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T.J. Jourian “Checking the Campus Pulse Through Research and Fortifying Yourself with ‘Escape Rooms’ and ‘Silly Candy’”



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by dr. Saby Labor in Audio, Blog, Resources
August 7, 2018 0 comments

In my discussion with T.J. Jourian, he tells us about his current work researching campus climate by creating heat maps. This scholarship offers an opportunity to check the pulse of campus regarding college and university micro-climates. He then describes how he connects scholarship with policy and practice. T.J. shares the context shaping his philosophy for higher education activism today. He shares three points of guidance he has learned throughout his career and a phenomenal array of books and podcasts that inform his work. He concludes by sharing vulnerable insights about his identities as an immigrant and person of transgender experience.

About T.J.:
T.J. Jourian is a social justice educator, learner, activist, and speaker, having worked with hundreds of college campuses, conferences, and community-based organizations across Turtle Island. In 2005, T.J. was featured in the Sundance docu-series TransGeneration, depicting a single academic year in the lives of four trans college students at four different institutions, and giving him a platform from which to amplify justice work. Motivated by intersectional and liberatory movements and lenses, he brings his personal, communal, and professional perspectives into all kinds of classrooms, and his empowering and dynamic presentations speak to a variety of audiences – from staff members and students, to faculty and broader community members. T.J.’s professional experiences span LGBTQ life, residential life, women’s center work, multicultural affairs, orientation, and leadership. Currently, his research and advocacy center queer and trans people of color in achieving the democratic and liberatory potentials of higher education. T.J. co-founded T*Circle, the only collective by and for trans educators in higher education and student affairs, and co-founded the interdisciplinary and open access Journal of Critical Scholarship on Higher Education and Student Affairs.

Show Highlights:

  • T.J. tells us more about himself 05:25
  • Hear more about the the work T.J. is engaged in today 06:35
  • Learn more about where T.J. finds community 16:00
  • He shares about his professional pathway shaping his work today 16:58
  • Dive into T.J.’s extensive list of book and podcast resources 23:36
  • Engage with the guidance T.J. offers for professionals engaged in social justice work 27:36
  • T.J. shares how his status as an immigrant intersects with his transmasculine identity within today’s political climate 31:20
  • T.J. shares his contact information for listeners to connect with him 34:13

Notable Quotes:

  • About ‘surprising the system’ as a strategy in higher education environments:
    “In order to position ourselves to be change agents, we have to surprise the system, because the system and structures are really really good at adapting. They’re really good at taking over radical spaces and radical initiatives and making it institutionalized and taming them down. So, by constantly surprising it, by constantly showing up in unexpected ways, it forces it to react rather than take us over.” 21:46
  • T.J. comments on having the ‘right’ language in social justice work:
    “Back then, none of us had the language for what we were doing. We weren’t calling this an intersectional movement – we didn’t have this language. We were just doing the things that we thought would have the most impact. It reminds me that it’s not about having the ‘right’ language when you’re doing the work. There are lots of folx in the community and community organizations or spaces, or at the church down the street, who are doing this work that maybe are not calling it all these theoretical academic words that we’re used to constantly saying. Just because something is called the ‘social justice…whatever’, that I don’t discount it, because it might be showing up in just that way. Just because something is called a ‘social justice initiative of…whatever’, it doesn’t mean that it’s actually doing the work, it just might be the institutionalized version of what used to be doing work.” 22:30
  • T.J. suggests that we have our own ‘silly candy’:
    “It’s ‘silly candy’ to me. I think having ‘silly candy’ around the stuff that is actually really serious in your life can really help you take it a little less seriously and then laugh at it a little bit. That’s also why I don’t ‘yuck’ other people’s ‘yums’; you don’t know why they’re ‘yumming’ something.” 30:05
  • About finding your ‘escape room’:
    “One of the ways is to take stock of which one of your muscles you’re regularly exercising. For me, because I was exercising my brain muscles the most, my head, I needed to refocus to my soul and my body to balance that out. I think of work life balance, not in that sense, of how much I work and how much I do leisurely things, but rather about how do I balance out different parts of my body and my mind and my soul and my different muscles, so that they’re sustaining each other and they’re growing at similar rates, instead of competing with each other for space.
  • About the identify, fluidity and subjectivity of positionality and privilege:
    “Sometimes we think in extremes around any topic of identity or subjectivity and positionality, and there’s a lot of middle grounds and cracks that we miss out on, on how some things get positioned. To also think about privilege in this really really fluid way that isn’t necessarily you have privilege or you don’t, but that that’s even precarious and changes by context and environment that we’re in, or time and space.” 33:29
  • Inspirational quote from Leslie Feinberg:
    “Surrendering is unimaginably more dangerous than struggling for survival.”

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