As the second week of classes at Goshen College comes to an end and students adjust to their new routines and living spaces, student life faculty also continue their work on creating an environment on campus that is welcoming, supportive and aware of its student’s needs.
Gilberto Perez, Jr., vice president of student life has been working alongside a group of student life directors to identify the needs of all students. The student life department oversees all aspects that relate to and affect students, such as athletics, student involvement, diversity, equity and inclusion, community engagement and operations.
A new and exciting initiative that Perez has been working on with Dr. Lakendra Hardware, director of diversity, equity and inclusion, is the Regarding Justice Network (RJN). This initiative is being developed to prepare for open space where students can talk to each other about issues that interest them. In addition, Perez has been working on incorporating RJN into ICC classes to offer workshops similar to those given by the Prevention Intervention Network (PIN).
“This particular initiative is exciting because it gets into the front of students the idea of ‘Quiero hablar contigo, I want to talk to you, I want to listen to you’ and so we go back and forth with our dialogue…we are actually in dialogue with one another about the issues of justice that we want to work on together,” said Perez.
While always keeping in mind the best interests of all students, Perez is aware of the ongoing challenge Goshen College has in understanding the experience of commuter students.
“I am the first to say that we haven’t gotten it right yet with commuters, and so we have work to do. What we are proposing this year with Corie Steinke, director of student involvement, and with the Commuter Student Association is opening space for dialogue where we can get a better understanding of what their needs are,” said Perez.
The goal with commuter students is to hear their voices, understand what their experience is like at Goshen College, and implement changes that will allow them to feel like they belong and that they also space on campus that is for them.
According to Perez, the goal of student life is “to cultivate hope-filled and joyful relationships through their commitment to care, trust, and open communication.”
Perez strongly believes students live well together.
“I think we have a campus community, we have a group of students that live well together—commuters, adults students, traditional students, transfer students. And that’s why I like doing this work because for the most part people live well together,” he said.
Perez said he wants to instill care, trust, communication, hope and joy in everything that he and Goshen College does. He said he wants students to feel supported and heard, especially when they need help.
Perez also wants all students to know that,“We are doing this for you, we’re hoping that you have a memorable experience, that you have a joyful experience, and that you learned more about yourself, and then hopefully go out within your friend groups and live differently than what you did before.”