Change Makers: Critical Hope is Hope With Action | Athletic Business

Change Makers: Critical Hope is Hope With Action

Changemakers Nirsa Aug 31 1280

“Being a change maker means sitting in the challenges, hard thoughts, feelings, and emotions long enough that you become inspired by your own impatience to create the change you believe needs to happen. Being a change maker in collegiate recreation means being committed enough to your values and beliefs, that while the toughest days may pause your drive, they do not fully stop your pursuit. Creating change is just that… a pursuit, not an end game… full of critical hope and grace, and above all else, educational throughout the process.” – Rachael Finley, York College of Pennsylvania

Welcome to our first vlog of the NIRSA Change Makers series. The goal of the series is to create synergy around the concept of critical hope (hope with action) during times of change. As I mentioned in my introductory post, critical hope “demands that leaders take up the most difficult challenges, explore the most sensitive subjects, and raise the most daring questions.” (Preskill & Brookfield, 2009, p. 173) Throughout the year I look forward to exploring critical hope by sharing stories, insights and resources from colleagues.

My hope for this series is to highlight 20-24 members over the course of the year to amplify their stories about how they are acting as agents for and contributing to change. I also plan to share quotes through social media from various members about what it means to be a change maker.

This month, I am excited to have Todd Bauch, Associate Director of Operations at Portland State University, Kevin George, Director at Rowan University, Vicki Highstreet, Interim Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Special Projects Manager at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Michael Howard, Managing Director of Recreation Facilities at Duke University with me. These colleagues share with us insights about how to exhibit critical hope, navigate challenges in the process, and integrate strategies to create change. Each panelist brings their authentic self to the dialogue and exudes what it means to be courageous, brave, and inspiring.

Apply critical hope in your work

During our time together, we talked quite a bit about the complexities of diversity, equity, and inclusive work and how we can all continue to actively engage while simultaneously supporting one another on a shared journey for inclusive excellence. I believe you will see some common themes emerge from our panelists, including their ability to illustrate how to engage in the work at a practical level, as well as a commendable ability to inspire self and others to stay engaged even through complexity.

As collegiate recreation professionals, we can apply critical hope by engaging in these behaviors:

  • Listening to others speak about their success in addressing injustice
  • Talking about things that breed hope in others
  • Acknowledging obstacles and sharing how people are doing things here and there to chip away at the wall of injustice
  • Helping others live with the reality of failure without letting it lead to a pessimistic attitude is a positive act – failure may lead to a new idea to tackle the problem
  • Learning how to share or amplify the work that you are involved with can have a powerful impact
  • Pointing to evidence that efforts of individuals and groups are making a difference
  • Being vulnerable about how others assisted you during a time of injustice you may have experienced

I’ve adapted the list above from Preskill & Brookfield’s 2009 book "Learning as a Way of Leading: Lessons from the Struggle for Social Justice" (page 177). I believe you will see these behaviors more concretely expressed through the many sentiments shared by our four colleagues.

I would like to thank Todd, Vicki, Kevin, and Michael for taking the time to be a part of the first vlog for the Change Makers of NIRSA series. I hope that we continue to listen, learn, do better and those actions will inspire others to be change makers exhibiting critical hope. Most importantly let us remember to be the change the world needs to create and sustain healthy communities.

Be well NIRSA family and be the change.


If making positive change — on your campus or in the campus recreation profession — is something you are interested in learning more about, I’d invite you to explore the following resources:

  1. From Equity Talk to Equity Walk: Expanding Practitioner Knowledge for Racial Justice in Higher Education
  2. Learning as Way of Leading: Lessons from the Struggle for Social Justice
  3. NIRSA EDI Resource Guide
  4. Rowan University DEI Strategic Action Plan Dashboard
  5. Tweet NIRSAPresident or email if you want to connect more
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