This episode of the podcast is truly a special conversation that explores both a remarkable new program and institute at Columbia College, and is also unique in its practicality. Doctors Huisman and Mitchell talk in plan language about the impacts of trauma and how we all can support those who are struggling under the weight of traumatic experiences.

To learn more about the Institute for Building Resilience Through Trauma-Informed Practices, please visit www.columbiasc.edu/ibrtip.

More About Our Guests

Dr. Shirley J. Huisman, MSW, LISW-CP/S, PhD

Associate Professor of Social Work

Facilitator of Columbia College’s Institute for Building Resilience Through Trauma Informed Practices
Owner/Therapist: Oasis Therapy Services, est. 2013

Mom to four of the most amazing children in the world.

A note from Dr. Huismann

I am a Licensed Independent Social Worker – Clinical Practice/Supervisor (LISW-CP/S) in the state of South Carolina.  I have been in clinical practice for 32 years, and in higher education teaching practice for 30 years.  Over the past 10-15 years my practice in both settings has become increasingly informed by ongoing research in the field of trauma.  The impact of this on both practice settings has been revolutionary. I also have lived experience with trauma, as well as with trauma therapy as a client, which I believe to have saved my life and the lives of my children.  As mothers gain health, their children gain health.

Dr. Peter Mitchell

Dr. Peter Mitchell became the President of Lasell College in Newton, MA in 1983 at age 38. He served as President of Columbia College in South Carolina for nine years and as President of his alma mater, Albion College in Michigan from 1997 to 2007. Columbia and Albion achieved historic high enrollments during his tenure. In 2007, Peter founded Proactive Transition Management, a consulting firm assisting colleges and universities with strategic planning, enrollment management, and fundraising. He served two Interim Presidencies at Lake Superior State University in Michigan from 2017-18 and Columbia College in 2020. Dr. Mitchell has the distinction of being awarded President Emeritus status at three institutions, Albion, Lake State and Columbia.


Patrick

Welcome, Peter. Welcome Shirley. 

Shirley

Hey, Patrick, it’s good to be with you today. 

Peter

Great to be with you, Patrick.

Patrick

You both work at Columbia College and you’ve served a lot of different roles at that institution. Can you tell me a little bit about that? Maybe starting with you, Shirley.

Shirley

Sure. So I came to Columbia College as the director of the undergraduate social work program, and I’ve been working in that capacity since 2014. And about two years ago, things started percolating on our campus around trauma and trauma-informed practices, and so I’ve been involved in helping to start up the Master’s in Trauma-Informed Education program. And in addition to that, I have been working with Peter on the institute, which I’m sure we’ll get to talk about here too, so those are my major roles on campus. 

Patrick

Great. And you, Peter?

Peter

Well, I started at Columbia College in 1988 as president, and I stayed until 1997. It was a great nine years, some exciting things occurred, I went on to be president of my alma mater and then subsequent retired, and then lo and behold, in March of 2020, I was asked by the board if I would come back as interim president. It was literally the weekend. We sent students home because of what we thought was an extra spring break week, because of this Coronavirus that ended up being in the coronavirus mode until September, and I served through the end of September while they did a search for a permanent president, and they’ve elected an excellent person. And during that time, I think the highlight of my seven months was to develop the Institute in building resilience through trauma-informed practices that we’ll talk about throughout today.

Patrick

Fantastic, and I just gotta say, I know that this might not be rare, but it certainly is special to see President Emeritus and a current faculty member who work so closely with one another, I mean to have the leadership and faculty involvement in an initiative of this kind seem special. Can you tell me a little bit about how it has been working on this initiative together as administration and faculty?

Peter

Surely, I’ll let you take the faculty part. That’s the most important part. 

Shirley

Well, it’s really exciting for me to get to work with Peter, and it happened really pretty serendipitously in the fall, from my side of things, at least we were having conversations about the TIE program and having initial conversations about the role of an institute that we hadn’t yet quite figured out, and Peter and I started talking more frequently and ideas just seemed to percolate when he and I talked, and so it’s been a really invigorating collaboration for me. There’s lots of ideas that we talk about, and that don’t always happen for me with other people, and Peter really, I see him as a mentor in my life at this point, helping me to sort of navigate some of these different roles, and I thoroughly enjoy working with him and… We’ve been able to make a lot of things happen in a short period of time. 

Peter

Well, and it’s amazing what can happen when a president listens to the faculty, and Shirley has been my guru in terms of trauma-informed practices. I’m a newcomer to the field, but a very enthusiastic disciple now, and so she was the insight that I needed, and then I would apply my experience as a college president and an administrator on how to translate that into an operational plan, a strategic plan, and that’s how it evolved. We actually formed a special task force of predominantly faculty members from different disciplines to develop the concept, and then they served as a sounding board throughout the fall, and then I asked Shirley to be the facilitator, so that we’d have boots on the ground, someone who was understanding the intricacies of trauma-informed practices. Right, and then that’s how it evolved.

Patrick

So you’ve got… I guess let’s get a little more into the details of what these different initiatives that you have going are, first you have the graduate degree program, it’s a special graduate degree program that is unique among trauma-informed programs for a specific reason, and then you have the institute so let’s start with the graduate program, what sets it apart from other similar programs?

Shirley

Sure. So, I don’t know how many graduate programs in trauma-informed practices there are, but I certainly know that there’s probably none other like ours in that it is really sponsored by two departments, one is the education department and the other social work, and so the uniqueness of our program is that half of our courses are being taught by social work faculty and the other half by education faculty, so it’s really a collaboration in providing a Master’s degree program that I think is extremely unique. I don’t know of any other social work programs around the country involved in this initiative, and I’m pretty sure in our search we haven’t found any other education Master’s programs like it as well, so that makes it very unusual. And I’m actually teaching my course in that sequence right now, and the students are just so appreciative of the different perspectives and the way that’s how they see what’s happening in their classrooms. So it’s not only unique, but it is proving to be a very powerful experience for those who are enrolled as well.

Patrick

And if I remember correctly, the response from candidates for the program was pretty remarkable among programs…

Peter

Yes, that was what attracted my attention, being somewhat of an entrepreneurial president, when you receive accreditation on June 12th from the Southern Association of College at school, and you have 50 students enrolled in August with no advertising other than social media buzz. I think we knew we tapped into something, and that’s what prompted the task force to say, How can we take this trauma-informed concept and make it institution-wide?,

Patrick

And that was the birth of your interest in launching the institute. Correct. So tell me about this institute, it’s the Institute for building resilience by trauma-informed practice, how is it informed by the Master’s Degree, how does it depart from that program? 

Peter

Well, it’s informed by the master’s degree because that became the core concept, and then we recognized that it had interest in other fields such as criminal justice, such as healthcare, even business with HR, and so as we started to develop a thought piece, Shirley and I, we discovered that there was interest across the campus, and that then precipitated, Shirley working with different faculty members, and she can tell us a little bit about that. 

Shirley

Sure. So in addition to working with the education department on the master’s program, we and social work have been working around trauma-informed principles for quite some time, so there’s lots of blending of that in our curriculum as well. Criminal justice is another area that we feel is ripe for this kind of information with everything that’s been happening in our country around criminal justice, the inequities around race and class and pointing those kinds of things, and in particular with criminal justice, I think there’s trauma at work in so many different ways. But we’ll probably get into that a little bit later. So we also have a nursing program on campus, and that’s another area where Trauma-Informed Practices would be so well-suited…there’s such a fit in healthcare with that, the arts have expressed interest in saying that everything that we do in the arts, whether it’s writing or dance, or music: it all revolves in some way around the human condition, and much of the human condition revolts around pain. And so the fit there also became apparent, and so within the undergraduate experience at Columbia College, my goal really is to have every student that comes through our campus as at the undergraduate level, have been in connection with some coursework around trauma.

The way you talk about this, the way that you talk about in both of your collaboration, the collaborative nature of your faculty across departments, to me, it sounds like the way that ideally a university college, an institution of hired learning should work. But I know that in my experience, sometimes there’s some turf battles sometimes that spring up between departments or different faculty, maybe between the faculty and the administration. People who have a different vision for a program that is incongruous with the ideas that others have, but it sounds like you’ve been able to not just put all that aside, but kind of transcend those kinds of challenges and put together something that’s really remarkable.

Shirley

Part of what I think has happened with the education program is that we’ve realized there’s enough trauma work to do for everybody, and that we don’t need to be fighting over content or perspective even. There’s much more than we as a social work program can do, and there’s much more than the education program can do alone, and when we put ourselves together, we come up with such a better product and the program… 

Peter

And the other part of it is, even from my first stint from 88 to 97, this is a special institution, the faculty and staff truly believe that our goal is student success, not just student attention, but student success, and if you set that as your focus, then you look at what you do and how you do it differently. And they see that many of our students are experiencing trauma or come from trauma-related experiences, and consequently something like that would prompt them to say, Gosh, if we work together on this, we can really have a positive impact on the success of our students.

Patrick

Got it. So it seems like trauma-informed topics are almost the great common language between these disciplines, and would you say that that has contributed to your success? 

Shirley

I think so, yes. Another thing that we did in early January is we had a professional development for our faculty, and it was around trauma-informed practices, and as soon as you start talking about trauma and talking about the impact on people’s lives, everybody’s ears perk up. Even though people may not initially see a connection to what they do professionally, many people on the faculty have their own trauma histories or they are related to people who have had trauma histories, and so it was a powerful experience just even as a professional development offering and again, transcending all the differences or what can be very siloed disciplines within higher education. Those just don’t exist when we all get together as a faculty at Columbia College, we were together as faculty.

Peter

And we did the same thing for the staff, they had their own training session, and it involved not just student life, but admissions and financial aid in the business office, so that they could understand better the kind of trauma situations that our students may have experienced

Patrick

So Peter, you had mentioned that you are… You may not have used these terms, but a recent convert to trauma-informed care and related topics. Shirley, how did you get interested in this as a topic and something you wanted to dedicate your career to?

Shirley

Well, I’ve been in social work education and social work practice for three decades, and as I would say around 2008-2009, I became more aware of just through own research and studying through the work of the ACEs research, the Adverse Childhood Events research, and the connection to what I teach on a yearly basis, is just so profound from much of the theoretical foundation of social work hinges on understanding human behavior, and so everything that I do in the back, because I have a practice of people health, I began to see that everything that everybody that walked in my office and almost all the issues they were talking about were related to trauma in some form, whether it was childhood trauma or trauma as an adult. When you use that lens, it changes everything about how the people… And at the same time, I was going into my classroom making those connections, helping students make those connections, but also seeing how my students trauma impacted their ability to be engaged in their own education, and so that changed how I practiced as a professor, that changed or enhance what I was already doing in relationships with my students in my program, and so that was just a natural progression over the last 10, 12 years for me, and so that’s really my journey with the trauma-informed practices.

Patrick

Got it. So I do wanna respond to some of the things you were saying about trauma-informed care and criminal justice, but also in education, and in other conversations we’ve had with the folks who are working in this realm, I always ask them a variant of this question, there are some who would say, the work of Trauma-Informed Care is essentially trying to tell people who are already working really hard to just work a little harder, do a little more, or be a little more patient or be a little more compassionate, and sometimes the response is, I’m already doing so much, I’m already trying to teach kids who don’t wanna learn math math, and I’m already… I’m trying to do what is an impossible task, and now I’m being asked to be more patient, more kind, when I myself might even be affected by trauma and unable to manage that feeling and do what I need to do just basically to fulfill the requirements of my job, how am I also supposed to do all of these other things. What would you say to that?

Shirley

So in family therapy, there’s a thread of theory and practice that’s called strategic family therapy, and it’s basically referring to instead of fighting against against the problem, you’re going to fight with the problem, and so you… Instead of like butting heads with something, you’re actually getting behind it and helping to move it in the direction it’s already going, and with trauma, it isn’t that we are asking trauma-informed practices, it’s not that we’re asking people to work harder or do more… It’s channeling your energy in a different way, so it actually… As people in the TIE program, students and the TIE program are finding and reflecting on, it takes actually less energy in the long run to do this work from a trauma-informed perspective because you’re recognizing what’s happening and addressing it in a whole different way, a more effective way, and a way that you actually are gonna see results in how your students interaction with their own education changes so much. So instead of fighting against this behavior problem of a student in an elementary class for an entire year, as soon as a teacher starts to ask not what’s wrong with this child, but what’s happened to this child, it changes everything about how that relationship develops. In a comparison into my practice is that oftentimes in the medical world or the healthcare world, when somebody doesn’t show up for an appointment, they get labeled as…They’re non-compliant or they don’t take their many… So they’re non-compliant, and instead of instead of looking at it that way, it shifts everything to ask, I wonder what might be happening with this person that they couldn’t be here. Right, and so you’re coming at it from a question of understanding rather than a statement of judgment, and that opens a door for so many more possibilities.

Patrick

In a previous conversation, Peter, you had mentioned that you have really focused at Columbia on the classic concept of trauma-informed practice according to SAMHSA. Can you tell me about that?

Patrick

Yes, I can… SAMHSA is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration program, and it was designed specifically to address those issues. They have six key principles that not only guide SAMHSA of in guide, I think all of us that are involved in trauma-informed practices as they begin with safety, and then they say, once you have a safe environment, it needs to be both trustworthy and transparent. The concept of peer support is so pivotal because those who are experiencing trauma can really gain a lot by learning from others in similar situations, and then the concept of collaboration mutuality, the recognition that these are people value and worth, and we need to cultivate that, and when we get to that point, now we’re starting to getting to what they call the empowerment, the voice, and the choice. And this is the way that they really are able to cope with the trauma experiences they’ve had, and it’s important to give them voice and to empower them as well, and then when it was added later on, they call it the cultural, historical, and gender issues, and this is what I think through my attention most, was that this disproportionate share of trauma experienced by BIPOC, the communities from the LGBTQIA, they are under such greater stress and in some cases, generations in the case of racism in 400 years. And I think when you bring that into play and you recognize that and call it for what it is, and then cope with it and deal with it, I think then you’re starting to make progress, and it’s almost as if in one of the phrases that surely uses is trauma-informed practices not only work for students that have had trauma, it works for everybody, and it would work better in law enforcement and it would work better in Social Work and in teaching if we applied those same kind of principles.

Patrick

Got it. Yeah. Shirley we spoke once before and you started talking about something that really a attention, which is that fundamentally, learning and education are byproducts of relationships. Do I have that right? What does that mean? 

Shirley

My daughter is a teacher middle… In the middle school system here in South Carolina, and so I hear often about the stress on standards and testing and making sure that they teach to the test, they just teach to the test, and I think we’ve got that backwards. I think that human beings are wired for a relationship, and that when the relationship is healthy and trustworthy along those principles that Peter was just talking about, people learn and isn’t that they come into the room with the intention of learning, but when they come into the room, because there’s a relationship there, they’re going to learn. And so I believe in education that if we focused more on supporting teachers and building relationships with their students, observing their students, getting to know who those students are, listening to those students, it would change so much about what a child capable of learning in that classroom.

Patrick

I had a conversation with Emily Meeks and Tanisha Thomas of focused minds education group, and they talked about how sometimes their students will call them auntie or even mama and put these really emotionally laden in important titles on their teachers, and that carries an enormous amount of… Not only emotional weight, but relational weight. Is that something that you’re… Is that kind of an emotional connection you’re seeing between the students in your program or people that you’ve worked with in education or in private practice?

Shirley

Oh, absolutely, absolutely. And along with that, it requires some vulnerability on your part as the educator or the therapist, because when I walk into my own classroom at Columbia College, and I’ve had a rough morning, the minute I walk in and I put my stuff down and face my class and I can say this has been a really rough morning, so you gotta hang with me here, everybody relaxes. And there will be… Yeah, yeah, I’ve had this kind of morning too, and so there’s this instant recognition of that we all have other lives that come with us into that room, and if we can at least speak that at the beginning, then we can get on with what we’re trying to do in that class period. But if we don’t speak that we’re dragging that stuff along with us through that whole hour, and the minute I can say that to them, everything shifts in that room because I’ve made myself vulnerable, it allows for other people to relax and say, Yes. It’s been a rough week for me, and then we can get to what we’re doing because we feel disconnection with each other.

Patrick

And we’re focused right now on clients, also students in the classroom and kind of at this very intimate relational level. Peter, you had talked about the importance of trauma-informed concepts in setting policies and practices at an institutional level, can you talk about the importance of that sort of macro level of consideration.

Peter

Absolutely, we need guiding principles, and certainly SAMHSA’s key principles, and they have some various assumptions are important, and there needs to be a common understanding and the ability to try to apply ideas from different fields as a disciple, a newcomer to the field. That feels like I’m trying to drink out of a fire hose. But one of the areas that I thought was particularly poignant in terms of habits and skills that actually comes from the indigenous people’s culture, they call it the circle of courage to build resilience, and that’s the other special part of this institute. Initially, we were calling it the institute and trauma-informed practices, but we created an advisory board of about a dozen leaders from literally all over the country, I think 10 different states for the 12 people, and one of them is an influential part of the Resilience Coalition, Mary Jane Pearson said to us, your end game is building resilience, not using trauma-informed practices, and so that’s how the institute evolved and has now come, the Institute for Building Resilience to through Trauma Informed Practices. In this circle of courage, it literally begins with belonging, promoting kind of an individual motivation and self-esteem, it goes to mastery, which means you have to develop competency and achievement and self-control, it then goes to generosity, and once you’re doing that, you see a value system of social responsibility and altruism, and then it ends, the circle completes with independence, where you foster creativity, autonomy and the resource one, and that kind of a model helps us whether we’re in education or criminal justice or the arts, or HR for that matter. And I think those kinds of habits and principles and having a common understanding and willing to apply from different fields, I think is a hallmark of the institute…

Shirley

I would just wanted to add to the… And it builds on what Peter is talking about as well, but trauma at its heart is, have come to believe this entirely is basically an injury in relationship, whether it’s the relationship we have to ourselves, but also the relationship to other, and the earlier in life that those traumas happen, the more of an impact that has on relationship going forward, and so the focus of the power of relationship and trauma-informed practices is not an accident because that trauma injury to myself, if I’ve been traumatized is first of all, I have to wall that off somewhere, because I can’t, it is too much for myself to cope with, and so it gets walled off and I’m hiding pieces of myself, and if the trauma was induced within another relationship, now I don’t trust outwardly either. Right? And so moving forward from that becomes really difficult since most of our cycle social-emotional development takes place in the context of relationship.

Patrick

Yeah, so I have two brief anecdotes that I’d like to get your take on, one is, during the pandemic, the members of my family actually contracted the virus and had a really difficult time with it, a really terrible case, and then the other members of the family who lived in the same household, we’re experiencing a deep sense of alienation and separation from others, which I think is a common experience for people around the world, back to 2020 to the present, currently, and I can imagine that sort of alienation not only leading to an increase of one, in everyone’s ACE’s score, but also some really lasting, maybe not damage, but impacts on people’s ability to make relationships in the same way that they did before or maintain those relationships. What’s your take on that? Do you think that there’s going to be a lasting impact that we’re gonna have to overcome with some difficulty…

Shirley

Sure, sure. I think it also builds on what in our culture already is a very individualistic approach to life, and the ability or lack of ability that we have culturally to really share painful experiences in a healthy way is already then embedded and it’s built upon by this last year of, well, we can’t touch, we can’t hug, we can’t… We have to stay away from each other. There’s somebody in the other room who’s hurting desperately because they’ve got COVID-19, but I can’t go in there already, I have to just stay away from all of that, and you have people who are saying goodbye to loved ones over FaceTime. And if that is even possible. And so the impact of that is going to be seen for a long time to come. One anecdote I like to share is that my grandmother was born in the early 1900s, and she would speak about the flu of 1918, 19, and her mother, who was pregnant at that point, contracted that flu and it produced like uncontrollable hemorrhaging in pregnant women as they were giving birth, and she and her newborn baby both passed away, but the flu was so contagious that my grandmother couldn’t go downstairs to even say goodbye to her mother, and she remembers in the dead of winter, in the Iowa winter, of scratching the frost off from the window of her bedroom as she watched the horse drawn, her pulling her grandmother off that for…And I know that that shaped not just her, but her marriage and her relationship to her own children, and so that Inner generational aspect of that, I feel that in my own family, that I can see that moving forward from this experience with COVID-19 for so many people that it’s going to shape generations to come, but we have a choice about how we move forward with that at this point, because we know so much, we have so much at our fingertips about trauma and the impact of trauma and the kinds of things that help heal trauma.

Patrick

Right. Have to admit that I’m a bit of an arm chair, not even expert in armchair host when it comes to all of this, because I am very fortunate in my life not to have experienced the type of trauma that I hear from students that I’ve worked with, faculty that I’ve worked with people in organizations that focus on this type of work, and so it’s sometimes hard for me to truly understand in a visceral way, the impact of trauma and how it really determines somebody’s ability to function in the way that they would like to function. I guess the question at the heart of that is Shirley, as someone who’s worked with people who have experienced the type of trauma that you’ve described with your great-grandmother and your grandmother, what is the role of those of us in communities that aren’t sort of disproportionately affected, like the communities that you mentioned earlier, Peter, in being there for communities that are affected in this way, for people who are affected in this way?

Shirley

I think at the very core of it is seeking to understand, which means that those who haven’t experienced the trauma, the very first role you have is to listen and provide that safe space for people to share and talk about what their experience is and has been… Because empathy is at the core of trauma-informed practices, and in order to have empathy, we have to have some understanding of what somebody else has gone through, and so… That’s the beginning of that process. And the fact that even though you’re an arm chair participant in this, in this process, you seek to understand, and that opens up… The alternative of that is judgment, and judgment closes doors, seeking to understand, builds pathways, and so when we intersect with communities that have a disproportionate amount of trauma historically as well as presently, it means we’ve got to lay our judgment down before we ever even enter into that relationship and simply be open enough to understand what somebody is saying to us and what they’re… They may not be saying verbally, even, it may be behaviorally that they’re saying, but understanding that trauma can produce behaviors in people that initially look like in the education system, it looks like disrespect, or it looks like someone’s trying to be offensive. And the fact is, our behavior is… We talk about acting out, right, acting out something that people do when they don’t have words to say what they are needing to say, children have no words to talk about some of the things that have happened to them, and so they acted out. And if we come into that relationship seeking to understand what’s happening, it’s such a different place then to judge that child or take a personal offense to it, because then all of a sudden you’ve got a power struggle going on and you’re gonna have that child acting out even more. People will only speak as loud as they have to in order to be heard, whether that’s verbally or behaviorally. 

Patrick

Would it be too simple to say that at the heart of this trauma-informed work is de-centering the self…

Shirley

Absolutely. And I’ve had to do this in my own personal work as well, but often times with students and clients, I’ll say, What makes you think that was about you, if somebody did something or they saw something, or somebody behaved a certain way around them, and we take it personally. Very few people are thinking about us as they behave or live their life, they’re thinking about… They’re involved in their own pain and process, they’re not thinking about How am I gonna offend Patrick York today? It is, and we have a very self-centered perspective around that, that has to be… We have to crack that somehow because we’re simply not… We’re simply not the center of anybody else’s world.

Peter

Well, and the pandemic, it really exacerbated the issue of trauma already, it’s almost like trauma on steroids, and I think an answer to the de-central, it’s also an ethic of caring, I think it’s looking at the whole, the other… And I think those qualities are at the core of trauma-informed practices, but they’re also gonna be increasingly more important as we deal with the aftermath of the pandemic, and I think one of the possible positive out-gross is that trauma was not well-understood and not widely understood, and now it becomes such much more prevalent and more obvious to people, which means that it can be dealt with and it needs to be dealt with, and like you, I’ve been fortunate and not having traumatic experiences of the magnitude that many of the students we teach, but then that forces me then to become more knowledgeable about it, and that was really part of what was the core of the institute, is for us to recognize we’ve got to do something, and we’re a relatively small undergraduate-oriented, primarily liberal arts college, but what can we do? And that’s how the institute evolved, and I hope we can make a difference in a number of different ways, not only just in our education, but we wanna do advocacy, we want to create a trauma-informed practices quarterly, so that every quarter articles about practical application that seemed to work can be published, whether it be an education or social work, or business or the arts, and I think that’s gonna be our contribution going forward.

Patrick

How has the past 32, 33 years of your career as the sort of top administrator of university informed the formation of this institute, and you must have seen a lot of change over that time.

Peter

I did, and when I arrived at Columbia in the first time in 88, we were really a fine institution, but we didn’t have a central guiding principle, and we were a women’s college, and we were the second in the country to develop a Women’s Leadership Institute. And it really brought a claim and resources and strong students to the institution, and so we do tend to learn from our successes I hope, and when I was there the second time, I thought, This is another big issue. And we as an institution can form something that creates an institute that deals with it in a diverse settings and in diverse disciplines, and again, I’m optimistic that this will probably be the defining quality of Columbia College going forward. And then others will come to us and say, How do you teach all your undergraduates about trauma, how do you develop these programs and certificates, and if we can be a guide to others, and we’re sort of Johnny Appleseed spreading our little seeds all over the place, so others can build up on their trauma and form practices, building resilience.

Patrick

So what about people who wanna get involved with the institute or maybe apply for the graduate program. Where would you send them to either learn more about what you have to offer or contribute in some way?

Peter

We have created a website, and the college website is www.ColumbiaSC.edu/ibrtip because there are seven or eight different Columbia colleges or universities across the country, so it’s Columbia SC, EDU, and then just… I tip Institute for building resilience through trauma and form practices. So it’s just a regular website with IBRTIP and that has the different programs we have, it has a background on the institute, it lists our advisory board members, it’s a pretty comprehensive visit to what we’re trying to accomplish.

Patrick

And you’re currently teaching in that program, right Shirley?

Shirley

Yes, I am. 

Patrick

Yeah, how’s it going? 

Shirley

Well, it’s incredibly intense. Students are in seven-week courses, the three credit-hour courses over seven weeks, they take two courses at a time, and that means that you’re going double speed. But they’re so enthused and so appreciative because they are already seeing changes in how their students are interacting with them and how they… Of course, they first start interacting differently themselves, that it’s initiated by the teacher, and I think what I hear is they’re feeling so empowered that there are things that they actually can do in a classroom differently that changes the outcome of every student in that classroom, because if you have one student who’s acting out in a classroom, every other student’s learning capacity in that room is altered as well, and so while it is very intense and is requiring a lot of work, and I will say as well for myself, this is… You’re creating a course, which is always much more work than any other time you’ll ever teach it, but I am learning as much from my students as they are from this class, because that’s first of all, how I teach, but it is so exciting to see something shift so soon after having it presented or processed in a course, oftentimes in undergraduate education and education of all kinds, we wanna do some outcome studies after the fact, but we’re actually getting to hear examples and anecdotes and repeated anecdotes about, this is changing how my classroom worked this week, and so I think that in that way, that makes the intensity and the hard work much more palatable because they’re actually getting to see change so quickly.

Patrick

Right. So the final question that I ask all of the guests is the same, which is we are hopefully in the waning days of the pandemic, maybe months is more accurate, but I have at least seen cases in California dropping dramatically, and I know that they are across the country too. Once we do get the all clear and we are sure that we can go back out into the world with some confidence, what’s the first thing? You both will do… 

Shirley

Peter?

Peter

I’ll start hugging people because I missed that, but I think the other pieces that we will say to ourselves, now, the reaction to trauma is gonna start to really sink in, people are gonna be reflecting on what was… And they’re gonna be trying to deal with it and cope with it. And what can we do to ameliorate that? And one of the things that early and I develop and we’re gonna team teach it, we develop just a 15-week program for higher education for faculty and for people like directors of diversity, or even admissions or student success officers, where they can learn the basic principles of trauma-informed practices in one course and all of the theory behind it, and then in the second class, learn how to apply it, and the students, every student will leave with a strategic plan on how they can apply a trauma-informed practices to build resilience on their institutional campuses, and that’s gonna start this summer.

Patrick

How about you, Shirley?

Shirley

Well, I’m right in there with the hugs, I’ve been in sheltering at home or in addition to the pandemic, I experienced some health problems the prior nine months to that, and so I have been sheltering from home, it will be two years in June, and I’m eager eager just to have physical connectedness with people and not necessarily even touch, but just to be in the presence of other people, because that is also an injury from this experience for many of us, you don’t get touched. And human touch is essential to human survival, we know that babies who don’t get touched die, they can have all their other needs basically met, but they’ll die. And I’m a grown person, so I can cope with this to some extent, but at the same time, I long to have to be in other people’s presence and continuing to work, of course, as Peter just said, where this program and this institute are going is very invigorating and inspiring to me.

Patrick

Yeah, well, I am very fortunate to be able to have these kinds of conversations with folks like you in it, the work that you’re doing at Columbia in the Institute and with your graduate program is very inspiring. And I thank you for your time today and being so generous with your conversation.

Shirley

Well, thank you for having us.  

Peter

It was our pleasure.

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