CCR Blog

What I’ve Learned from My First Few Days With the Center for Civic Reflection

Jun 29 2012 Anna Paustenbach
Anna Paustenbach, CCR intern
Anna Paustenbach, CCR intern

After completing a Master's program and returning to professional justice work, I have found that the first few days of my internship with the Center for Civic Reflection have revealed the possibilities for an intersection between academia and activist dialogue. CCR merges theory and praxis by using literature and other media as a springboard for people to engage with questions and topics of justice in unique ways, giving individuals the space for both emotional and scholarly reactions.

When I was a student and was involved in justice work, I often found it challenging to link my academic life with my social engagement. Academically, I sometimes had opportunities to focus my intellectual work on ethics, but I still found it challenging to align these topics with my service work. My service and justice-oriented life, meanwhile, was anchored in direct service through my college community outreach organization. There, I became familiar with reflection and eventually led regular sensitivity trainings and volunteer reflections. This practice helped relieve compassion fatigue and reidentify vocation, yet it often had little intellectual basis -- only strong emotional and interdisciplinary components.

I have recognized in these first few days with CCR that these two approaches—emotional and scholarly—do in fact have a crossroads. CCR uses reflection to revisit vocation and locate sites of change—from practical activism to personal perspective—yet it also creates an intellectual dialogue. It uses creative mediums to examine practical applications of abstract concepts like power and compassion, while legitimizing immediate personal reactions.

Given the freedom to embrace the personal as a category of intellectual justice work, I have found that I am revisiting justice topics I had not engaged with while I was a graduate student, where my service-based interests needed to align with scholarly ones. My graduate work focused on topics of gendered hegemonies, women’s theology, diverse faith traditions, LGBTQ history, power, and macro level privilege. However, my internship at CCR has rekindled my engagement with other issues I am passionate about such as physical and mental health advocacy, citizenship and global community, privilege within micro level communities, daily gender struggles, and political influences. I am learning how to participate in dialogues without an academic obligation and I am becoming comfortable linking my emotional reactions with thoughtful reflection.

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