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Halfway through the fall semester, my View from Venus podcast co-hosts and I decided to create and publish a fall mini-season, with 4 episodes. I had just returned to BU from city hall and was desperate to fill my plate and do all the things to help me pivot back into the higher ed space. My superstar supportive co-hosts were game – they knew how much I needed to just do the work. So, we were off and running. Of course many of the amazing women we contacted to book a recording session were fully committed for the month plus, and the earliest they could schedule a recording session was in December or January. 

So, our first episode of the season was just published on December 2 and featured Jaqueline Rodriguez,Vice President, Research, Policy, & Advocacy at the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) in Washington, DC, as our guest expert. She spoke with us about working from home, leading from home, and her move from a traditional faculty position in higher ed to a higher ed professional association. If you are managing a team remotely or thinking about leaving a university or college for a professional association or something similar, give it a listen. She is just also fun to be around – a high energy, Fluevog-wearing optimist!

Last week, we published our second episode and it featured Shana MacDonald, Associate Professor in Communications Arts at University of Waterloo in Canada. I first encountered Shana at the Gender, Activism, and Political Theory in Covid Times conference at Queen’s University Belfast (such a good conference!). Shana presented with Brianna Wiens (York University) on Feminist Activist Memes as a form of community formation during COVID. I was hooked and reached out to Shana to see if she would be willing to join us on our podcast and was thrilled when she accepted our invitation. I find her work to be really interesting and it ranges from the #MeToo movement to pandemic memes to teen comedies and all done with a social justice orientation. 

Once we got into the conversation what I was most drawn to was qLab, the feminist design lab she has created with colleagues of hers at other institutions. I am intrigued by these spaces that we carve out on our campuses and between campuses. Since we established Wheelock College at Boston University in 2018, I have looked more closely at collaborative spaces that are less traditional than a university-wide or college/school-situated center or institute. I am especially interested in more creative models for collaboration like qLab and a recent partner of mine, the Project on Workforce at Harvard (an interdisciplinary project between the Harvard Kennedy School’s Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, the Harvard Business School Managing the Future of Work Project, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education)

qLab is virtually located on the University of Waterloo, Mount Royal University, and University of Illinois Urbana Champaign campuses, it is a space that a team of academics created for doing the work that they love. Our work in higher ed is often both isolated and isolating. We created this blog in 2010 because we saw the need for building community in a space outside of our institutions. The women faculty I coach often share feelings of professional loneliness and isolation and are usually the only faculty members at their institutions doing the type of specialized work they are doing. We talk about the importance of building networks outside of their institutions and I help them brainstorm ways of doing this. Shana and her colleagues met this need by creating qLab as a space for those projects that just didn’t fit within the parameters of their departments or institutions. They have constructed a creative and collaborative space with a social justice mission. 

As we have tried to do with University of Venus and View from Venus, Shana and her colleagues are creating a space for women and feminists to come together to share their work and build community.

It feels great to be hosting these conversations again. Later this week, episode 4.3 will publish with guest expert Becky Petitt from UC San Diego and, next week, look out for Felicia Commodore from Old Dominion University in Virginia. 

Mary Churchill is the former chief of policy and planning for Mayor Kim Janey in the city of Boston and current associate dean for strategic initiatives and community engagement at Wheelock College of Education and Human Development at Boston University. She is co-author of When Colleges Close: Leading in a Time of Crisis and an ICF certified leadership coach.

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