Sustaining Connections

Transcript: Sustaining Connections

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Sonali Rajan: One of the projects that I have been so happy to be a part of over the past 18 months has been a podcast series called (Re)Search for Solutions, the first season of which is devoted to amplifying the stories and the evidence behind research informed solutions to the endemic of gun violence in the United States. Some of the interviews we have conducted over the past 12 months have been incredibly raw, incredibly painful, I have cried through many of them and to do that in isolation without the ability to be with other people has been so difficult. And actually, when we think a lot and talk a lot about burnout in academia,I think a lot about the ways in which our in-person connections sustain us in, when we are in the depths of doing this kind of work.

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So this sounds almost very trite I think when I say it but I think what the pandemic did for so many of us was to highlight experiences, interactions, things that brought us happiness that we all just took for granted on a daily basis and then all of a sudden those were gone. I live actually in the Teacher's College neighborhood. My family and I are embedded in the Teacher's College community that goes outside of just the TC buildings and so for example, I'll be walking my son to school and I'll run into one of my students. So there's all sorts of opportunities in various ways to just build connection and I think important relationships with our academic community. I think the informal interactions for me pre-COVID, I had never actively thought about until they were gone but just the way in which students would pop in and out of my office to borrow a book or to grab a snack or they need a form signed, you have these moments to just connect and think. To have the ability to have these informal interactions allows us to just cultivate those relationships so at least for me, it feels very organic and also really important.

Now, any interaction I have had with my students since March of 2020 has had to have been formalized through a Zoom link, a calendar invite, an email and that lack of informal conversation and connection, it really has made it I think much harder for us to just think through new ideas. But that being said, I think there is a world in which we do pursue digital online spaces in a thoughtful way in tandem with in-person learning and connection.

A lot of the work that I do is focused on (and this is the same for many of our colleagues here at TC) but it's really focused on some very difficult, very traumatic, very painful, very upsetting subjects. Part of the ability to do that kind of work day in and day out is by having a strong support network in the context of our research team, cultivating those in-person spaces even in an era where Zoom might feel more convenient or easier, I think we still have to make sure we are working to attend to those in-person relationships because those matter.

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black and white headshot of Sonali Rajan
Sonali Rajan

Dr. Rajan is an Associate Professor of Health Education in the Department of Health and Behavior Studies at Teachers College, Columbia University. She also holds a secondary faculty appointment in the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health. She is a school violence prevention researcher, studying gun violence, school safety, and adverse childhood experiences. Her work prioritizes the needs for schools and communities to collectively attend to the well-being of children while keeping them safe, reducing their exposure to violence, and ensuring opportunities for them to thrive.

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