Majors: English and Peace Studies
Year of Graduation: 2006
Current Job Title: Community Education Coordinator, Safe Haven Shelter for Battered Women, Duluth, MN
Please give a brief description of your current position.
I have been the Community Education Coordinator at the Safe Haven Shelter for Battered Women in Duluth, MN, since I graduated from SJU in 2006. My job is to provide education on the dynamics of domestic violence and resources that are available to victims in the Duluth area. I also work with campuses, businesses, and other organizations to strategize and implement effective intervention and primary prevention policies and procedures as they connect to violence against women.
Additionally, I co-facilitate a Men's Nonviolence Class (Batterer's Intervention Class), for the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, and am a Primary Prevention Specialist with the Minnesota Men's Action Network (MN-MAN): Alliance to Prevent Sexual and Domestic Violence. MN-MAN organizes men in communities throughout Minnesota to be effective allies in preventing and ultimately ending violence against women and children.
How did you get involved with shelter work?
When I was a sophomore at SJU, my service-learning placement for a Peace Studies class was at Anna Marie's Shelter in Saint Cloud. My experience at Anna Marie's opened my eyes to the prevalence and destructiveness of men's violence against women. After my experience there, I knew I wanted to volunteer or work in the battered women's movement in the future. I applied for this job a couple of weeks before graduation, and was lucky enough to get hired.
What skills are important for a person in your field?
Working in the violence prevention field requires many different skills. Active listening skills and the ability to empathize are particularly important when working with people who are victims of domestic or sexual violence. The ability to remain patient and keep an open mind is also very valuable. Nonprofit work isn't always smooth, and you are constantly learning more about how to improve your efforts. Organization, time management, and communication skills are key for educating, fostering dialogues, and organizing people to do something. As a man in this work, it is also very important to be aware of how much space (verbal, physical, etc.) you are taking up, and to be willing to receive feedback from others. It is also critical to be able to relate and build trust within diverse communities. Perhaps one of the most important skills is the ability to care for yourself.
There is a lot of pain, sadness, and injustice in this work-and there aren't any quick fixes. If you don't keep yourself healthy, emotionally and physically, it can take its toll on you.
What activities/resources did you utilize at CSB/SJU to prepare yourself for this career?
CSB/SJU played a huge role in preparing me for this career. I was fortunate to have many great professors and administrators that encouraged and supported me. Aside from being a Peace Studies major and volunteering at Anna Marie's, I studied abroad in Northern Ireland. I was also fortunate enough to participate in a semester long exchange with Morehouse College in Atlanta. I participated in feminist and social justice-based student groups, and connected with the Men's Center for Leadership and Service. Professors from the Peace Studies and English departments encouraged and helped me write grant/scholarship applications and apply for additional experiences. When I was a senior, Career Services helped me think about what my next step was going to be. They also taught me how to create a really good resume.
What advice do you have for students that are interested in your career? How can they learn more?
Women and men who are interested in a career similar to mine should volunteer at Anna Marie's. It's a great way to gain experience and knowledge, and support a wonderful organization. People interested in this work could also start or support a campus group focused on gender equality and issues surrounding violence against women. Take classes that include a gender based analysis of the world and/or explore violence and oppression. Read books and articles by feminist women and pro-feminist/feminist men. I would also be happy to talk with any students interested in this field.