S.5 E.2: “A Place for Everyone at Gustavus”

Learning for Life @ Gustavus host Greg Kaster interviews recent graduate Joy Dunna '20.
Posted on October 29th, 2020 by

Alum Joy Dunna ’20, whose parents came to the United States from Liberia, reflects on her path to Gustavus, her education as a double major in history and gender, women, and sexuality studies, her varied co-curricular activities like Student Senate and the annual Building Bridges Conference, student teaching online in the time of COVID-19, and what makes Gustavus so compelling.

Season 5, Episode 2: “A Place for Everyone at Gustavus”

Greg Kaster:

Learning for Life at Gustavus is produced by JJ Akin and Matthew Dobosenski of Gustavus Office of Marketing. Will Clark, senior communications studies major and videographer at Gustavus, who also provides technical expertise to the podcast, and me, your host, Greg Kaster. The views expressed in this podcast are not necessarily those of Gustavus Adolphus College.

To say that Joy Dunna, Gustavus Class of 2020, has a positive outlook on life is an understatement. All who know her are struck by that quality. Joy yourself has said she begins each day by telling herself, “I am alive, I am awake, I am alert, I am enthusiastic.” At Gustavus, she impressed everyone, peers and professors alike, with her twin commitments to co-curricular activities and academics. She was involved as a leader in a variety of activities, most notably the annual student organized Building Bridges Conference, while also double majoring in history, I’m proud to say and gender women and sexuality studies or GWSS, with a concentration in the latter in African American women in the United States.

In a 2017 profile of Joy in The Gustavian Weekly, the campus newspaper, one of her history professors, Kate Wittenstein, to whom full disclosure, I am married, remarked that, “Joy is open minded and willing to grow in her thinking, a perfect role model of a liberal arts student who takes her education seriously.” In that same profile a close friend of Joyce described her as “one of the most caring, thoughtful and genuine people you will meet.” Joy’s impressive academic and co-curricular achievements and the high regard for peers led to her selection as the class of 2020 commencement speaker, an address unfortunately postponed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently, Joy is pursuing her master of education degree in social studies teaching at the University of Minnesota, which she expects to complete this May. Because Joy embodies so well the liberal arts ethos of Gustavus, and because she is in the words of Gustavus chaplain Siri Erickson “a fantastic human being,” I’ve known from the launch of this podcast last spring that I would want to talk with her about her Gustavus education and experience, and it’s my pleasure to do so now. So welcome, Joy.

Joy Dunna:

Yeah, thank you for having me.

Greg Kaster:

My great pleasure. Yeah, so good to connect. I know it hasn’t been that long, but still, it seems long. Let’s start with you and your path to Gustavus. Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you grew up. Are both your parents from Liberia, your dad is, I don’t remember, tell us a little bit about that and how you came to Gustavus and how you came to major in what you did?

Joy Dunna

Joy Dunna:

So actually, both of my parents and my two older brothers were born in Liberia. And they were just kind of forced to relocate because of the Civil War, and they ended up here in Minnesota. So that was kind of a random destination for them. I have always loved Minnesota through and through. And that kind of ties to how I ended up at Gustavus. They both really value education. And so, my brothers and I just, we always went to small private schools, and I knew that that’s what I wanted when I was looking at colleges. And I knew I wanted to be a name, not a number. And then when I kind of started to realize what a liberal arts education looked like, I narrowed down my choices even more to mostly schools in the MIAC, and Gustavus was just kind of the lucky winner. I felt like I belonged there, which is what everyone says. It’s why you end up picking the college that you do. But I could see it being my home for four years and it was. So yeah.

Greg Kaster:

That’s really important, just to interject quickly what you just said, that’s definitely true I think of anyone who finds the right place. It’s that feeling of this is me, this is where I feel like it can be home. And that’s come up in the podcast with other alums. We’re lucky, we’re happy who chose Gustavus obviously. Did you have any idea you wanted to pursue the majors you did? I mean, you probably didn’t even know there was a major called gender women studies and sexuality, but history, was that something already on your radar?

Joy Dunna:

It was not actually. It was the opposite. My dad’s a doctor and I thought that I was going to go into healthcare, I thought I was going to be a nurse. And so, I came in with that full intention and I stuck with the nursing major for three semesters, and even started applying to the program. And when I got to that process, I had started thinking about the classes I had been taking and I had been taking some history classes with Kate. I really loved it. And I couldn’t picture not going the rest of my time not taking those history classes. And they cross-referenced as they do with GWSS because that’s a smaller department. So I was introduced to GWSS and thinking that I want to learn more about women, want to hear more of the stories that I didn’t get in my previous high school education.

And so I was thinking I was going to do a GWSS minor, and then these classes also happened to be within the history department. And then when I was having kind of my crisis, as one does, I thought, why not history? Why not just double major in both things that I love, and I can enjoy the rest of my time here and feel like I’m getting the most out of my education. I just kind of let nursing go. I just didn’t have the same passion for it. I love my decisions.

Greg Kaster:

And we’re thrilled. Well, you know this, you’ve been a student, you say crisis, yeah, this idea that students have to students have to come and have it all figured out is just of course not true. You’re just an embodiment of this, that to do what one is passionate about and what one enjoys, then one learns a great deal. Awesome nursing program, of course, many, many great nursing majors. Whether it’s nursing, physics, chemistry, doesn’t matter, health exercise science, but to pursue that, and you’ve heard me say this a million times, the rest will fall in place. No one is going to say to you, well, sorry you enjoy history so much because now you can’t get a job, which is not true, right?

What is true, you might have trouble if you don’t graduate with a commitment to learning and understanding of how to learn. So it’s really cool too how the two majors fit together so well. What are some of your takeaways from those majors do you think as you think back? I know it hasn’t been that long but if you think back about what are some of the things you really feel you learned about African American women and US history?

Joy Dunna:

I think that, oh gosh, I had a professor, I’m forgetting who mentioned this in class one time, but they were saying that when you’re studying history, you’re really drawn to people and things that are directly related to your experience, or you’re drawn to the complete opposite. I think that with history and GWSS, I felt like it was the first time that I was hearing stories that were portraying my own history and what that kind of meant for me as a black woman growing up in the US, and of course, there’s different nuances within that, like I’ve immigrant parents. I just felt like I was being seen, and as I was studying these things, I felt like, again, I just needed to continue to learn about these stories and about these people that have just been kind of erased in I guess mainstream history. Yeah.

Greg Kaster:

When you were in high school, you weren’t exposed to much African American history or African American women’s history?

Joy Dunna:

No, not at all. I was thinking back and I’m pretty sure we just drew the line of Rosa Parks and we kind of moved on with the curriculum. There wasn’t room to even ask where these stories were. I didn’t even realize that I was missing out on something. I just assumed like, this is the dominant narrative and I just didn’t question it until I was presented with new information. And that’s why, I attribute so much of just my learning at Gustavus to Kate because she was the first person that was sharing all of this knowledge with me. And I felt like I was having kind of an awakening.

Greg Kaster:

Yeah. Thank you for saying that Kate. I feel the same way, I still learn from Kate, and she knows so much about African American history and women’s history. That’s the ideal, to come to college, I certainly felt that, no matter what your education is in high school, no matter how good, but to learn things, be exposed to things that you hadn’t before. That’s such a good feeling. You mentioned that as a black woman, on mostly white campus for all the progress we’ve made and we’ve made I think especially recently considerable progress around diversity, but for all that, to be a black woman on a mostly white campus in a mostly white town in a mostly white state, what was that like? Is that something you thought much about or were there any experiences that you have pro or con around that?

Joy Dunna:

Yeah. I think reflecting back to my high school experience, that was a predominantly white high school as well. I remember just kind of feeling like something wasn’t right but never having a place to talk about it. And Gustavus was different in that, I had friends that got it. It didn’t necessarily mean that they were all black friends, they just weren’t. The people that were closest to me all had different experiences and identities. And my roommate is a white woman and she was probably my biggest support because she got it as far as she could. She could listen to me and she could let me kind of work through any, I guess troubleshoot any experiences that I was having.

But I definitely was more aware of my identity at Gustavus. In an odd way, that helped me become more comfortable with it, whereas in high school, I felt like I was pushing it to the backburner. I would think that experiences weren’t attributed to that. I had this kind of idealistic view of the world, which is fine I guess at that time. If something didn’t feel right, of course, it wasn’t because I was a black woman, it was because I didn’t work hard enough, I just need to do more. And when I got to Gustavus, I was more comfortable saying what felt like a problem.

Podcast host and historian Greg Kaster

Greg Kaster:

That’s neat insight too I think. Maybe that’s also connected over time to your studies in history and GWSS. Growing maybe both more aware of it but also comfortable with your identity as a black woman. What about the building bridges? Talk to us a little bit about that conference. It is so impressive. It’s an annual conference. If you wouldn’t mind telling us a bit about what it’s like, what it involves, and then also, you were involved in I think all four years just about, but go ahead.

Joy Dunna:

Yeah. Building Bridges, it’s one of those groups that I joined my first year with my roommate, Amanda, because she said that her brother was involved with this cool social justice organization. I had no idea what their mission was, I just showed up to their meeting and I never left for four years. But yeah, for anyone that isn’t familiar with it, it’s a student run conference entirely, like it’s planned by students, they pick the theme, there’s two co-chairs. And our themes ranged over my four years, we did immigration, and then this past year right before we closed for COVID actually, we had our environmental justice one, our climate justice conference. But yeah, they cover a ton of different things.

And I think I was drawn to Building Bridges and felt like it was a tangible way to put the things that I was learning in class, to put all of these ideas and thoughts that I had a tangible way to present that to the community. It felt like it’s an educational conference and it felt like I was doing something with the things that I was learning and I was doing it with a group of people that I cared about. I was kind of just the worker bee. I was on the executive board my junior year, but I loved just getting to find those smaller speakers and getting to learn again in another space with people that I care about.

There’s something powerful I think about learning from your peers. So like each meeting, we would have the co-chairs do a little presentation about something related to our conference. Again, just go through and ask questions and see who knows what and who can try to fill in the gaps the best of their ability, and I think it was definitely yeah, one of the more rewarding groups that I was a part of.

Greg Kaster:

You make so many good points there I think. I did not attend a small liberal arts college, I attended a big state university and then a big private university. But Kate, my wife, Kate, she attended Bard College, a small liberal arts college. But in my head, I had this ideal of the kind of place I wanted to be a professor at, and in many ways, so many ways, Gustavus meets that. And one of the ways as you’re suggesting is it’s a rich environment for learning, not just in the classroom, but in all these other ways. And as you said so well, Building Bridges is really, it’s educational, it’s educational for those who are organizing it, the students, but also for those who attend, including students and people from the general public. I just think it’s an amazing conference. It happens over a weekend. Is that right? And there is a guest, sort of a main event?

Joy Dunna:

Yeah, yeah. There’s normally a keynote speaker to kick off the conference in the morning. And then we do, it’s kind of, the day’s kind of separated so there’s an interactive walkthrough piece that happens in Beck. And again, educational. We take over Beck that Friday night before, and Help Action Piece, which is the committee that spearheads that and help them kind of decorate and set up for that. And then there’s also smaller workshops that are happening. So I was on the workshops committee. So it was kind of fun to Google search, like who knows what? Is there a professor in our area that we could bring in? For this past conference for our climate justice one, we were looking for farmers in the area that could provide new insight.

So it was kind of cool to engage the community in that way. And of course, it’s open to other campuses and the St. Peter community, anyone that wants to attend it, we try to make it really accessible.

Greg Kaster:

I don’t know, and I wonder if there’s going to be, well, we don’t know what’s going to happen in the spring, but maybe it will be virtual or something in the spring, I haven’t gotten that far in my thinking of it. I had forgotten how basically it went off, and then we had to kind of abandon ship in campus because of COVID. It was terrific. I was able to listen to some of it, it was really excellent I thought. Obviously, it’s an urgent issue, climate change.

The other thing you’ve been involved in which I find so interesting, and I learned more about this, from the first episode of this podcast was Professor Pam Connors, of the Comm Studies Department. You were, I guess it was your senior year, you can correct me, but when you were in the Public Deliberation and Dialogue Program, you were a fellow in that. Tell us a little bit about what that program involves and what being a fellow involved.

Joy Dunna:

Yeah. I really loved Public Deliberation and Dialogue. And this is just a small plug, but it was the reason that I decided that I wanted to pursue teaching. But yeah, being a fellow just means that you are willing to set aside some time for a weekly meeting. It’s like a class, so you block off that time. But then you also are learning how to facilitate deliberations and dialogues about timely topics. And I think that we see that a lot, especially now when there’s discourse happening, whether it be related to our elected officials or some sort of social movement that’s happening. People kind of butt heads, but then they swear that they just are open to a conversation. So that’s what this program was for. It was so that we could facilitate these conversations on campus and off campus.

And the irony in it is that the program is so amazing and we put so much work into it. And a lot of those on-campus events that students swear they really want to go to, they don’t really turn up. The discourse continues to happen on Facebook. But there’s no reason to stop creating that space to have those conversations, just because we have a deliberation or a dialogue that has four Gustavus students show up, that doesn’t mean that it’s not needed still. I really valued that program.

Greg Kaster:

What do you think could take away from your experience there?

Joy Dunna:

Oh gosh. I did a fair amount of facilitation and I think that the common ground is that people want to have their opinions valued. And I mean, to some extent, I personally think that harmful opinions could be, I don’t want to equate them to ones that I don’t think are harming specific groups of people. That gets a little bit tricky. But people still want, they don’t want to be perceived as a bad person and I don’t think that there’s a lot of people in this world that are okay being “bad people,” or okay offending someone, or whatever it is. I think that there are a lot of conversations that it’s just awkward to start, and sometimes people don’t know how to start that. And I think that watching those happen and trying to guide people through there, they find more common ground. There’s more things in common than they have not in common. I don’t know.

I think of this example of, like the climate crisis, we had a deliberation on that. There could be the stance of like, this isn’t something that we need to worry about right now or stance of like, no, we should have done something about this yesterday. And maybe they’re not going to agree on that. But at the end of the day, maybe the small solidarity that they find is that, okay, there’s a problem that needs to be addressed or there is, I don’t know, there is something, they get value from each other. And I think that that is powerful in itself.

Greg Kaster:

I talked to Professor Connors Pam about this a little bit in a very brief, those days these podcast episodes were quite brief. I want to believe let’s say who doesn’t think climate change is an urgent or existential issue, or existential threat, not just an issue, that I can find some common ground with that person. But then I struggle with, okay, even if we find common ground, if we can agree that the house is on fire, okay, but one of us thinks it’s urgent to fight the fire and the other doesn’t think it’s that urgent. I don’t know, it’s hard for me, even as a professor.

And it’s hard for me also, you mentioned harmful views or opinions, I really have a hard time listening to someone, I’m making this up, gravity is fake news. I feel like I’m wasting my time trying to treat that view, first of all, I don’t think I need to treat that view with respect, it’s just not true. Anyway, it’s a struggle, right? It’s hard. It’s not so easy. But I do think that that idea of what my dad used to call Greek dialogue, [inaudible 00:23:02] tell my brother and me, we weren’t really arguing, we were engaging in Greek dialogue. That’s important. Trying to understand the common humanity matters. I’d forgotten you were a fellow in that program until you sent me your resume, and I think it’s such a cool program and sure hope it continues.

You’ve had so many interesting experiences and activities, even before, I’m trying to remember, was your volunteer experience at the Center for Victims of Torture in St. Paul, was that pre Gustavus?

Joy Dunna:

No, that was during Gustavus. That was my first summer that I decided I was not going to be going into nursing. So I needed to fill my summer with something.

Greg Kaster:

Why not at the Center for Victims of Torture, right? That is an incredible place. Another alum, Justin Rose, I believe, worked or volunteer, another of alums have. Tell us a little bit about that experience, what you learned, what you did?

Joy Dunna:

Again, like I was looking for something to do that summer and I was chatting with my parents. And my dad had mentioned that when they had come to Minnesota, the Center for Victims of Torture was one of the first places that they had used, they used their services. So he only had good things to say about it. And I asked my mom and she remembered it fondly. I was like, maybe if they’re still up and running, they are still helping people. It’s been over 20 years now. When I was there, I did some data entry type of work. So normally when folks were coming through, it was a lot of Somali refugees. If they were seeking like political asylum, those were things they asked in the questionnaire just to keep those numbers. I had the job of entering them into the computer very riveting.

But then I worked at the Healing Center, so they have two locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul. And the Healing Center is just a house that they bought, and they hired some therapists and psychiatrists to work there. I had the riveting job of organizing cab rides for the folks that were coming in and out. I learned that there was a lot of different cab companies in Minnesota, but they all cater, this is kind of interesting actually, they all cater to people’s various ethnic backgrounds. If we have a Hmong person that is using the services, then I would be in charge of trying to find a Hmong cab ride for them back so they could be comfortable, because the experience is, it’s kind of a lot to transition to a place and all of a sudden you’re in Minnesota that is a very white state. You’re not super familiar with the language and you’re trying to communicate. That was my role. It was small, but necessary.

Greg Kaster:

Absolutely.

Joy Dunna:

It was really interesting seeing just the people that were coming in and how, the humanity of it. They needed a place that they could be heard and that they could be valued as people. A place that was safe too. So even if they were having a good day and they didn’t necessarily need to see their therapist, they were there still. They still showed up and they had a men’s group that just barbecued outside, and they got to know each other and make connections. So yeah, it was really good experience.

Greg Kaster:

That’s fantastic. I think it’s sort of a world renowned really, that healing element of it as well. I assume you were never part of a therapy session. You couldn’t sit in or observe.

Joy Dunna:

No, no. Just my taxi rides.

Greg Kaster:

By the way, that is so interesting. I love taking taxis in big cities, especially New York, Chicago, because of the ethnicity of the drivers. I didn’t really know that about, I know there are a lot of cab companies in the Twin Cities, it’s interesting how there are ethnic niches for each. That’s cool.

The other thing you did, which I’d like to talk about, is you managed to take advantage of the Gustavus January term, which allows students to take a course on campus for essentially four weeks in January or to go abroad. And you chose to go abroad with Professor, then Professor [inaudible 00:28:10] our department now involved with the Indivisible Movement, the longer part of the department. But talk to us a little bit about that J term in Brazil, where I’ve never been, would love to go. Had you been there before?

Joy Dunna:

No, I had not been there before.

Greg Kaster:

What was it like?

Joy Dunna:

When I’d went, there was the frozen tundra or something or other happening in Minnesota. So it was about 100 degrees warmer. It was an amazing experience. It was the first time. I’d been out of the country to London and France and those places, they really cater to the tourists, so you don’t actually have to immerse yourself in the culture, you travel to say you travel.

But in Brazil, I stayed with a host mom and I was taking Portuguese language classes. And then we took Scott’s history class. So that was another reason that I chose that particular J term. It was the only one that year that had ties to the history department. And it was talking about social justice and culture and I thought that that was right up my alley and I wanted to hear about I guess just how Brazil came to be. There’s a really interesting history of their attempt to kind of eliminate race and having interracial relationships and trying to continue to have children that were multiracial. And of course that that didn’t work and a new system of oppression kind of emerged.

Not in a way of trying to I guess, I don’t know, be a spectator, or kind of use the trauma that happened in Brazil for my own learning. It was interesting to read about the history and then see how it’s played out. So the poorest people in the city had the darkest skin and that’s not a coincidence. The police presence there is, in many ways, very similar to the US, but they really do make their presence known. And there’s an officer, you can find an officer probably on every corner. And at first, I thought, I used to think that was so interesting and it was so militarized, and I just couldn’t imagine, I couldn’t imagine living there, I felt anxious. And then I came back and had an another kind of awakening of, oh, but I see a police car at least three times a day in my own neighborhood. So seeing how Brazil also mirrored the US was really interesting.

Greg Kaster:

That’s awesome. You’ve probably heard, I studied abroad, I went to Mexico when I was a junior, but the way in which, if we’re lucky enough to go abroad and to go somewhere that as you say is sort of off the beaten tourist path, as you did, and the learning that takes place about where you are, the culture you find yourself in. But then also to come back and see your own culture perhaps a bit differently or in some ways, in some respects, a clear light, I just think is awesome. All of this that you’re saying really, I was thinking about as you’re speaking really relates to how at Gustavus, students, and you’re kind of a perfect example of this, are able to apply what they’re reading about, what they’re studying in class and able to apply it. It’s one thing to read about Brazilian history, it’s another thing to actually go to Brazil and see some of that history and its legacies in action.

I’ve always wanted to go to Brazil. Scott knows I did a Latin American history minor and worked with a guy, a little bit professor who was an expert in Brazil, and it just always seems so incredibly interesting and complicated to me, especially around race.

Have you been to Liberia, by the way, I meant to ask that? Have you ever been there?

Joy Dunna:

No, I haven’t actually. I went through a phase where my brothers and I were like, we’re going to go. The second I turn 18 because they’re older, we’re going to go to Liberia. And then we kind of realized that our parents don’t have any desire to go back. And I think there’s kind of a lot of things that go into that decision. I think that it could be potentially traumatic for them to have known one country and then the war happened and seeing how it’s since changed I think it’s hard for them. I haven’t seen it in person but maybe one day. I think that might be a trip I do without my parents.

Greg Kaster:

Are there relatives there that you’re in contact with at all or not?

Joy Dunna:

Oh, yeah. So my grandma actually, she splits her time between Minnesota and Liberia. She conveniently leaves for the winter here and goes to Liberia.

Greg Kaster:

Smart grandmother.

Joy Dunna:

Yes. They have the rainy season though, so it’s not snow. They get rain instead of snow. We have family members. My mom still has a few brothers that live there. Most of my dad’s family lives there just because they didn’t have the means to leave when the war was happening. Otherwise, my the rest of my aunts, uncles and cousins, they’re displaced all around the world.

Greg Kaster:

A little mini diaspora really.

Joy Dunna:

Yeah

Greg Kaster:

I should know too. Kate and I live in a condominium building downtown Minneapolis, and happy coincidence, your dad lives in the same building. We see him occasionally, which is nice. Again, you were just involved in so many things. Not just as someone who’s sitting there but as a leader. I know you were involved in the Senate and I think you chaired the academic affairs committee, is that right, the Student Senate?

Joy Dunna:

Yeah, yeah.

Greg Kaster:

What was that experience like? What did that involve?

Joy Dunna:

It’s kind of funny, actually. I knew the co-presidents, Karrie Villarreal and Monali Bhakta. They were looking for someone to fill this position at the end of fall semester senior year. So last fall. And I’d always wanted to do Student Senate and I just like didn’t really have time for it. I was thinking this now or never, I got to chair this committee. And so I joined and it was a lot of I guess just kind of inner workings of the college. Those questions that students are always kind of asked of like, why doesn’t Safe Rides run this long? That was my job. And trying to bridge the gap between the academic affairs of the college and the students. So when the curriculum changed, which I believe is happening, it’s already implemented this fall.

Greg Kaster:

Our new Gen Ed curriculum, the challenge curriculum.

Joy Dunna:

That was a mystery to a lot of students. I found the head of that curriculum initiative I suppose. And yeah, brought her in. I believe it was Stephanie Otto.

Greg Kaster:

That’s right. Stephanie. Stephanie Otto. Health and Exercise Science, right.

Joy Dunna:

That was just one of my jobs. I asked her to come and present that to the Senate so that we could go out and present that to the constituents.

Greg Kaster:

You did an effective job there because at least all indications are the students are quite happy about, pleased with the new curriculum. I mean, inevitably, there will be some glitches and wrinkles as we implement it, especially trying to implement it in the middle of a pandemic. You did a good sales job, explanatory job, all indications are.

This is an aside, but I can picture you in politics so clearly in some way. So who knows. Give teaching a try. Goodness knows that’s important. But if you one day, you’ll work your way back into, or public policy, right? The Student Senate is a good training ground for that I think at Gustavus.

Joy Dunna:

When I went to the first meeting and they had the official rules happening, there was so many people in there that I just could clearly see in politics. Maybe my time is coming.

Greg Kaster:

Yourself included. I know there are other activities we could talk about, but one that I think is important to highlight here, and it relates in a way to everything you’ve been talking about, care about, in your academic work and women’s history, African American women’s history in particular. But most of those your involvement in Building Bridges around social justice issues. Is it the women’s political women’s action committee or Women’s Action Coalition I think, at Gustavus. You were secretary to that, involved in that. For a lot of people, even at Gustavus, that’s kind of an under the radar group. And I wonder if you could just tell us a little bit about what its aims are.

Joy Dunna:

I did that for about three and a half years there. And my roommate, Amanda was the president. The goal is really to be an action group. But I think that the nature of a space like that is that it takes on, it’s a safe space for people to come and learn and share their experiences as well. But just some things that we had done in the past were, like clinic escort training. Like at Planned Parenthood, they need people to escort their patients from their cars to the actual clinic because there’s protesters. I wouldn’t have even known that that was a thing that happened unless I was a part of the Women’s Action Coalition.

But otherwise, just a typical week was a lot of learning and unlearning I’ll say. A lot of unlearning any kind of gender norms and trying to rethink and reframing a lot of kind of that internalized patriarchy that we all have, and seeing different ways that it manifests in our own lives. It was a really great group and kind of like, it is under the radar, it’s definitely smaller. But the people that go there, it’s very close knit.

Greg Kaster:

That’s neat. Now, it’s separate from the Women’s Awareness Center I take it. Is there interaction between the two?

Joy Dunna:

Yeah. So the women’s awareness center was what it was called my first year because the goals just didn’t, the goals of the group, excuse me, the goals of the group just, it wasn’t to bring awareness to women anymore. I believe they picked that name in the 70s. There was kind of a rebranding, and the Action Coalition allowed us to do things like go to protests together. It felt like it was time for a change.

Greg Kaster:

It was. I didn’t realize that it had been the Women’s Awareness Center. That’s fantastic. The breadth of your activities are so impressive. The academic distinctions, the Dean’s list and all the rest, Guild of St. Lucia at Gustavus, you were elected to that. I want to close by giving you an opportunity to make the pitch for Gustavus. You were I think a campus tour guide or a gusty greeter or both of those things. What would you say to someone your age considering attending Gustavus? What’s the pitch?

Joy Dunna:

I am convinced that there is a place for everyone at Gustavus. You have to find your people though. A little effort goes a long way. I think that once you find your people, if you do have a marginalized identity, it will make the world of a difference. You will start to feel seen. You’ll feel like you’re valued. I think that that also goes for your classes. If you feel like you don’t have the passion for the things that you’re learning, or you feel like you want to explore something more, I think Gustavus is a great place to do that.

I think that a lot of times that I felt seen and felt like, okay, this was the right decision and I felt validated in my choice to choose Gustavus was because of the faculty and the people. But I definitely had to, I had to find them first. I didn’t have them right away my first semester of college, but they’re there. And I think that Gustavus is special in that there’s a lot of people that want to make it better and are doing everything they can to do that, even if it sometimes doesn’t, even if it sometimes doesn’t feel that way, or even if the changes is happening slowly. It’s a place where I think students can become better versions of themselves and they can also hold Gustavus to a high standard.

Greg Kaster:

That is beautifully said. I think it’s so well said and so honest. And you’re right, I know having taught the first time seminars, students sometimes, some students get discouraged. I can’t find friends. Take some time, they’re there. Once you find, as you say, your group, what a difference that makes. I also appreciate what you said about the efforts of people to make Gustavus a better place and how that doesn’t come always quickly or easily but those efforts are there.

So this has been so much fun to catch up with you. I know your student teaching online. How’s that going by the way? What is that like, student teaching online?

Joy Dunna:

It’s a whole new world. I have middle schoolers right now. I’m actually teaching, it was really hard to get placements as you can imagine because teachers are just kind of stressed with the new format. So I didn’t think I’d get a placement or I thought I’d have to leave my placement, but currently, I was supposed to be in a Minnesota studies like sixth grade class. That kind of fell through. But now I’m doing a current events class. I’m having a great time.

Greg Kaster:

Even everything that’s happening, wow. By the way, you’re another example of, you did not major in education, you majored in, you said, double majored in history and gender women’s studies sexual sexuality. And here you are in an ed program at the University of Minnesota. You sort of alluded to this, what point you knew you wanted to teach. The best advice I think we can give students is to just be open to possibilities and follow what you enjoy, what you’re interested in, and take it from there as you’ve done.

So, all the best, best of luck with the student teaching. It sounds like it’s going reasonably well. It’s just great to catch up even though it hasn’t been that long but it feels like a long time since we’ve seen each other in person. And I should note, it was a pleasure to teach you. I think you had two classes with me, the methods course and the Civil War course which I’m teaching again, by the way.

So thanks so much, Joy. All the best and love to get together here in Twin Cities somehow.

Joy Dunna:

Yeah, I know. I’m supposed to be at my dad’s next week, so we’ll meet up.

Greg Kaster:

Maybe we can meet in the courtyard. Send me an email, we can social justice in the courtyard of the building.

Joy Dunna:

Oh, yeah.

Greg Kaster:

All right. Take good care. Thank you so much.

Joy Dunna:

Yeah, thank you for having me.

Greg Kaster:

My pleasure. Take care, Joy. Bye bye.

Joy Dunna:

Bye.

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Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin
jakin@gustavus.edu
507-933-7510

 

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