For this edition of "Staff Chat", a regular feature where we share things you may not know about your favorite staff and faculty members, we sat down with staff member Danny Alvarez. Danny is a Student Life Program Manager. In his role, Danny teaches courses, manages the CommonGround team, co-organizes IGR's National Intergroup Dialogue Institute, and does several other projects for the division. We hope you enjoy learning about Danny outside of his work role!
Q: Why do you do the work you do?
A: I do this work because I think that people are good. And it's important to me to be a part of making things a little bit better for people. There are a lot of ways that I can think of to be involved in change work or be involved in making things better, more accessible, or easier for people to live in a good way. My work with IGR is one way I do this.
Q: Can you say more about what you mean by "people are good"?
A: I think that people are fascinating. I'm fascinated by their stories and why they are the way they are. I think that being in work where you get to talk to people about their real experiences, to help people learn more or be able to communicate better about themselves and others is really awesome work to get to do.
Q: Do you have any favorite quotes that guide your work?
A: There's one about education by Liam Kane:
In the context of social injustice, education can never be politically neutral: if it does not side with the poorest and marginalized sectors- the 'oppressed' – in an attempt to transform society, then it necessarily sides with the 'oppressors' in maintaining the existing structures of oppression, even if by default.
My version of it is the idea that if education isn't radical or isn't challenging things, then it's automatically siding with the oppressor. I think if you're not actively doing work against the system, you're unintentionally participating in perpetuating it.
My other favorites are about reminding me to be nice to people and remember where they are coming from, and about being brave and taking risks:
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.
I also like this one:
Jump- and you will build your wings on the way down!
Q: Within the work that IGR does, what are your special areas of interest?
A: In terms of the dialogue courses we offer, I'm especially interested in the multiracial dialogue curriculum. I'm multiracial so I think for me, talking about race has always been really difficult and I am interested in finding different and better ways to engage in learning and talking about multiracial identities.
I'm also currently working on some professional development for the program on body size and how we as educators talk about size-ism and size-based oppression. I’m looking at how we can strengthen our curriculum around having those conversations.
Finally, I'm thinking about how we can do the dialogue work we do, which is mostly based on pretty clear binaries (such as white/non-white or Christian/Non-Christian), in ways that aren't based on those binaries. Our world is moving into more nuanced identities and so I'm thinking about how our work can be more inclusive and reflective of shifting demographics.
Q: If you had some time off and unlimited funds, and were told to use those for something that relates to your work, what would you use it for?
A: I love working with high school students and dialogue work so doing something with that would be nostalgic and exciting (I did this before when I was in high school). Or, doing a semester-long dialogue with transgendered folks about how gender shows up in the trans- community. Especially how trans- masculinity shows up trans- communities. I'd also find it really fun to work with a group of older people - like 80 and above and talk about aging and what the aging process is like.
Q: What are you reading these days?
A: Right now I’m reading Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg and All About Love by bell hooks.
Q: What are your favorite things to do outside of work?
A: Take naps! No- just kidding…I like to hang out with my friends and my family. We cook food, have dinner parties, play cards and dice and we just sit around after work and talk. I also love skyping with my sisters and with my nephew who lives in Hawaii—he is about to turn 1!
Q: What is one fun or bizarre thing that has happened to you?
A: I was in a traveling play when I was five, with my whole family. That was pretty weird! Also, I was told by someone that I was a vampire once. I was fifteen and having coffee with friends in a diner and a guy was staring at me and talking to us and he said I was possessed by this spirit and I was a vampire. It was really freaky, and he kept going on about it and couldn't let it go!
Q: What else do you want readers to know about you?
A: I love getting to know students—stop by my office and chat with me!