Joanna Schneider '13
Student Director forBig Brother, Big Sister
Major: Sociology modified with Psychology; Minor in Chemistry
Other Campus Involvements: DOC; General Manager of Big Green Bus
Fun fact: She got involved in Big Brother, Big Sister in high school, over 7 years ago!
What's your major?
Government with Education and Religion minors
Where are you from?
What else are you involved in on campus?
Rocky Leadership Fellows, Dartmouth Chinese Culture Society, Pan Asian Council, Multi-Faith Council, Casque and Gauntlet
What have you learned from your experience with ASBs?
I attended the Faith in Action ASB to San Francisco my sophomore year and still consider it one of the best decisions I made at Dartmouth and one of the most defining experiences of my life. I met new, life-long friends from all corners of the Dartmouth community and I found that the service work and spiritual reflections our group did in San Francisco made me more conscious about the role of service and social justice in my life and future career, as well as the impact each individual has on his or her community. I was able to see, talk to, and hear stories from people from all walks of life, tiers of the socioeconomic strata, ages, ethnicities, educational backgrounds, and religious/ideological convictions. Most importantly, this ASB gave me the opportunity of envisioning a world where communal progress would take precedence over these differences.
Because I was moved and molded by my ASB experience, I applied to lead the FIA ASB to DC last year and had the wonderful fortune of meeting another group of similarly wonderful, committed, thoughtful, and loving friends. I'm student director of the program now because I truly believe in this program, the preconceptions it challenges, and the lasting connections that it builds between leaders on campus.
What has surprised you about life at Dartmouth?
I'm surprised that everyone on campus doesn't know about Tucker (or OPAL, or other programs that aim at bringing students together across lines of difference for social goals). Spaces like Tucker and OPAL have affirmed for me the importance of cultural competency and cross-group cohesion, inclusion, and dialogue. I hope that more students become more familiar and involved with these programs in future years at Dartmouth.
How has your experiences with Tucker effected you?
Before I went on ASB trips (which were my first experience with Tucker), I was very much interested in the Government and policy-making. What was important to me were numbers, statistics, and empirical evidence that problems and social ineptitudes existed.... and how, concretely, in terms of efficient programs, funding, and numbers, we could make those unfortunate realities change. This view of human existence and social ills as empirical and measurable realities was, for me, a firm truth discoverable in textbooks. I wanted to change the world someday, but thought that succeeding at change-making would be very much a top-down, data-driven, bureaucratic phenomenon. It was not necessarily relational or communal, it didn't need to involve dialogue with the people it affected (since it certainly doesn't at present), and in reality, it was kind of cold and distant.
This very stern, solid, realistic approach to change was very much challenged the first time I went on the FIA ASB. I saw that the problems and "social ills" that I previously conceived of from a purely academic standpoint were much more complex, deep, and rich than I had previously been able to appreciate through books and research and "evidence." It's one thing to say, for example, that soup kitchen X serves 700 meals a day and thus deserves more funding for reaching a broader client or constituent base than soup kitchen Y, and it's quite another thing to serve those 700 meals a day and realize that every kitchen counts. It's overwhelming, really, to see, feel, and grasp the 700 people that rely on a single soup kitchen to get their vital sustenance every day, and it's so much more than one could ever learn or understand from data to imagine their stories, their thoughts and feelings, and their un-narrated narrative.
It was here, on a Tucker program, that I recognized the humanity of all the injustices I previously claimed I wanted to change—the humanity that was missing in my previous conceptions of homelessness and social disparities. In full, all of us crave the same basic things-- things like sustenance, warmth, hope, friends, and change-- and should be able to have access to them, irrespective of empirical evidence.
Tucker made me realize that change isn't about policy, necessarily, and that sometimes government and social programs aren't the only answer. Sometimes change and justice are as simple as basic conversation and meaningful interactions. Often, it's much more worthwhile to make things happen on a more immediate, relational level, than by waiting for institutional mandates. After all, we could have institutional or cultural change if we interacted with others in a way that consistently valued and exhibited hope, community, and commonality, even and especially in the face of doubt, indifference, and rejection. Having things improve could be as easy as if everyone acted on a willingness to understand and engage in reaction to differences, instead of reflecting back more ignorance or otherness.
Because of my time here at Tucker, I've begun to think that the best way to conceive of poverty, housing, homelessness, and hunger-- and even longer-term policy issues and basic attitudes-- must be through such anecdotes rather than data, faces rather than numbers. Because it is only once we've connected with others and happily allowed for our emotive consciences to "get in the way" of our realist studies that we will be motivated to act idealistically, courageously, and against conventional "practicality." The catalyst for real change and growth lies in understanding our basic, common humanity and believing, either with or against the data, that things can be better. This may sound idealistic or optimistic, but Tucker—and the people I've met at Tucker—have shown me that optimism and realism don't have to be at odds. We can change that.
What would you say to a student who is trying to get involved with the ASB program?
ASBs are an exposure to and exercise in humanity unlike very many other experiences you can get as a Dartmouth student. No matter where you go, whom you go with, and what the focus of your trip is, you'll definitely get something wonderful out of it! APPLY sometime during your time here!
What is one fun fact about you?
I am an expert pet-caretaker—the goldfish I received for my second birthday lived to be 17 years old!
Last Updated: 3/13/13