empathy, social justice

It's hard to learn while hungry

As Luis Poza mentioned in his earlier post, the Digital Pedagogy Lab in Fredericksburg, Virginia featured a keynote by Sara Goldrick-Rab, who researches college affordability and the very real needs of our students. Dr. Goldrick-Rab encourages all professors to put a note about assisting with these problems into our syllabi. I confess that I had not given much thought to these problems, so I am learning and trying to do better on this front. Here’s the wording I’m using this Fall:

A Word on Community: We know that students can face unexpected hardships, in terms of food insecurity or housing troubles. If you are facing these issues, we encourage you to contact the Dean of Students. You can also speak with me directly, and I will do my best to connect you to what resources I have available.

In addition, I decided to research what we do, at CU Denver, to address issues of student food insecurity and housing insecurity.

CU Denver features a food pantry for students, run by our student government, located in the Tivoli building, room 127. I was frustrated by how hard it was to locate the actual room number online. The Tivoli is our student union, and it is shared with two other institutions of higher education, so there are many different offices tucked away in this beautiful but Escher-like historical building. The webpage about the food pantry contains information on how to donate to it, which I appreciate, but no room number. A link on that page to “visit the CU Denver Food Pantry” is dead, and the map of the offices in the Tivoli lists room 127 as “CU Denver Student Life” with no other indication of its purpose.

I also located a group within the Dean of Students Office called the CARE Team. CARE stands for Campus Assessment, Response & Evaluation and their goal is to improve health and safety of students and campus through preventative risk assessments. From the other content on their site, we should refer students who are behaving erratically, appear distressed or aggressive, and seem to be at risk of harming themselves or other. (Full list of warning signs here.)   Although their website doesn’t focus on the issues of food or housing insecurity, their case managers  do look take a whole-person view of the students’ situations, as part of helping students with health or safety concerns.

For insecure housing situation, students can directly contact the Office of Case Management within the Dean of Students office in Tivoli, room 227, email: LovingLynx@ucdenver.edu  or call 303-315-7310.

I was also struck by the thought that having insecure housing leads to erratic sleep, and sleep deprivation can result in the very changes of behavior described on the CARE team website, not to mention an elevated level of overall anxiety from having  your basic needs in doubt all the time.

My pedagogical stance begins by seeing my students as whole people. I believe learning how to connect them to these services is part of that. I am starting this semester humbled by the strength and persistence our student demonstrate daily to be here.


** This post updated 8/22/2017 to correctly identify the CARE team as being with the Dean of Students office, and to clarify the work of their case managers. Thanks to Brittany Bohl for her feedback on this post!



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