By Kathryn Magura
This week I have the pleasure of highlighting the work of a friend and colleague, Clare Cady. Clare is the Coordinator of the Human Services Resource Center and Food Pantry on the Oregon State University campus. Clare is a recently published journal author and continues to bring the issues surrounding poverty at the collegiate level to a salient concern in Student Affairs.
Clare is passionate about helping students in poverty be successful in college. How does technology fit into this? According to Clare, we need to be cognizant of the Digital Divide, and corresponding affects it has on students in poverty.
Can you share with us what you mean by this?
I went to a graduate thesis defense recently for my friend Allyson Dean and the following quote from a student was shared, “If you don’t have access to technology, you aren’t relevant.” This resonated with me because we are currently trying to get our various subsidies applications online. If we get our applications online we will allow students to complete these forms on their own time while preserving their dignity and privacy. But what is the cost? If students are not required to come into our office, they may not realize what other resources we have to offer. We miss the opportunity to build relationships. The holistic view of what it means to be a college student is changing. When we require students to submit homework online, what message are we sending to students who do not have internet access at home, and may not be able to get to campus (due to familial and other obligations) to submit materials online? If we require students to know how to use computers, what resources do we provide them when they may not come to our universities with those skills? We offer remedial math and writing courses, why not computer skills?
How are you addressing these issues?
Last year, we applied for a technology grant through the university so we could develop these web-based applications, but were denied. Throughout the process my staff and I were hesitant to actually want the grant because we feared the potential to lose the high-touch environment the office provides to students. A student may come in to our office with the intention of applying for Mealbux, but we give them flyers for our other services, and they usually find other ways we can assist them. That is something I really enjoy doing, so we need to find a way to balance the convenience that technology can provide with the ability to engage students in need.
What other ways are you looking to utilize technology?
I am trying to start a food pantry association, so that the growing community of food pantries on college campuses can be a support and resource to each other. The fact is that professionals doing this work are disparate and usually wearing many different professional hats. I really see the best use of technology for this group is to build and strengthen our community.
Your passion for serving students who are truly in need is inspiring and contagious.
Thank you. I have seen some students struggle through homelessness and still manage to graduate. It feels wonderful to know I played a small role in their success. I know a college education will give the students I help a greater opportunity to succeed after they graduate. Finding ways to remove the barriers so they can get there is how I gain satisfaction in the day-to-day tasks. There are no cut and dry answers, and each student I help has different needs. You have to be creative when finding solutions. This office was created out of the grassroots efforts of students. I love that! The students inspire me every day.
Thank you, Clare, for being an inspiration to me and other student affairs professionals.