Sunday, May 24, 2015

Dear New CPE... by Caitlin Briggs

Dear New CPE,

Congratulations on the new position!  You are now a part of Residential Life and Intercultural Student Engagement.  You have become an integral part of the University at Albany, and many will look to you as a role model.

The CHARGE mission is to increase cultural competency on campus through programming and dialogues.  Cultural competency encompasses not just multiculturalism, but also race, LGBT issues, class conflict, religion, nationality, etc.  You name a controversial issue, and CHARGE needs to be able to handle it.  This is what makes the CHARGE Peer Educator position unique and laudable, however, this is also what makes the position very challenging.  

With the CPE position comes much responsibility, not in terms of a mandatory check list of things to do, but rather, in terms of self-initiative.  YOU decide the topics of the dialogues you facilitate.  YOU decide what issues or programs on campus you would like to personally support with the CHARGE brand, whether by promotion or your presence.  YOU decide what everyday conversations about controversial issues you would like to engage in with the students around you.  Once people realize what CHARGE is and that you are a CPE, you are held to a higher standard on campus.  In fact, I believe it is even more important for a CPE to “practice what you preach” than any other position on staff.  So, research, research, research those topics you are likely to speak out about!

Another challenge to the CPE position is that you are one of a kind on your individual quad staffs.  This may make it difficult to stay updated and involved with the other staff, as sometimes you do not really feel like you belong.  Nevertheless, you can combat this right away by making a point to get to know your staff, hang out with your staff in the quad office, and maybe even attend some small staff meetings.  This is what I did, so I felt much more in the loop.  On the flipside, make a point of getting to know your fellow CPEs as well!  You may be spread far and wide, but it will pay off if you can create a real connection with each other.

Lastly, I want to make sure you know that despite the challenges, being a CHARGE Peer Educator will be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have.  You will truly feel as if you are fighting for a cause and making the world a better place, as cheesy as that sounds.  You can tell people your job description and it will demand respect (from most) because they will recognize that it takes a strong, intelligent, and capable person to do this job.  And of course, you are contributing to making the University a place where all who respect the rights of others are welcome and embraced.

Good luck, and do not be afraid to reach out!  I will be on Colonial Quad staff as an RA, but I will always be eager to assist CHARGE in all its future endeavors!

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