Dear ACPA Members,
I am writing this article from the 2022 NINLHE (National Institute for Native Leadership in Higher Education) Institute, in a new partnership between NINLHE, ACPA, NAIC (ACPA’s Native, Aboriginal, and Indigenous Coalition) and ISAN (ACPA’s Indigenous Student Affairs Network) in sunny and humid Wilmington, NC on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington on the traditional territory of the Catawba people. Nearly 60 folks have committed time and resources to be present in this beautiful community together this week. I am grateful to be included in the return of the NINLHE Institute after several years of not being able to gather.
This morning, the Institute’s keynote speaker Dr. Amy Locklear Hertel, Executive Vice Provost at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, called us all to remember and engage with the 4 Rs of Indigeneity: Relationships, Responsibility, Reciprocity, and Redistribution (Harris & Wasilewski, 2004). As we prepare to begin new academic years on our campuses, I cannot imagine a more perfect time to collectively remind and recommit ourselves adjusting our worldviews and the ways in which we approach and prioritize our work with students and with each other. The easy way would be to continue to approach our work transactionally, but I know you have deeper aspirations of being transformational in your support of students and in challenging higher education. It is my hope that in the coming academic year, we will focus our attention towards:
Relationships – Isn’t this why most of us entered a career in student affairs or higher education? Our “to do” lists, supervisor demands, crisis du jour, and so many other things pull our time, energy, and attention away from focusing on our hearts. Rather than jumping from one meeting to the next, let’s spend a few minutes lingering after the meeting to cultivate existing relationships or to form connections with new colleagues. If you’re setting the meeting agendas, construct the goals of the meeting to primarily be relationship building as the business of the meeting. Imagine a higher education in which we always prioritize people over profit and people over policies. It is possible by making the extra effort to center humanity one person at a time.
Responsibility – This value is about embracing the agency that we each have within our spheres. Although it can sometimes be difficult to recognizes the privileges and power that we do possess, but I hope this start of the new academic year will remind us to continually use our voices, our positionality, our experiences, and our identities to create or advocate for the environments we need and want for our students, our colleagues, and ourselves. Responsibility begins with active participation, recognizing opportunities to influence, and building allies who support our intentions and efforts. Change may take time, but your activism in small and big ways will be a part of transforming higher education. Remind yourself that you do have agency in some areas and dialogue with trusted others on how and when to exercise that agency in ways that are healthy and beneficial to our own livelihood and experiences.
Reciprocity – When talking about reciprocity, today’s keynote recalled the saying, “to whom much is given, much is expected.” The service that she was asking from us was to identify those ways in which we want to enhance the world and to lean into opportunities that place you at the right place at the best time. For students, staff, and faculty with marginalized identities, this does not mean having to provide service in the form of educating others on your history, ancestry, cultures, or identities. The idea of reciprocity connected to indigeneity is to find ways to apply your passions through service. This could be on your campus, in your community, in associations, or in some other space that fully embraces your gifts and presence. I hope in this new year that we will find connections in ways that refill our hearts, minds, and souls, instead of depleting our spirit or humanity.
Redistribution – Whether dealing with time, money, or other forms of capital, we regularly make choices about what needs, or opportunities, get addressed or our attention. Although it helps to have positional power, one does not always need to be a senior-level campus decision-maker to make determinations for how these resources get distributed. When we think of resources, our instinct is to focus on how much (or little) funding is available. Time, energy, and relationships are also resources that are allocated as investments in different priorities. Along with this Institute’s keynote, I invite us to embrace our opportunities in this new academic year to reimagine and reallocate how we distribute all our available forms of capital to achieve greater social equality on campus, in higher education, and ultimately, in society. The keys to success with this “R” will likely be to intentionally unlearn old habits, to communicate and build allies who support our efforts to redistribute available resources, and to embrace new ways of working and living.
If you are like me, the start of a new academic year typically means an impossibly long list of things that need to get achieved before the first day of classes. While all of that will likely still need to get done, I hope you will join me by giving yourself a few moments of pause for reflection and a few additional moments to set your own intentions for how you intend to frame your worldview and your perspectives on your work before jumping into the usual “busy.” If we show up in the new year in harmony with our intentions, we will show up more authentically in our relationships and in our work.
Best wishes to you all at the start of this new academic year,
Chris Moody, Ed.D.
ACPA Executive Director
Harris, L. D., & Wasilewski, J. (2004). Indigeneity, an alternative worldview: Four R’s (relationship, responsibility, reciprocity, redistribution) vs. two P’s (power and profit). Sharing the journey towards conscious evolution. Systems Research and Behavioral Science: The Official Journal of the International Federation for Systems Research, 21(5), 489-503.