God’s word, and work in us, reveals that we are created as relational and communal beings; we are created to be in relationships. We experience relationships within our family of origin, our friend and peer groups, in school and work settings, and in the communities in which we live and serve. These relationships, while important in themselves, are also critical ways in which we learn how to be in relationship with God; created in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:27).
This past spring, Professor Costello and I (both faculty in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences here at CBU) had the opportunity to pursue a project which would work toward building relationships between CBU students and residents in the neighboring Riverside community of Casa Blanca. Through funding provided by the Council of Independent Colleges, The Legacy Project was born. The Legacy Project will allow for 20 undergraduate students, majoring in psychology, anthropology, sociology, behavioral science, and film, to conduct field work, by participating in a yearlong internship gathering the oral histories of senior residents living in Casa Blanca. The oral histories will focus on the cultural history, resiliency, faith, and spirituality of the residents; and the residents’ histories will not only be preserved, but also shared. In this process, opportunities to develop rich and flourishing relationships across generations and cultures will be numerous.
Students who participate in The Legacy Project will gather the senior residents’ oral histories through a research process called qualitative interviewing. These interviews will be recorded on video, and crafted into short films featuring each senior participant. The films will then be shown at an event, hosted at CBU, this spring (2019), and attended by both students and community members.
My own experience conducting fieldwork began as an undergraduate student, participating in an ethnographic study in communities called favelas in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. These early experiences, interviewing community members, social workers, activists, and political leaders, were critical experiences, not just for the project that I was participating in, but also for developing my interests that lead to my future pursuit of a career in higher education.
Perhaps you have an interest in how your academic pursuits and community interests might align. If so, I’d encourage you to find out more about The Legacy Project or other research labs and opportunities through the Center for the Study of Human Behavior.
Whether participating in The Legacy Project or another research or field work opportunity, I hope that you have a chance to build relationships with those that you might not have otherwise come into contact with. The concept of imago dei reminds us that in His image, we can find shared human experiences and ways of being in groups and in places where we might have least expected it. Or in the words of astronaut Donald Williams “For those who have seen the earth from space, and for the hundreds and perhaps thousands more who will, the experience most certainly changes your perspective. The things that we share in our word are far more valuable than those which divide us.” (Kelley, 1988). In this era of multifaceted globalization, we are experiencing incredible interconnectedness, never experienced in this way during any other time in history. Yet, the incredible paradox here may be the great lack of connection that we experience in the midst of being connected to everyone, and everything, everywhere. Scholar Daniel Groody (2007) describes this as an era of integration and dis-integration.
In an era characterized be global connectedness, yet great dis-integration, we must seek ways to intentionally connect to our neighbors; resisting being connected to everything, yet feeling totally disconnected, even isolated or alone. Consider how you will, in your personal, professional, and academic pursuits, lean in to your relational self and build bridges today.
Groody, D. G. (2008). Globalization, spirituality, and justice: Navigating a path to peace. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books.
Kelley, K. W., & Association of Space Explorers. (1988). The home planet. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley.
Dr. Jacqueline N. Gustafson
College of Behavioral and Social Sciences