My First Time... Back to the Future at Rutgers

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In the tradition of the Campus Team, I wanted to share one of my first-time experiences at The David Project. I’m lucky to work with an impressive roster of universities, particularly my alma mater, Rutgers University. As I’m starting to make my way on the road and to campus, I find myself driving a familiar highway back on the Banks of the Old Raritan (see: Rutgers Alma Mater). Taking a stroll down Greek Row, houses have new letters and old buildings have been torn down to their foundations. Things are happening all over campus and I can only wonder like Jay-Z : do you think about me now and then, because I’m coming home again. Yet, even here on the hallowed grounds of my college glory days, I know that I am no longer the expert on Rutgers campus life.  There is still a lot for me to learn here.

So I sat down at the (new) Barnes and Noble with the Rutgers Hillel president, a student I know as so-and-so’s younger brother, someone whose Bar Mitzvah I attended, and asked, "What’s changed?" He talked about how Israel advocacy didn’t exist during my time at Rutgers. Student groups have popped up recently at Hillel that celebrate Israel in an active way. Using the Latte Initiative model, students are engaging their peers in discussions and building strong relationships. Leadership has grown dynamic and interactive with other organizations.

As a student, I was an advocate for Israel in the way The David Project describes as personal advocacy. I talked with friends about my trips, I posted pictures, had an Israeli flag above my bed, and did my Hebrew homework with my Delta Gamma sisters. I built individual relationships with my peers and shared Israel over commonalities. So, when the time came for me to raise funding for a another Israel trip, my friends were there for Israel and me. Which begs the question, has anything changed? Building off of your individual relationships for advocacy is now an organized strategy. Personal advocacy is no longer something that takes place on the sidelines.

As a social work student, I learned about community organizing and social skills building, tools that make personal advocacy effective rather than guess work. Additionally, exploring expertise was a big piece of my graduate education. The question of who is the expert for me, as a social worker, is complicated. For instance, the campus team is going to come to students with a set of skills, which makes me an expert. But, in truth, the students are the real experts in far more important things. Students are the experts on campus culture, community, and where I should have lunch.

As the experts, students are the ones with the unique ability to enact real change.

I just get to have the best sandwich and view in town.