Dr. Jillian Martin
CSAA-D Spring 2017
Current Position:  Assistant Director for Strategy and Evaluation
Institution: Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement – Washington University in St Louis
Dissertation: The stool must not touch the ground: Student and community affairs at a private liberal arts institution in Ghana, West Africa


Tell us about what you’re doing in your current role.
I lead the strategic planning and evaluation efforts for the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement. The role of the institute is the foster a vibrant culture of civic engagement across Washington University through community-engaged citizens, scholarship, and partnerships. So, in my role, I work to create an infrastructure for asking questions about the impact of our engagement efforts through student programs, faculty and academic initiatives, and our campus and community partnerships.

How has your time in the program influenced how you engage in your current work?CSAA-D deepened my understanding of student affairs and higher education. I started to think that the institutional transformation that so many of us want in higher education is a process and will not come just from us talking about the need for change. Rather, we have to understand the contexts in which we work, our stakeholders, and how we should navigate these to see the opportunities for innovations toward transformation. And, as uncomfortable as it may be, we become institutional actors/agents and have to attend to both being a contributor to as well as a changemaker within. Being in CSAA-D and working in University Housing taught me about balancing all of these seemingly different perspectives and stakeholders, which is extremely helpful in my work at WashU in civic and community engagement.

What insights would you share with current and prospective CSAA-D students?
Do you! CSAA-D was one of the first educational opportunities where I could step out and carve my own path in addition to what was set before me. It also meant that I could formulate and discuss my own opinion. Stereotype threat/perfectionism/imposter syndrome/whatever you call it will come out, but you have to learn yourself and how to talk back to those common tapes we all have! As yourself when those familiar doubts come in: And what if I succeed? And what if I can? Hold onto that!

Take care of yourself! This is a race of endurance, skill and critical thinking are also key, but you were accepted to the program because of your abilities. You got that – how will you endure? What support systems do you need in order to endure?

Show up with something (Moore, 2014). Dr. Candace Moore said this in one of our retreats as advice to graduate students and it has stuck with me until now. As doc students, we constantly have to pivot and are never really the center upon which things revolve. As a result, we are pulled in many different directions in regards to class, research, personal time, etc. In each of those, I am expected to show up with something and be clear about what support I need in order to accomplish the task/program/initiative. It is when I consistently do not read or are late to submit assignments or do not contribute to group work or do not accomplish tasks toward graduation that hinder other people’s ability to provide support.

“I will not follow where the path may lead, but I will go where there is no path, and I will leave a trail.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson Take this time to explore. Read one more article for class that you find yourself. Submit that class work that you think is bomb for a presentation or journal article. Volunteer your time with an organization that is important to you off-campus. Consider frameworks and methodologies that we have never used before. Read the implications sections of journal articles (AND the methods section) to build upon the work of other scholars. Read outside of the mainstream of scholars. Ask big questions. Answer big questions. Be great (not perfect). Study and write with graduate students from other programs within college of education and in other colleges. How might our work intersect with other disciplines?

Take it one word, one sentence, one paragraph, one page, one project, one assignment, one class at a time. You can do it!

Can you talk about a specific experience in or outside of the classroom from your time as a student that impacted your work as a professional?
I think it was the chance meeting of my writing partner. We met at a student organization meeting and kept running into each other. We ended up getting coffee and started writing together weekly for at least an hour. She was outside of the CSAA program and became a champion and support for me to get through the process.

In December 2015, I got the opportunity to study abroad with Dr. Cynthia Dillard to Ghana.That trip changed the trajectory of my time in CSAA, my research, and my life.  During that trip, I developed my research topic, worked with the school where I would eventually do my research to carve out a proposal process, and learned so much about myself as an individual and a scholar. I was able to return in 2016 to collect data for my dissertation and this past January as a co-facilitator for a study abroad trip in higher education. We will be recruiting for our second trip in the coming months. I am so grateful that the timing worked out for me to go on the trip; I could not have imagined my experience in CSAA-D without it!

If you could change one thing about your CSAA-D experience what would it be?
I would go back in time and give this to myself! I have no regrets about my CSAA-D experience because it got me to this point. Shoutout to the incredible faculty of CSAA-D, past and present, you all are my heroes!

Can you share a story, funny or otherwise, that reminds you most of CSAA-D?
I enjoyed Jeopardy during CSAA-D retreats! I feel like that was training ground for my future as the replacement for Alex Trebek.

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