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Focus on Faculty: Mecca Madyun

Getting to know Drew University’s new faculty director of the Center for Civic Engagement

December 2023 – Drew University’s Mecca Madyun, Assistant Professor of Civically Engaged Teaching and Learning & Faculty Director, Center for Civic Engagement (CCE), joined us for our Focus on Faculty series, where we highlight the many accomplishments, research, and scholarship of Drew’s incredible faculty members.

Prior to joining Drew in August, Madyun was the education manager at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Drew’s Assistant Professor of Dance Kimani Fowlin, also a teaching artist at BAM, informed Madyun of the position at Drew. With a strong background in social justice work and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) work, and as an adjunct professor, it turned out to be the perfect position for Madyun.

We sat down with Madyun to learn more about how students and faculty members can grow through involvement with the CCE. Read on to learn more about the work she does at the CCE, and how she aspires for the work to expand throughout the University.

What are your hopes and aspirations for the CCE?
Sean Hewitt [Director of the CCE] and I collectively share a vision of the CCE functioning as a hub of activism in a broad sense—building a true ecosystem of civic engagement through the many different ways that civic engagement can look in a multitude of spaces. Through dialogue, building relationships, and collaborating across departments and spaces, we can support students and faculty in defining what civic engagement means and looks like to them. This informed approach can be empowering because it allows people to leverage their knowledge, experiences, skills, and talents to carve their own path into this work. This is how we work together to build an civic engagement ecosystem that is Drew-wide and has deep impact within and far beyond its walls.

I’m also looking to holistically expand the Action Scholars curriculum to include social justice frameworks and leadership practices that integrate mental health and wellness components for developing self-awareness and cultural competency—to understand one’s positionality within the larger context of the social landscape. Developing a practice of self-awareness is pertinent to engaging with the key tenets of social justice frameworks—place matters, identity matters, oppression exists, and informed community based action. These tenets enable a holistic analysis of social issues by elucidating the interdependent nature of history, cultural knowledge, identity (personal, cultural, social) and inference, power and race, systemic oppression (ideologies, institutions, interpersonal relations, internalization), and liberation and their interconnected effect on society. Self awareness and social justice frameworks build cultural competency, which inform the way we view ourselves and others, what we believe, and how we interact within any given environment we find ourselves in. Culturally competent leadership requires emotional intelligence and the tools to navigate the nuances of diversity and its social complexities. We need to foster a space that develops students into the culturally competent leaders needed to achieve positive social change.

The CCE is designed for students to be in collaboration with communities. They have to understand the systemic structures that exist and lie at the root of social problems in our world. We are building a holistic program that not only addresses the idea of students taking action to support resolutions that meet the needs of a community, but also understanding the self-work necessary to become effective community leaders, organizers, and members. It is our [Drew’s community] responsibility to equip these young people with the tools to enter into communities and connect across cultural and identity differences in a meaningful way.

Why should students get involved in the CCE?
There are many students that are engaged in playing a role in shifting the culture of communities they have been raised in. The CCE acknowledges and believes multiple things and truths can exist at the same time and in the same space. Technically, everyone plays a role in the health and wellness of our society, but everyone’s role does not have to look the same. Our civic duty is in discovering, defining, developing, and implementing our roles in society to contribute to the greater good. 

Our desire at the CCE is to build a spectrum of existence and action, together with the Drew community, to establish multiple modalities and methods of civic engagement to ensure that ANYONE can contribute positive social change at any level. We would like students and faculty to identify a pathway for themselves into the work. Society is diverse, therefore, we must allow for a diversity of thought, methodology, and practice to exist within the field of civic engagement if we want social change for a healthier society. There is no “one size fits all” approach to this work and it is important for our students to embody and amplify that you do not have to fit a specific mold or look a specific way or be from a specific background to be a changemaker. The CCE is very student-centric in the ways we look to them to guide and inform the work we do, from community partnerships to curriculum development for Community Based Learning (CBL) courses to the Drew Action Scholars Program. 

People can oftentimes be very exclusive in their attempts to be inclusive. We get so stuck in binary logic—you’re either for or against, you’re either this or that—that we don’t acknowledge or recognize the value of allowing for the spectrum to exist. That spectrum is important when we talk about diversity, inclusivity, and equity; these are the building blocks for the civic engagement ecosystem. We [administration, faculty, and staff] also have to do the work. We must embody the practice prescribed within the theory taught in our classroom spaces. We can’t truly guide students unless we’re doing the work ourselves. A civic engagement ecosystem can function as the space where responsibility, accountability, reflection, and respect intertwine to produce the responsive methodologies necessary to address the nuances and social complexities that arrive to our campus with each new first year cohort. The CCE values and honors student voice and vision because they are the influencers and carriers of culture. Historically, young people have been the spark and vehicle for social change around the world. 

We wonder why we’re in the same place that we were back in the 60’s. The way we are schooling young people is producing the same type of self-centric thinker we’ve produced for decades, only with updated skills and language. Schooling fails to incorporate the voices of young people. It fails to illuminate the interconnected, interdependent, and multiplicitous nature of the world around us. The CCE intends to be the space where students, faculty, and the larger Drew community convene, connect, commune, collaborate and create to build our vision of holistic education. There’s a pride in that, and a certain level of investment and commitment, in terms of building the interpersonal relationship skills needed to achieve effective collaboration. There can also be a sense of pride in building the capacity to consider others outside of one’s self. That’s really the goal of the work we do here at the CCE. 

What are your goals for the future?
Our goal is to have at least one CBL course offered and represented in each department on campus to further inform hands-on experience for students and enhance existing curricula. We just launched our “ABC’s of CBLs Open Space” gatherings, which is space for veteran, new, and CBL course-curious faculty to share stories, best practices, field ideas, collaborate, and build community around developing and expanding CBL courses. CBLs offer not only hands-on experience for students offering service (people power, producing a “product” that contributes to the needs/goals of the community partner, etc.) and meaningful connections/relationships with community partners but, students receive a great deal of knowledge and skill as well as an understanding of their individual collective impact. CBLs also serve as a space to further faculty research, scholarship praxis, and meaningful work that can count toward faculty promotion. CBLs are a huge part of the civic engagement ecosystem. 

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