Jordan Travis Radke took on the role of director of CC’s Collaborative for Community Engagement in March, and jumped right in to the work of deepening, supporting, expanding, and assessing community-based learning and community-based research and its integration into the scholarship of the college. It is what she calls, “a fantastic job.” Here’s your opportunity to get to know Radke as she shares insights on her role and the impact of a community-engaged campus:
How do you think your position will impact CC?
I hope that my work, and the work of our entire office, has a large impact on CC. I am passionate about the integration of community-based work into teaching, learning, and scholarship. For students, I believe community-based learning experiences foster empathy and awaken in students a hope and an obligation to build a more just, humane world. For both faculty and students, I believe community-based research offers the chance to generate knowledge and insights of public relevance, applying knowledge to improving the quality of life of the community.
Where did you work before CC and what where you doing?
Before I came to CC, I was a Ph. D. candidate in the Sociology Department at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (she finished up her Ph. D. in the fall, congrats!). As a late-stage Ph. D. student, the majority of my time was devoted to undergraduate teaching. I also spent much of my time seeking to gain experience in community-based learning, teaching, and co-curricular programs, and became heavily involved in a year-long, service-learning sequence oriented around race, class, and gender, in which students mentored at-risk middle school students. My training and experience in qualitative research throughout my dissertation was transformative for me, and I hope to draw on these skills and this interest, as well as to continue to explore my interest in the trend to individualize collective action.
What do you bring to this job?
I am a deeply committed person with strong convictions, and my hope is that this passion and energy will enable me to build a vibrant, active culture of community-based learning. I would like to bring stability and longevity to this position, and build something long-lasting and transformative. Lastly, I am by nature collaborative and hope to build bridges and relationships to transform the CCE into an office connected to the campus and our community.
What are some personal or professional experiences you’ve had either at CC or outside of it that play into your current role?
My Ph. D. certainly plays into my current role and gave me a range of skills and knowledge from which I draw. Additionally, before I went back to graduate school, I worked as a UNITE HERE union organizer for a short time, worked the front desk at a Ronald McDonald House, and was a volunteer grant writer at an organization that supported African immigrants. These experiences gave me interesting insights into the world of community organizing as well as the nonprofit sector, and I take those experiences with me in all that I do. In particular, these experiences revealed to me how difficult yet inspiring it can be to try to work toward social changes.
Who/what was the biggest influence on you?
Two things come to mind for me. First, I studied abroad in Madagascar my junior year of college, and it was a life-changing experience. Living there gave me a glimpse into a totally different culture and pace of life, and made me deeply question the American ethic of ever-increasing consumption and unwavering focus on achievement.
The other experience that deeply shaped me was the recession. My husband, a wide and bright-eyed first-year teacher, lost his publically funded high school teaching job along with all other new teachers in his district. It took him 15 months to get a career going again, and that was to return to graduate school for a different degree. While difficult, this time left me feeling ever grateful and privileged in our current, secure lives, and to empathize more deeply with those who struggle for stability.
What have you noticed about CC?
This campus is a true community, in which relationships are built between and among students, faculty, and staff. I love that I am on a campus where, when I walk to grab lunch or run to the library, I am likely to run into another person who knows me by name. After several years at a very large public university, that feels like a distinct privilege. I am also amazed at the extent to which CC is committed to students as entire people — providing programs and support to develop not only students’ intellectual interests and foundations, but every other aspect of their humanity.
Tell us a little about your background
I grew up in a family of eight with five siblings. I also come from a very long line of Presbyterian ministers. I credit my childhood and parents with instilling in me deep empathy and a desire to live a life that is other-oriented.
What do you like to do when not working?
In most of my free time, you’ll find me running after my firecracker of a three-year-old, Avery, and trying to make my 1-year-old Brynn giggle. When I do get to enjoy some time to myself (I am told this will happen in 18 years), I enjoy reading science fiction and fantasy, and watching TV shows like “Game of Thrones” with my husband. I also love nature photography, and enjoy being outdoors, playing in the water, listening to music, writing, and have been playing with meditation as well.
What is something people might be surprised to know about you?
I am an identical twin! My twin, Jesse, lives outside of San Antonio with her husband and three adorable children. For 18 years of life, my identity was totally intertwined with another person — and we still understand one another in a way that I think non-twins could never understand. I am grateful to have been born with a built-in best friend.