When talking about wellness while attaining higher education at UNI as well as other universities, self care is often emphasized for maintaining one’s personal wellbeing. However, there is another type of wellness that is equally, if not more important, especially for marginalized students on campus that is referred to as community care. Community care can be both formal and informal, thankfully both are facilitated on campus. Community care is the process of looking out for oneself while also looking out for others in your community. It is mutual accountability to each other by providing support to each other when needed.
For marginalized students on campus, community care is more important than ever – having others that understand the systemic oppression that pertains to you and simply being understood by others that hold a similar identity to you is crucial for maintaining wellbeing. Working towards a degree is difficult as is, being in classes where many of your peers do not and cannot understand what you face on a daily basis adds another level of difficulty. This is why it is so important to have a community on campus that can provide mutual support through understanding.
On campus, there are many avenues for receiving community care as a marginalized student such as numerous identity related clubs and student unions. However, there is also the UNI Thrive program which provides free mentorship to marginalized students. When I was a freshman, this was a program that I would have greatly benefited from but did not have. Now I am a mentee for this program and have watched the good that it has done for other students. While self care is important, it cannot serve as the only key component to maintaining one’s well being, mutual understanding and support must also be a part of taking care of yourself.
Furthermore, community care amongst marginalized students not only serves wellbeing but can also serve the overall community. By utilizing mutual support, this can also change the narrative in the larger community. When marginalized students are able to thrive and do well in spite of trying to survive in a society that capitalizes off of their oppression, thriving as a marginalized person can provide change within itself. With that being said, community care in marginalized populations is not and cannot be the only action to undo oppressive systems but it can be a part of it.
The flip side of this of course, is that oppressive systems can also serve as a threat to community care. Programs that support diversity, equity and inclusion that are left without proper funding and resources cannot effectively serve their student unions, clubs and mentors. Student unions, clubs and mentors that are left without proper support from the programs that sponsor them cannot serve their communities as effectively. Marginalized communities that are overall left without proper funding and support ultimately cannot change oppressive systems as effectively. This is why it is important for the university to continue to fund and support the community care programs that they already have implemented because without the proper support community care will not be as effective.