Engaging the Five-Fold Path: Community
When I first read IU’s strategic plan, I kept returning to the term community of scholars. For me, it was an expectation, a hope, an aspiration. I found myself “dropping” those three words at meetings and in conversations with colleagues. Sometimes, it was a way to remind us why we did the work we did. At other times, it was to challenge us to live up to this idea of community. And, it was a way to help us not feel isolated.
The place where I come from, community means to be in unity with a group of people who are committed to intentionally communing in ways that support our individual and group choices for living and thriving. Sem/sans judgement of each other, and without treating our relationships as transactions. While we may have common goals, we don’t always have to agree on everything.
Community of scholars. The words are an invitation to answer the questions below. Whether or not you have the community you desire right now, I invite you to also reflect on and answer these questions.
- What makes my primary community outside IU thrive?
- Notice that I wrote “primary community” to highlight that we are each part of multiple communities. This question invites us to identify a community that is foundational in our lives. This may be family, church, or a group of life-long friends. Your response will provide you with insight into what you are trying to re/create at IU.
- What are some elements of this community that I need/want in my academic community?
- Communities are comprised of different relationships, and each relationship has its own character. This question invites us to define what is essential and/or non-negotiable for us. Some important elements of any relationship include trust and respect. But, they may also include joy and compassion.
- In addition to my academic community, what other types of communities do I want and why?
- We need different types of communities. In the same way that we identify what aspects of our selves mentoring relationships serve, this question invites us to name what parts of ourselves that we need/want to nurture. For example, if you are a parent, would it benefit you to have a community of other parents? Do you like movies? Would being part of a fraternity or sorority, or professional association deepen your cultural connections?
- What aspects of my life do these communities support?
- This question invites us to reflect on the intersections between your life (e.g., family, friends, work) and the people in it. Your response may also let you know if it is time to rest with/from your community, retreat from it, or to find ways to rejuvenate it.
- So, what next?
- Based on your responses, identify at least one person with whom you’d like to be in community. Perhaps it is someone in a writing group or someone who has attended similar events as you. Did their comments interest you? Are you comfortable reaching out to them? If so, send them an email. Or the next time you are in at an event together, ask if they would like to meet to learn more about each other’s works or ideas. If you are not comfortable doing this, ask a colleague, peer, mutual friend, or mentor to introduce you to one another. Commit to at least one meeting and decide from there how you want to move forward.
We all want to be with people and in spaces that welcome us by seeing who we are and inviting us to not be anything different. At the same time, they challenge us to do more than we imagined. By reflecting on what types of communities we need and want – and why – it is possible to get the support we need to thrive in any place.