I was recently reading a chapter from Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach called The Trance of Unworthiness. Within the chapter Dr. Brach writes about the inherent value in our culture to be autonomous, self-reliant, and independent (very patriarchal). She includes a story about these values and how we internalize them. This internalization can mean that if we do have needs we immediately feel “unappealing, undesirable, even bad.” This small quote caused me to think about how much we talk about “needs” in student affairs without acknowledging this culturally implanted aversion to being perceived as needy.
As my department refreshed our community development model, we embracing the concept of needs based programming and investigated how to help our resident advisers understand how to assess the needs of their residents so they can effectively program based on our learning outcomes. A chunk of that conversation was about helping RAs learn to interpret and respond to a wide variety of data points that they may not consider data (vandalism issues, increased documentation for behavioral issues, lack of attendance at programs, visible signs of stress with their residents at mid-terms, etc.) Another part was talking about this cultural aversion to being needy.
We didn’t spend much time on that conversation but we did consider the language that we used to frame the needs-based programming concept for our RAs. We settled on purposeful programming as that is specifically what our RAs are doing. They are finding their purpose for their programming through assessing what is happening in their community. The community/resident needs drive the purpose of the program and we really want our RAs to focus on the purpose of the program and how it addresses. We thought this would help prevent RAs from getting stuck on what may be considered problems and focus on programming interventions (solutions).
We “re-launched” our community development model about two weeks ago during RA training and it seems as though our RAs are grasping the concept of purposeful programming and thinking outside of the chart that we used to program within that had 3 different types of programs they had to facilitate each month. Overall, I think the refreshed model is a good place for the new year despite my hesitation to the language around “needs”