“It’s tough being a minority in a majority situation.” Sales reflects, “We try to provide strength or maybe empowerment for those students. Just to encourage them that [they] can be successful regardless of who you are and where you come from.”
As an individual, Dr. Sales understands the importance of being connected with the community. She notes that as a black female, she can become fatigued by constantly trying to educate others on the struggles of her societal position but acknowledges that it is her duty to do so. As an educator, she also recognizes the constant learning opportunities presented from her students. “They help me be a better wife, better mother, better professional,” says Sales. Her community-centered mentality and humble disposition are some of the key attributes that define her work through TRIO and ISEC. Dr. Martha Sales and the ISEC and TRIO programs are vital aspects of the WKU campus that promote the values of the university along with a mission rooted in social responsibility. We look forward to the continued work by Sales, ISEC, and TRIO inspire and develop WKU into an inclusive and diverse community.
To learn more about ISEC, visit https://www.wku.edu/isec/
To learn more about WKU's TRIO programs, visit https://www.wku.edu/trio/
The WKU African American Studies Program
Author: Amanda Beavin
In 1926, National Negro Week, organized by the Association of the Study of African American Life and History, marked the first nation-wide celebration of Black history. Slowly, cities and college campuses across the country began to recognize Negro History Week every year, eventually growing into an entire month on many campuses. Now, in 2019, we are celebrating the 43rd nationally recognized Black History Month with a theme of “Black Migrations.”
Beyond February, the WKU African American Studies Program (AFAM) celebrates Black history yearlong. The minor is designed to provide a cross-disciplinary, inclusive education of Black history, origin, and culture in order to expand students’ perspectives and preparedness for a wide-range of careers. In addition to course curriculum, the program sponsors a variety of extracurricular events, such as a yearly Kwanzaa celebration. This month, in honor of Black History Month, we shine our spotlight on this program that is promoting the values of the CCSJ, fostering student growth, and providing a sense of community for a minority population.
Senior Essence Mask declared the minor after taking the class AFAM 190, African American Experience, saying she “wanted to learn more about the black experience.” Within her time in the program, Mask noted that she has grown into a conscious being. She reported her experience as “amazing,” praising the helpful and passionate professors. Dr. Saundra Ardrey, director of the AFAM program, says she uses her curriculum to help students appreciate the African American culture as well as identify economic, political, and social structures in the African American experience. Additionally, Dr. Andrew Rosa first decided to join the program to “bring an African Diaspora Studies perspective to curricula development, internationalization efforts, and programming.”
The AFAM program often takes learning outside of the classroom with regular events. Dr. Ardrey describes these events as “fulfilling because, as a minority on a majority white campus, we are so often not affirmed.” Many of the events include performances and educational experiences co-sponsored by various social, economic, political, and religious organizations on campus. Their yearly Kwanzaa celebration brings all these aspects together, providing a unique night of celebration. Additionally, the Program sponsors a variety of events in February, to honor BHM. This year, some of those events include “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” a panel event discussing the elements of a healthy relationship, and a “Genderations” feature showcasing Joan Brannon, a facilitator and coach of drumming rooted in African traditions. Interested individuals can check out their website wku.edu/afam or the Diversity and Community Studies facebook page, @wkudcs, for a full list of BHM events.
Mask states that the AFAM department really celebrates BHM all yearlong through their curriculum and dedication to bringing minority speakers to campus. According to Dr. Rosa, some of these speakers have included Dr. Wilson Valetine-Escobar, who spoke on Latino and African American activists of the 1970s, and Dr. Gellien Matthews from the University of the West Indies in Trinidad, who spoke of the enslaved tradition in the Caribbean. However, Mask believes that BHM is important to “bring awareness to the forgotten history and have events that honor people that paved the way.” Dr. Ardrey hopes that there will come a day that BHM can be done away with, but, for now, is necessary to affirm the good in the community, address the bad, and raise self-esteem and pride in the younger generation.
As a sister program, both housed in the Diversity Studies Program, the CCSJ recognizes the importance of AFAM’s community-building efforts. “Nelson Mandela once said that he was not free until all were free,” reflected the AFAM director, “AFAM and CCSJ much continue to work together to fight for social justice.”
- 2018 -
Tiye Gardner, Senior
Author: Amanda Beavin
On April 20, 2016, the WKU Herald published an article titled “Fashion Designer Uses Talents to Highlight Injustice.” Almost exactly a year later, another article dropped, highlighting the Black Magic Fashion Show produced by The Association for the Study of African American Life & History and a WKU fashion student. These articles praised the work of Tiye Gardner, now a senior in the Mahurin Honors College majoring in Spanish with a minor in Citizenship & Social Justice. Almost a year and a half since the last Herald article, the CCSJ wants to shine a spotlight on the continued work by this exceptional student.
Tiye looks to her childhood as the root of her social justice passion. “I grew up as a black girl from the hood, essentially,” she reflected. This would prove to be an important self-identity through her life. She recalled always being aware of the things going on around her. By being a part of the “Neighborhood Place” initiative in her hometown, Louisville, she was already immersed in community problem-solving before she even reached middle school. It was evident from the way she spoke that her community, and the larger Black community, was an important aspect of her work. She views her work in the fashion world as a way of using her unique talents to give back to this community as well as empower others.
Tiye’s work had included four fashion shows to date. Her first show addressed the issue of bullying inspired her next three shows to address the Black Lives Matter Movement.Through her shows, she hopes to “tell stories through the black experience” and instill confidence in members of the black community. All of the production, including makeup and hair styling, is done by black artists. She remarks, “There are talented black people, and it is not all about the stereotypes you hear in the news.” Her latest show was this past January in Louisville, KY, and she is currently planning her next show for the spring of 2019. As part of her Honors thesis project, the show will be on-campus. Tiye plans to make this upcoming show encompass even more, drawing on her study abroad experiences that exposed her to a more global black perspective.
Describing herself as “a prodigy of [her] community,” Tiye stays motivated to participate in social movements such as Black Lives Matter as a way to give back and support her community.
“Our generation is the next generation,” she responded when asked why it is important for the youth to get involved in activism. “We are the ones that are going to start running everything. We are going to be the next president. We are going to be the next people in government, you know. We need to take on this mindset now.”
She sees civic engagement and the fight for equal rights as a duty of citizenship. With elections coming up on November 6th, it is even more important that more young people take on this mindset of political duty. Although her shows are centered around black artists, she stresses the importance of cross-community support in furthering this movement. “We need everyone to help” in the shows, in the election, and in the movement. She welcomes and encourages any support for her shows and her work.
We are proud to have students like Tiye as part of our CCSJ and WKU community. If you are interested in getting more involved in social activism, contact us at email@example.com. Tiye also welcomes any help on her shows. If you are interested, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Saundra Ardrey
Author: Amanda Beavin
Dr. Saundra Ardrey of the Political Science and African-American Studies departments at WKU has on-going research in women of the African diaspora’s political participation. For this work, she has traveled to Ghana, Tanzania, and Raleigh, NC. Her hope is to find a common sense of unity among black women worldwide. Dr. Audrey reasons that the creation and identification of a group identity for women of the African diaspora have important consequences for their social standing. Black women often tend to be on the low end of social and economic pyramids. In her opinion, before any group challenge to this oppression can be successful, a sense of unity and connectedness must be present in the group. Her latest research project took her to South Africa where she received a Fulbright to teach Gender & Women’s Studies (GWS) at the University of Limpopo from August 2017 to July 2018. This month, CCSJ is proud to shine a light on Dr. Ardrey.
Teaching Gender & Women’s Studies was just one way in which she spent her time at Limpopo. She was not only teaching but also creating a GWS program. Prior to her arrival, the students of the University of Limpopo were unfamiliar with the subject since the school did not offer any courses in GWS. Teaching two classes that were majority male, she cited experiences largely unfamiliar to many of us here in Bowling Green. However, she noted that the students were largely receptive to her lessons and she found a particular enjoyment from seeing them introduced to the foreign concepts.
The students were not the only ones gaining a new perspective. Dr. Ardrey noted that the most influential aspect of her year at Limpopo was the new understanding of privilege and the induction into the majority for the first time in her life. In Limpopo, South Africa, she found herself in the mainstream demographic of society, as almost all the population is black. In addition to this, she had gained a position of privilege as an American visitor in the country. The manner in which she discussed these experiences and feelings clearly articulated the powerfulness that one’s social lens has in the formation of one’s attitude. She described teaching differently and experiencing differently due to this shift of perspective. Dr. Ardrey’s insights can inspire others to find a deeper understanding and awareness of this privilege, noting how it may be affecting their interactions with and view of the world. Her experience demonstrates the importance of engagement in service projects, civil interaction, and new environments, for those are the ways in a person can expand their worldview and better understand the structure of society. In accordance with our vision, she sets an example of how the members of the WKU community can be effective agents of change to the world and to themselves.
As far as where her research will go, she does not know. The experience shifted her mindset away from the “fanatic” culture she lives in. She expressed a new disinterest in administration and politics, realizing her joy comes from the students she can teach and inspire. She noted an increased aptitude for social justice activities. By this she no longer means establishment of programs or endless research, but practical application and involvement addressing social ills. While she is unsure of where her research on political involvement of women in the African diaspora will lead, she states with confidence that she wants to continue working with young people.
The CCSJ is inspired by the sentiments of Dr. Ardrey and aims to provide avenues that support active involvement in correction of complex social issues. From her, we learn how external operation can lead to disconnection from the passions that first sparked our interest in civic engagement and social justice advocacy. In the true fashion of an involved citizen with desire to correct societal ills, Dr. Ardrey exemplifies all aspects of our vision, and we commend her experience and continued work.
Our feature next month will be on senior Tiye Gardner and her use of fashion to contribute to social movements. Check in next month to read more!
Dr. Barry Kaufkins
Author: Amanda Beavin
Wishing a warm welcome back to Western Kentucky University from the staff of the Center for Citizenship & Social Justice (CCSJ)! This year we will see some exciting changes to the Center. We have moved our location, so we are now at the top of the Hill in the Diversity & Community Studies house. We are a new and proud member of the Potter College of Arts & Letters (PCAL) and look forward to working closely with the various departments, faculty, staff, and students of PCAL. We are dedicated to our mission of providing academic and extra-curricular experiences for the WKU community to empower and inspire deeper levels of engagement with complex social issues. To showcase this, we will publish a monthly spotlight post that will feature members of the WKU community who are putting this mission into action through engaged teaching and learning.
This September, our spotlight shines on Professor Barry Kaufkins. Kaufkins has been a professor in the Folk Studies department at WKU since 2005 but started teaching as a graduate assistant in 2002. He teaches several courses, including Flk 330: Cultural Connections and Diversity. In this class, Kaufkins challenges students to gain an understanding of diversity through project-based learning. Originating as a class with a broad issues focus, he developed the course over time to focus on the social issue of food insecurity, a topic for which he shares a special passion. The class features traditional methods of lecture and testing. However, the prominent feature of the course is the semester-long service-learning project. The students, divided into small groups, are tasked with developing a relationship with a community partner who has expertise in combatting food insecurity. The relationship is reciprocal, with the students lending their skills and knowledge to the partnering organization and the community partner serving as a co-educator for the students about the social issue being addressed. Kaufkins believes that this is the best structure for a class that focuses on diversity, stating, “Any discipline that includes the study of people could benefit from service-learning or applied learning.”
As a student of this class in Spring of 2018, I can attest to the value of this applied learning experience. Through work with a topic previously unfamiliar to me, I dug deeper into the complex dimension of diversity, inclusion, and social work regarding food and hunger in Bowling Green. Professor Kaufkins complicated diversity for me, while also expanding my grasp as to how it affects the community around me. The success of this learning experience and the take-away for students is not unique, as Kaufkins remains very pleased with the results of his applied-learning classroom, maintaining the belief in concrete examples leading to a more concrete understanding of the curriculum.
Kaufkins also discusses his interaction with the CCSJ as a resource for his project-based learning course. CCSJ provided support through service- learning grants, connections to local community partners, and technical and moral support throughout the learning process. Kaufkins also noted the importance of the service-learning training given to him from the Center’s Director, Leah Ashwill.
Overall, the style of learning and level of engagement within Professor Kaufkins’s Cultural Connections & Diversity class lends to success in accomplishing WKU’s mission to prepare students to be productive, engaged citizen leaders. The CCSJ hopes to see even more members of our WKU community serving as public problem-solvers and effective agents of change by making positive impacts on important social issues through teaching and learning. By introducing community partners and unfamiliar social issues into a classroom, Kaufkins shapes students into engaged, experiential learners.