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.
Cultural identity is often tied to where we call home, but what happens when that home changes? Today, we’ll talk to Miguel Rodriguez-Blest, who lived most of his life in Puerto Rico before moving to south Alabama.
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.
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.
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.
Music is a powerful tool to bring people together and a distinct marker of unique cultures. Dr. Scott Sexton, music educator and educator of future music educators, helps us find the quickest entry points to Culture and Belonging through music in our fourth episode of the podcast. Dr. Sexton sees culture as a means to find common ground and move towards belonging. He tells us about his work in places like Bosnia and South Africa to use music for peace-building in the decades-old wake of war and racial unrest.
For our third episode of Culture and Belonging, we asked Dr. Stephen Carmody, an associate professor of anthropology, to talk to us about how he defines culture and belonging. Anthropology is the study of the origin and development of human societies and cultures, and our conversation delves into the concept of becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable and focuses on how anthropologists seek commonalities and shared humanity within diversity. When we see things in another culture that we don’t understand, it can be helpful to remember that those differences are likely representative of things we actually do know.
On our second episode of Culture and Belonging, we’ll hear from history instructor Joe McCall, a self-proclaimed frustrated Latin scholar, about how he defines culture in the context of advocating for international students and colleagues. Joe will help us try to answer the question, “What role does religion play in a culturally diverse environment?” Conflict is part of life, but humility and being willing to listen to others can go a long way towards developing trust as we build community in any setting.
In a professional environment of increasing cultural diversity, what can administrators do to make sure everyone feels included? On the flip side, how can individuals speak up and make themselves heard?
On this very first episode of culture and belonging, we’ll talk with Dr. Dionne Rosser-Mims, Vice-Chancellor of Troy University’s Phenix City Campus. Together, we’ll try to answer these questions, as Dr. Rosser-Mims shares her insights and experiences.