Archive for the Academia and Research Category

Last Year, This Year, and New Beginnings

Posted in Academia and Research, Dreams for the Future, Family, Friends, Graduate School, Internships and Work, Love, Miscellaneous on December 22, 2010 by aprilpalo

Wow – it’s been one hell of a year!

I haven’t posted on this blog in a long time. I’m not sure why; a combination of restlessness and busy-ness, maybe. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to come back, but here I am! As Sam Seaborn said to CJ Craig, “Let’s move past the fact that you’re a little late to the party and just embrace the fact that you showed up at all.” 😛

2010: Ireland, summer, and fall

At the beginning of 2010, I left for the city of Dublin in the Republic of Ireland. What followed was one of the most extraordinary, challenging, amazing, inspiring, and fun experiences of my life. It’s hard to pin down the best part…

  • Going shopping for books at Dubray’s Bookstore on Grafton Street?
  • Hitting up the weekly farmer’s outdoor market in Temple Bar?
  • Seeing a play at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin’s Chinatown district?
  • Touring the Guinness Factory – two Americans and an Australian, no less?
  • Speaking of Australians, making awesome dinner parties every week with half the Commonwealth?
  • Classes on Irish history, folklore, and religion?
  • Working in the National Archives in the department of Irish Folklore?
  • Exploring the seaside town of Howth, climbing around a centuries-old abbey, and bringing home a fresh salmon?
  • Checking out the cute, funky, fun town of Malahide, in which the local castle was less fun than the awesome town?
  • Hiking around the ancient monastic site in Glendalough and taking pictures in front of a pristine mountain lake?
  • Kayaking and mountain biking in Killarney National Park?
  • Staying in a hostel/bar in Cork, including drinking with the local Irish kids?
  • Biking around Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland?
  • Hanging around Galway, sampling the local Italian fare and fish-n-chips?
  • Wading in the Mediterranean off the coast of Barcelona while eating an ice cream cone?
  • Climbing to the tops of Barcelona cathedrals?
  • Sharing a huge frying pan of paella in Spain?
  • Seeing the Sistine Chapel?
  • Seeing La Pieta?
  • Wandering around the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica?
  • The best spinach and tomato pizza we’ve ever had, from a street vendor in a backstreet in Rome?
  • The Coliseum?
  • That time we found that amazing little restaurant just off the Piazza Navona on a glittery, rainy night?
  • That amazing hostel room with the insane blue bathroom and huge linen curtains?
  • Napping in front of the Notre Dame with the pigeons?
  • French Onion soup in an amazing little cafe not far from the Notre Dame?
  • Exploring Montmartre and checking out the hippies?
  • Pigalle subway station?
  • The Champs Elyseees and that awesome McDonalds? (Yeah, we went to a McDonalds in Paris…)
  • The view from the Sacre Couer?

Well, looking at all that, it’s really impossible to say! But after a whirlwind adventure around Ireland and Europe, we were happy to be back and settled into familiar territory in the Midwest.

In Summer 2010 I started working for the Interfaith Youth Leadership Coalition, doing youth programming and funding/development work. Chris started working full-time as a tech support and networks intern for Wells Fargo in downtown Minneapolis. We couldn’t have been luckier!

Our luck only continued.

Fall 2010 was an amazing semester for me. I completed a full courseload with some of the most challenging classes I’ve ever had, including classical Greek; I kept my research afloat and applied to the National Conference of Undergraduate Research; I had an AMAZING start to my interfaith social justice campaign; I enjoyed a great semester facilitating weekly Multifaith Alliance sessions; and I got to participate in some great reading and reflection with the Mahle program. Meanwhile, Chris made an excellent professional choice and stayed on fulltime with Wells Fargo. He is currently building transfer applications to computer science continuing education programs, where he will be finishing up his degree with WAY better credentials and industry standards.

2011: New beginnings…

In January I’m going to be taking a J-Term course, then I’m going to be completing a full courseload and my degree in one fell swoop. With any luck, I’ll be completing my senior honors thesis, presenting in Ithaca, New York, and defending my thesis before a defense committee. Plus, I’ll be wrapping up the Better Together campaign by holding monthly interfaith meals and volunteering/donations for free-case refugee resettlement in Minnesota. I’ll be finishing up my fourth year as a student leader with Multifaith Alliance [:(] And I’ll participate in the Mahle lecturer programming with Sara Miles!

By May, I’m going to graduate from Hamline, and just a month later, we’ll be getting married at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival grounds in Shakopee, Minnesota. Our wedding is going to be a beautiful little afternoon affair, full of blues and yellows, whimsy, and fun! We’re going to have some great clothes, yummy food, and the best friends and family anyone could ask for!

We’re planning a honeymoon road trip around the country (Australia and New Zealand just wasn’t in the budget, I’m afraid). Afterwards, we’ll be closing up shop, packing all of our belongings into a U-Haul, and moving to one of three cities: New York, Boston, or Chicago. In September I’ll be starting a master’s program at a theological seminary or divinity school, and Chris will be starting the last two years of his computer science degree. We’ll share a cute apartment, our cat, and — God willing — a family.

New beginnings…

I am unbelievably fortunate. By birth, circumstance, choice, and hard work, I have a whole host of assets that I can barely even comprehend. I’m a young, able-bodied woman, successful in my career, with a great home, a wonderful family, and a close-knit circle of friends. I’ve got the best partner in the world — who else gets to spend every day with their best friend, and always find something new to enjoy? I’ve had a goddamn amazing year and look forward to only more and better!

But like everyone, I’ve had some struggles. Balance and mindfulness are particular concerns for me. I’m a natural workaholic and often get so wrapped up in what I’m doing that I do not focus on my home, family, and friends.

I’ve worked hard to change that over the past year, and in the process, I have identified some core values/nourishments I want to shore up. In particular, I feel most dedicated to and most nourished by my relationship with God/religion, my relationship with my mind and body, and my relationship with my partner/family/friends.

So, this next year, I’m going to be embarking on a 12-month long “happiness project”! My happiness project will formalize these three values through 6 months’ worth of fun projects to enjoy every month, then spend 6 months developing these projects to fulfillment! Deep cleaning the apartment, scrapbooking, knitting, perfecting my bread recipe, getting back into yoga again — all of these are examples of some small projects I’ll be developing over the year. I can’t wait! I can post more on this later, I think.

Anyway, 2010 and 2011 have been amazing, and I can’t wait for the journey. Happy holidays to all!


Love Stories

Posted in Academia and Research, Dreams for the Future, Love, Miscellaneous on December 11, 2009 by aprilpalo

Today has been less than enjoyable. I’ve recently come down with a dry cough, but over the last day or two, it’s developed into a full-blown sinus cold. Headache, sinus pressure, congestion, the whole works. Being smart, cautious, and unmotivated to do anything more than slip into a stupor, I went straight home after work. I crawled into bed, pulled the covers over my head, and promptly slept for over four hours.

Once I dragged myself out of bed and had some food, I felt a little better, but I still felt raw and had no desire to work on any homework whatsoever. Rearranging my calendar to accommodate my newfound lack of energy, I sought something I could do to enjoy myself and feel a little better.

“Oh, hey, I can watch a movie!” I thought to myself. What a great idea! So I opened my laptop, propped myself up with a bunch of blankets and a water bottle, and settled into watch 2005’s Pride and Prejudice.

I have seen Pride and Prejudice probably six or seven times since it came out. I do enjoy the acting, screenplay, scenery, soundtrack, and composition of the film, but there are deeper reasons why I enjoy it.

As a feminist, I am particularly drawn to Elizabeth Bennet’s willful spirit, courageous heart, and powerful sense of self. She is unafraid to make her own choices, unafraid to say “no” to men in positions of power, and unafraid to love with her mind as well as her heart and body.

First, she allows her own spirit to become part of her cognitive process, which speaks to feminist epistemology’s esteem of one’s personal experience in the intellectual realm. Second, while women around her succumb to societal or physical pressure, she maintains her right to say “NO”, even in the face of overwhelming pressure to give in; she therefore presents a great example to young women today. Third, she does not allow traditional perceptions of womanhood – nervous hysteria, submissive love, or physical desire – to influence her ability to think and love creatively, sensitively, and passionately.

On a more complex level, I am also drawn to the social commentary inherent in the film. It strongly exhibits the cramped prison of a typical woman’s life in the era. As victims of societal systems of oppression, women belonged to their fathers until they were suitably married off, in which case they became possessions of their husbands. It was not love but money that mattered, and women were bought and sold like cattle between privileged families. Because gender oppression works both ways, men in such a society – while undoubtedly privileged – are presented as having become largely emotionally crippled, and desired only for their funds.

While it is of course critical to mention the privilege of the Bennet family in relationship to other families – even worse victims of racial, gender, and class oppression – overall, I think Pride and Prejudice can be valued by feminists, even as a love story.

Here’s the question I have, though: What other romances can feminists be proud of?

I got to thinking about the love stories available to women in contemporary literature. Four examples came to mind, and really only these four.

1. Trashy sex novels
2. Time-Traveler’s Wife (and other romances)
3. Twilight
4. Chick/bitch lit

Virtually all of these are sexist, pining, poorly-done, or all three.

Trashy sex novels propagate virtually every female and male stereotype there is, while also presenting women as secretly pining always for male attention. Women are always presented as weak, helpless, and typically a damsel in distress. Men are nearly always rippling with muscle, strong, silent, hard, and domineering. Such books are terribly written and usually go straight in the recycling when I’m done with them.

Time-Traveler’s Wife – while not explicitly sexist or badly written – presents a woman pining forever and always for an unattainable man. TTW is actually a very enjoyable book, but the idea of a woman constructing her entire life around a man’s tumultuous reality does not sit well with me.

Twilight, of course, is all of these and worse. I needn’t go into it too much here, but we should all know by now the potential ramifications of an entire demographic adopting such a sexist, codependent, addictive, and poorly-constructed relationship as a model. I have no issue with the fact that Twilight books and movies exist, I just dislike their effects.

Chick/bitch lit is frequently represented as feminism’s answer to typical gender roles, but I tend to disagree. Women, even if they’re in positions of power – Sex and the City, Gossip Girl, whatever – are usually only in positions of power through the sexualization of their bodies. Their “feminine wiles” get them the job, the man, the car, the success, the friendship, the power. I’m not really okay with that either.

So, the obvious question is, where can I find a love story or romance that speaks to me? Where can I – especially as a straight woman – find some kind of romance that delivers on these critiques?

I guess I don’t really know. I’m half-tempted to write one.

Hello, world!

Posted in Academia and Research, Dreams for the Future, Family, Friends, Graduate School, Internships and Work, Love, Miscellaneous, Multifaith Alliance and Interfaith Activism, Notes from a Small Apartment, Oracle and Opinion, Study Abroad: The Great Adventure, Wedding on November 17, 2009 by aprilpalo

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? I suppose it’s about time I crack my knuckles and fill you in!

There are a lot of things I’m preparing for. First and foremost: studying abroad. We’re moving out of our apartment sometime around December 17, and our flight leaves January 10. We should be in Dublin by 8:30 am the morning of January 11, and won’t be back until mid-May 2010.

I can’t believe I’m going to be living, working, and studying in a new home for nearly six months! The University College Dublin campus is the largest in Ireland and teaches nearly twenty-two thousand students per year. Dublin is one of the oldest cities in Ireland – it’s been been a capital city and port since well before Christianity, Vikings, or the Roman Empire. Ireland itself is an island unlike any place I will ever live, a bizarre mix of old and new, ancient and modern. Everything is going to be different there – even some parts of the language! I am absolutely thrilled to go, and I’m only one $3000 loan away from making it happen.

Other parts of my life revolve around what I’m going to do when I get back:

  • I’ve got my academics all planned out for my senior year; it’s hard to believe that I’m only two Hamline semesters away from graduating!
  • On top of that, I’m applying for a Mahle Scholarship. The Scholarship is actually a paid stipend position dedicated to progressive religious education, reflection, and service. It would be a really great way to dedicate myself to interfaith justice on campus, and I’m already buzzing with ideas!
  • I’m also coordinating the next leg of my research project. After the incredible success of last summer, it’s back to the drawing board to see what I can hone, expand, or focus more deeply. I’m going to take advantage of some Ireland resources, and when I return I fully intend on spending Summer 2010 working through additional research. Then I can spend my senior year dedicating myself to my Religion senior honors’ thesis.
  • In terms of interfaith/social justice initiatives, I’m also dedicating myself to Multifaith Alliance’s future. We’ve finally lined up an amazing new student leader for Multifaith while I am gone, and when I get back, I’m really excited to tackle some new projects as a team. I’m in touch with Hamline administration regarding a potential interfaith living community on campus, as well as introducing some interfaith dialogue into freshman orientation programming!
  • But academics, research, and extracurriculars aren’t everything; I’m also focusing on my employable future. I am currently applying for an internship position with Saint Paul Area Council of Churches, ideally working with the Saint Paul Interfaith Network and the Interfaith Youth Leadership Coalition. I am so excited at the possibility of working with these teams, and I can’t wait to find out what’s next! What’s more, my dream goal is to attain a position in the Interfaith Youth Core’s Fellows Alliance program – it’s a year-long paid position and the ultimate in youth interfaith leadership. It’s a dream goal for me and I’m really working hard to make it happen!

Of course, all of this stuff is happening on top of writing for The Oracle and working three jobs in IT, so I’m busting my ass on a regular basis. It’s worth it, though. Now that I know what I want to do and how to work towards it, I feel unstoppable. I feel like my calling is definitely leading me somewhere – I just have to keep up!

I’m really working on making my projects my own priority, instead of comparing myself to other students and friends. I’ve got some friends who are attaining serious career success right now, but the thing I have to remember is that I am, too. And I will continue to do so! I’ve just got to buckle down and follow my vocation wherever it takes me!

Let’s see, what else? Well, I’m also preparing for what comes after graduation. I’m obviously planning for graduate school, and here is my current list:

  1. University of Chicago
  2. Northwestern
  3. Chicago Theological Seminary (Can you tell that Chicago is a running theme?)
  4. Columbia
  5. NYU
  6. Harvard
  7. Yale
  8. Duke

Yeah, so I’ll admit I’m not setting my sights particularly low. But what’s the worst that can happen? They say no? Big deal – I find somewhere else, and I turn it into the best decision I ever made. 🙂

I’m also flirting with the idea of pursuing a Fulbright. I hadn’t considered it very much before, primarily because I was also thinking about the Peace Corps, the potential language barrier, and whether or not it would work for our plans as a couple. But I got to talking and thinking about it, and I realized: There is no realistic reason why I couldn’t pursue a research future in the United Kingdom. Why not apply? I can always defer grad school until I get back, and Chris can always pursue employment abroad if the Fulbright grant doesn’t support him.

Mentally/Emotionally/Physically, I guess I’m in this really powerful transition mode. My mind, my heart, my body – every part of me is moving forward. I’ve written before that I’m in a really peaceful, motivated place in my life; I am both deeply tranquil and brimming with passion, and I think that’s a really good place to be. My happiness must always be balanced with a reflective gratitude, and I try never to let a moment go by that I don’t thank God* for what I have been given.

* This might also be a good time to touch on my spirituality. You’ll notice that I put an asterisk by the word “God”. Usually I write “the universe” or “life”. I definitely still believe in those things; I certainly don’t believe in a personified, reified God. But I am starting to identify with a Jewish/Christian tradition, and part of living a Jewish life and living by Christ’s example is recognizing the depth of my faith and the value of community. In terms of faith, it’s important for me to stop running away from the concept of God and instead approach it thoughtfully, flexibly, and with utmost love and gratitude. Rather than obfuscating the words “universe” and “life”, I can take a page from Soren Kierkegaard and engage in a subjective, faithful relationship with “God”. Do I believe in God the same way others do? No, but that doesn’t mean I can’t engage in a relationship with It. In terms of community, it’s important for me to stop talking and begin living. I can’t just keep speaking and hoping I find something; I’ve got to jump in and practice my identity fully and passionately. I’ve never pulled punches in any other part of my life. Why should I start now?

So, that’s a process and I’m very excited to see where it goes in the future.

All told, I think we’ve touched on a lot of the important things in my life right now! It’s a pretty hectic way to live, but it’s a powerful, thrilling, and enjoyable way. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. There’s a lot I didn’t discuss – there’s been a lot of social justice issues I’ve been tackling, and wedding plans I’ve been considering – but I’ll leave those for another time!

Stay tuned. Thanks for listening. 🙂

Profound Moments of Clarity (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Movement)

Posted in Academia and Research, Dreams for the Future, Graduate School, Internships and Work, Love, Multifaith Alliance and Interfaith Activism on October 30, 2009 by aprilpalo

[Cross-posted from Bridge Builders, IFYC’s social networking site, and Multifaith Alliance.]

Well, I have a confession to make. I had to completely fill a notebook, spend a full day in two airports, and write frantic thoughts all over the whiteboard in my apartment before I could sit down and write this today.

I’ve known for a long time that religion was my calling. From the first Religion class I took at my University, I knew it was the path my career would take. And I’ve also known for a long time that interfaith work was an endless joy for me – from the first day I took up facilitating my University’s interfaith discussion group, I was hooked. But never before this conference have I experienced such a profound sense of total vocation.

At one of the morning plenaries I was sitting in the Louis room, looking at the shore and downtown Chicago in the distance, listening to panelists speak about starting and sustaining the interfaith movement. Sitting there, watching the waves crest and taking notes in the early morning, I came to the first of many profound moments of clarity.

I realized that – whether in academia or activism – every career choice I make needs to lead always, flexibly, and continuously to this, the interfaith movement. Whether it’s pursuing graduate school in religious studies or whether it’s facilitating dialogues and service projects in my community, I know that the interfaith movement is not what I want to do. It’s what I need to do. Winda, one of my new friends from Luther College, spoke about how the interfaith movement is like her “new faith”. I couldn’t agree more.

After three days of a relentless, grueling schedule – jampacked with plenaries and workshops, documentaries and panels, networking and boxed lunches, airports and waiting lines – I came home and propped up a whiteboard on the coffeetable in my apartment. I cranked up Angelique Kidjo and filled the whiteboard with lines and lines of careful handwriting. I even borrowed from my high school writing tips, going so far as to make a brainstorming web! By the time it was full, I had organized some pretty serious thoughts.

First and foremost, what is my public, civic engagement? I liked what Rev. Jim Wallis said about public engagement and its relationship to a personal commitment, so I wanted to establish the former first. Simply put, my public engagement is a religiously pluralistic world. It is a world defined by a respect for religious identity, mutually inspiring relationships, and common action for the common good. Unpacking these terms presents a powerful, beautiful vision of the future.

Here’s an analogy: It’s like we have to share an office. If a Hindu and a Muslim (let’s say) have to share an office together, then they’ve got to respect each other. Each must recognize that the other is a full, complete person and is allowed to work there, too. Next, they’ve got to establish a working relationship. They’ve got to build a working friendship that will connect them equally and respectfully with each other, so that they can get the job done. In turn, the Hindu and Muslim have to accomplish certain work tasks, like doing a presentation together. They’ve got to compare notes on their shared skills, and make the presentation the best it can be in a cooperative fashion.

In this analogy, sharing an office is like sharing the world. Unless we want to remove ourselves from it completely, we’ve got to share this space. To do that, we have to recognize that every other person on this earth, including those with whom we fundamentally disagree, is allowed to be alive, too. We’re all allowed to be here and allowed to breathe the same air, right? In turn, just like establishing a professional friendship, we’ve got to establish a working local and global relationship that will allow us to mutually inspire and care for one another. Finally, just like pulling off a presentation at work, we’ve got to apply our common values and shared goals to the social justice tasks at hand.

So, that’s my public engagement. But where does it come from? What are my personal commitments to the cause? One of the presenters at the conference spoke about complex biographies. We all come to the table with a complex framework of identity. Inherited and chosen identities, race, gender, class, ethnicity, nationality, age, ability, religion: all of these formulate a unique construct of our ethics.

My inherited and chosen identities, my recognition of White privilege, my strength as a woman, my hard-working, middle class upbringing, my Irish-American heritage and resilience, my independent American consciousness, the maturity of my twenty years of life, my able-bodied size, my Jewish tradition of social justice, my Christian tradition of Christ’s example – all of these inform who I am and how I am going to engage in the world.

Ultimately, the application of the best of these ethics formulates my personal commitment – what I can bring to the pluralism table.

But now what do I do? I know how I want to engage in the world and I know what I can bring to the cause, but what action can I take? The answer to that question is a highly personal and specific one, but I can articulate it in three parts:

1. Education – I must educate myself on the history of my communities, the current needs of my peers, and how the administrations function. I can’t confront local Twin Cities issues unless I know how they came to be that way. I can’t bring the young Hmong or Somali communities together unless I know what the youth want and feel. And I can’t make change in my environments without knowing how campus and local administrations operate and what they demand.

2. Leadership – I have to take the skills I’ve learned (from dialogue facilitation to fundraising, from leading the movement to developing sustainability) and apply them to my life. Tips, tricks, tools, models: I’ve got to internalize these and translate them into my progressive action. Establishing a framework, building a knowledge base, and engaging a skill set are all tools that can make me an interfaith leader. Storytelling, service, and shared values are are concepts I can utilize to my advantage.

3. Networking – I have met so many people at this conference, from tons of different schools and multiple different states and nations. These people are my peers and allies in the interfaith movement. I’ve got to be in touch with them. Plus, I’ve got to tap into the people I already know, too – there are potential leaders around every corner on my campus, and I’ve got to take advantage of that.

Ultimately, the conference has made me recognize my vocation, and has given me the framework to do it: public, civic engagement; private, personal commitment; and the local actions I can explore today.

For that, I can never be more grateful.

Thank you for giving me my calling,

April Palo
Religion ’11
Hamline University’s Multifaith Alliance

Brief Updates

Posted in Academia and Research, Family, Friends, Love on October 7, 2009 by aprilpalo

[Whew! So much has been going on recently! Between the IFYC visit and paganism last week, my head is practically spinning!

Plus, I’ve been up to a lot in other areas of social justice and interfaith activism, including the Boykin address and my new column for the Oracle.]

Speaking of which! My new column is up! Check it out here: And, you can check out my very first article – my first column ever at Hamline – right here: Midway Not So Scary.

In other news, I’ve been doing a lot of meditation and practicing my self-awareness recently, and I am very proud of where I’ve come to be. My mind, body, heart, soul, and life are continuing to move forward positively, and I am continuing to work on balancing my idealistic ambition with a reflective, generous happiness. It’s a journey, and I’m thrilled to be on it!

In more practical news, both members of my family undergoing procedures this week are doing just fine. My Grandma had a brief surgery yesterday, and this morning my mom underwent a laser surgery to help with some health issues she’s been having. Both women are doing great, and are well on the road to recovery!

On Thursday, Multifaith Alliance is undertaking our first-ever service project, so I’m really excited about that! Check out my thoughts about service (and my dreams for Multifaith) at the blog, located here.

Also, this weekend Chris and I are picking up my other Grandma and going to visit my folks in Iowa, so I’ll be a little MIA as I spend time with them and catch up on various projects. So fear not, dear readers – I’ll be back!

I’ll keep you posted. Have an awesome day!

Service Project THIS WEEK!

Posted in Academia and Research, Multifaith Alliance and Interfaith Activism on October 5, 2009 by aprilpalo

[Cross-posted from Multifaith Alliance for the Hamline readers among you. Please take a look and RSVP!]

This year, Multifaith Alliance has set ourselves a goal to work on service for our local homeless, food-insecure, and at-risk families. In keeping with that goal, we are currently undertaking our first-ever service project! On Thursday, October 8 at 6:00 pm, we will be meeting in the Bush Student Center Chapel and traveling to Emma Norton’s Residence, a United Methodist-affiliated homeless shelter for women and children in the Twin Cities.

Here is their website:

We’ve been in contact with Lucille, their Volunteer Coordinator, and they are very excited to have us. We’re hoping to coordinate anywhere from ten to twenty Hamline students.

  • Participants will have no financial contribution necessary.
  • Participants will have no other responsibilities besides helping out Thursday evening. Multifaith is arranging everything!
  • Our tasks at Emma Norton’s may include painting, cleaning, sorting donated goods, arranging cards and Thanksgiving/Christmas gifts to residents, and helping out with other chores. It’s also possible that we might try to arrange an activity or discussion with the residents.

Service project participants should get ready for a fun, thought-provoking, and very special act of service. Also, look out for a provocative preparatory session as well as a reflective follow-up session! This is going to be one of the most important projects Multifaith tackles this year, so don’t miss it!

RSVP to April Palo at or Megan Dimond at x2315. Thanks!

Reflections on Interfaith Activism and Social Justice

Posted in Academia and Research, Dreams for the Future, Internships and Work, Miscellaneous, Multifaith Alliance and Interfaith Activism on October 2, 2009 by aprilpalo

Last weekend I worked really hard and pounded out all of my homework for this week. I was fortunately able to lock down almost everything I needed to do. This was good, because on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Interfaith Youth Core came to Hamline for a series of trainings.

Check out more info here:

On Tuesday:

11:15 (Drew Conference Room): Religious Pluralism 101 and the Six Hallmarks of an Interfaith Bridge Builder – Come for lunch and conversation!
7:00pm (Manor Main Lounge): Common Action for the Common Good: How to Organize an Interfaith Service Event

And on Wednesday:

12 pm (Kay Fredericks): What’s Your Story? Storytelling as a Tool of Interfaith Dialogue – Come for lunch and conversation
3 pm (Kay Fredericks): Strategizing Session: How To Develop Sustainable Religious Pluralism
6:30 pm (Kay Fredericks): Dialogue Facilitation Training: Skills for a Shared Values Dialogue

Jenan and Mary Ellen did a great job. The sessions were very educational, but most importantly, they were inspiring. As an aspiring interfaith activist, it’s important for me to develop the frameworks, tools, and skill sets that will improve my approach. From building relationships to sharing values/stories, from adopting service work to attaining the hallmarks of interfaith pluralism, it’s critical that I become a leader in helping Hamline achieve these goals. As such, I’m positively buzzing with ideas, especially as per my conversations with Hamline’s Associate Vice President for Diversity (Dr Poonam Arora) and Hamline’s President (Dr Hanson).

On Thursday, I continued my work by successfully pulling off Multifaith’s paganism event all by myself. It was a little stressful, but fortunately our group was able to explore a productive and thoughtful conversation, which is really all that matters! (Thanks so much to Ryan, Abbie, Mikayla, and Ellen for being so forthcoming with their stories and thoughts, and thanks to all the rest who attended!)

On Thursday, I also attended my campus’ Commitment to Community Keynote Address, given this year by Keith Boykin (a political voice and professional commentator on multiple networks). His focus is primarily on the intersections of race and sex.

I very much enjoyed his speech and thought it was a good introduction to the concepts. At first it wasn’t quite to the level that I was expecting, but then I realized that I was coming fresh from a more advanced, “this-is-how-we-accomplish-things-together” sort of mindset. Boykin’s technique, on the other hand, was more geared towards introducing social justice to people who may never had explored it before. Once I recognized that, it spoke to me in a great way.

And yet, there is one thing that he seemed to leave out. Despite some students being new to issues of social justice, we should ALL be aware of ALL the various intersections that occur. A very important facet of these – one that IFYC explored and one that is close to my heart – is interfaith activism. So, without thinking that this might be a ballsy move, I stood up and I asked him about it. Social justice means telling truth to power, and so I called him out (in a very nice, Minnesota way, of course) and asked him his thoughts on interfaith work.

His response was typical and expected. He acknowledged the import of faith as a tool for activism, and readily agreed that interfaith dialogue is important. But that I needed to ask reminded me once more of the incredible importance of this kind of work. We do not live in a homogenous religious landscape, and preventative measures are crucial to developing strong, pluralistic relationships with one another. I strongly believe that we should call attention to that when it matters most, and this address was an opportunity to do so.

Finally, last night I submitted my first column for the Oracle. I’m not sure if my column made it in – it was rather long. But if it did, be on the lookout! I explored how perceptions of minority communities influence students’ belief in the “safety” of that community, but in particular, I emphasized the importance of diversity in action and cultural exploration.

Want to know what my column says? Grab the Oracle on Tuesday. If it’s in it, you’ll find it!

So, it’s been a very engaging week for me, particularly in the world of activism, education, and commentary. I wanted to blog about it because I wanted to get my thoughts out into the open, but also because this work is only going to continue.

On Tuesday, my column will be out (hopefully), and on Thursday, Multifaith is undertaking its first-ever service project! (More about that here:

On Thursday, October 8 at 6:00 pm, we will be meeting in the Bush Student Center Chapel and traveling to Emma Norton’s Residence, a United Methodist-affiliated homeless shelter for women and children in the Twin Cities. This is going to be a great opportunity for a fun, thought-provoking, and very special act of service. We are also coordinating a provocative preparatory session as well as a reflective follow-up session! This is going to be one of the most important projects Multifaith tackles this year, so I’m hoping we can make it happen.

Finally, on October 24, the Interfaith Youth Core is running a conference dedicated to religious pluralism in our campuses and communities. This is going to be an excellent opportunity for me to bring some useful tips, tricks, and activist ideas! (And Minnesota Congressman Kieth Ellison, the nation’s first Muslim elected to U.S. Congress, is going to be there!) It’s in Chicago and I won a scholarship, so I’m very excited.

I’ll keep my readers posted. Thanks!