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New RCL staffers bring social justice awareness to Mills community

Jackie Kennedy

Residential and Commuting Life has seen many new additions to its staff this past year. Two of those new additions, area coordinators Linnea Kelsey and Jolie Harris, say they are excited to be a part of the Mills community.

“When I was searching for a job, I was looking for everything that Mills is, and I didn’t know you could find it all at one school,” said Kelsey, a Minnesota native who earned her Master’s degree in International and Multicultural Education at the University of San Francisco. Among the qualities she was looking for, Kelsey said, “At Mills, there’s space for dialogue and action in regards to social justice.”

Prior to working at Mills, Kelsey did a graduate assistantship in residential life at the University of San Francisco, where she served as an advisor to various student groups, among other duties. Kelsey also worked at City College in San Francisco, where she helped with the Multicultural Infusion Project, a project aimed at providing faculty with the tools necessary for transforming their practice to meet the multicultural range of student needs.

After her previous job in Residential Education at San Diego State University, Kelsey came to Mills, where she is presently working as an area coordinator for RCL. She says the best part of her job now is the feeling that Mills has “a mix of amazing student activists and extremely strong colleagues.”

Among Kelsey’s colleagues is Jolie Harris, who joined the RCL team in January of 2006. Harris also found that Mills offered exactly what she said she was looking for.

“I was looking specifically to work at another small liberal arts school,” said Harris, who did her undergraduate work at Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash. and holds a Master’s degree in education from the University of Maryland.

Harris boasts a broad history of working with students of all backgrounds, having been involved with student life and student government during her own undergraduate studies and having been a coordinator for the Student Diversity Center, a counseling program at the University of Maryland. She is pleased to put her counseling skills to good use at Mills.

Harris and Kelsey both agree that, if nothing else, working as a team with fellow RCL staffer Sadika Sulaiman is an amazing experience in itself.

“I think we have very different educational backgrounds, so we learn a lot from one another,” said Harris. “Each one of us has something different to bring to the table. And we know how to laugh together!”

What does Kelsey enjoy about working with her two teammates? “Everything! I’ve never worked with such an amazing team,” she said. “We’re so different, and we challenge each other. This is the best that it gets.”

While a job such as this can be a challenge, both Harris and Kelsey agree the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Harris said her work gives her “really close ties with the community in very different ways.” She added, “The work that we do thinking about social justice issues connects me to different people, and that’s really rewarding.” Kelsey has also found the challenges of her job rewarding, “pushing me in a way I’ve never been pushed as a professional.”

Harris agrees with Kelsey and feels that her work presents her with new opportunities to reach out to members of the Mills community.

“My job is constantly evolving, so I never get bored,” Harris said. “There are always new challenges that come up, and I am constantly getting to know new students and constantly learning from my students and my colleagues.”

As the spring semester progresses, there are a variety of programs and events that the RCL staff are looking forward to, as well as simply the chance to further connect with the students they work with on a day to day basis. Kelsey is eagerly anticipating the beginning of her newest project, ESIM: Ending Social Injustice Movement. She said she also continues to enjoy her position as advisor to “Unlearning White Supremacy.”

Harris too looks forward to seeing the great people her students will become. “It’s really exciting for me to see the students I’ve gotten to know really well working on their final semester,” she said. “I’m looking forward to commencement, and seeing a lot of my students graduate and go on to change the world.”