Culture and Belonging: Learn from the Past and Genuinely Care for Others

Ray White is the Vice Chancellor of Troy University’s Montgomery Campus, but 25 years ago, in a previous role at the University, he set out to establish the Rosa Parks Museum on the site of her 1955 arrest. He shares candid reflections on his work to build trust as he worked with Mrs. Parks and her family, collected materials, and consulted with Civil Rights experts to build the interpretive museum and children’s wing as it exists today. Although change may take generations, we can treat others well and genuinely care about their stories. Even our seemingly small decisions today direct our future.

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Culture And Belonging: No One’s Story is Simple

As a clinical sociologist, associate professor and associate dean of Troy University’s college of arts and sciences, Dr. Sharon Lindhorst Everhardt works to improve systems. Her book Gardening Behind Bars was released in February, and she sat down to talk to us about some of her experiences with the incarcerated women she worked with on this project. She reminds us that belonging is a basic need for all of us, and listening to understand is of critical importance to our society. We talk about some difficult issues in this episode, including children of incarcerated parents who struggle with suicidal thoughts and tendencies, but the bottom line is that no one’s story is simple, and we all need to be a little more intentional about getting to know our neighbors.

 
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Culture and Belonging: Stimulate Intellectual Curiosity

Be curious. Have a conversation with a stranger. Try something new. Travel. What better ways are there to get out of our comfort zone? Dr. Kelly Suero, associate professor of Spanish language at Troy University, advocates travel as a means of stimulating intellectual curiosity. Her love of travel began with a study abroad trip to Argentina at age 18, and she says that we should all aim to become compassionate, understanding global citizens. 

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Culture and Belonging: Putting Conflicts in Context

Dr. Brandon Stewart studies ethnic politics and political violence. In this episode we’ll talk with him about how cultural, political, and ethnic identities are constructed. And we’ll learn how to promote understanding and cooperation within diverse populations.

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Culture and Belonging: Intercultural Competency is Important

Spanish language professor Dr. Johanna Alberich is passionate about sparking curiosity in her students and encouraging them to learn about people who are different from them. She defines culture as a belief system that can vary by individual and says belonging primarily focuses on adaptability. She serves as a resource for colleagues preparing to lead their first study abroad trip for students, and she emphasizes how rewarding it is to hear students express their gratitude and expanded mindset after a study abroad experience. She believes strongly that intercultural competence is vital regardless of your discipline or location.

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Culture and Belonging: On Food, Travel, and Banned Books

Author, librarian, and historian Dr. Christopher (Chris) Shaffer talks books, food, and travel with us on our ninth episode of the Culture and Belonging podcast. He agrees that culture is difficult to define and shares insights about why banning books is never a good idea (unless you’re hoping to spike book sales). He talks specifically about his own book, Moon over Sasova, and a sample of personal anecdotes he shares in it, and he concludes with a challenge to prioritize authentic travel experiences that build empathy and feed our curiosity.

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Culture and Belonging: Belonging is Attainable and Dynamic

The US Surgeon General released an advisory earlier this year placing the pervasive problem of loneliness on the same level of public health concern as smoking. For this seventh episode of the Culture and Belonging podcast, Kim Serrano, Director of the Center for Inclusion and Belonging, spoke with us about her agency’s research around belonging, and their findings are thought-provoking! Belonging is a fundamental human need, and it does not have an on/off switch. Instead, belonging is a multifaceted spectrum of experience that varies depending on place and other people. We need a baseline understanding of the state of belonging in our spaces to develop effective interventions to increase belonging. Kim encourages us to recognize that we’re not alone when we feel a lack of belonging, and she emphasizes the fact that we combat loneliness when we prioritize being intentional and present with our loved ones.

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Culture and Belonging: Make Friends with Your Local Librarian

Librarians are here to help! Before coming to the States to study and become a librarian, Olga Casey worked as a translator in her native Ukraine, and she clearly continues that work today. Olga shares stories with us for episode six of the Culture and Belonging podcast about gifting materials to a Ukrainian sister library, preserving cultural heritage online, archiving wartime creative works, and important translation projects to reveal hidden history. Olga defines belonging as a comfortable feeling of being needed and even recognizing potential to contribute. Wearing her “please interrupt me” button, she emphasizes the importance of a sense of humor, and she reminds us – above all – that no question is a bad question.

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Culture and Belonging: On Ability, Accommodations, and Advocacy

Rebecca (Becky) Helms, academic advisor and disability services specialist on Troy University’s Dothan Campus, helps us navigate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in our fifth episode of Culture and Belonging. Our candid conversation explores the differences between visible and hidden disabilities and the importance of creating a welcoming, safe space for students and colleagues to self-advocate in the face of increasingly less structured processes (as we move from K-12 to higher education and then to the workplace) for seeking accommodations that level the playing field. Empathy is vital, and we can all learn more about how to promote and prioritize access.

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