Bringing Community to Campus

Thursday, Oct 4, 2018
by Dave Brown, Assistant Director

The Pace Center for Civic Engagement is pleased to welcome Cherry Oakley of Trenton, NJ as its second Community Partner-in-Residence. In this role, Oakley will bring the lens of the community into the Pace Center’s work and to the Princeton University campus community.

“At the Pace Center, we believe that service is a powerful exchange where we each have as much to learn as we have to give,” said Kimberly de los Santos, the John C. Bogle ’51 and Burton G. Malkiel *64 Executive Director. “We value the knowledge and expertise of our partners and recognize that they bring unique talents and perspectives to the table. Cherry will not only enable us to better understand the complexities of issues and community response in our region, but deepen our approach to student learning through service.”

The Pace Center piloted the Community Partner-in-Residence role during the 2017-2018 academic year with the Rev. Karen Hernandez-Granzen. The position was shaped by the Pace Center’s 2016-2019 Strategic Plan, which calls attention to four key areas for the center’s future: Ensuring that learning is an integral part of service; providing the greater campus community with the resources needed to do service well; facilitating inclusivity in service; and developing purposeful community partnerships.

As Community Partner-in-Residence, Oakley will be a student-facing presence on campus, holding open office hours, and meeting with student boards and fellows. She also will be conducting trainings on finding your north star, a facilitated and relational process for finding your path, as well as on graphic recording, a technique used to translate conversations into images and text during meetings and events. Her first workshop on graphic recording will be held Saturday, October 13 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Cherry CP

Community Partner-in-Residence Cherry Oakley at the Community House Fall Kick-off for student leaders and volunteers.

“Being part of the Community Partner-in-Residence collaboration will allow me to share some of the practical lessons and approaches of working for social justice, inclusion, and equity those of us with ‘boots on the ground’ count on when partnering to do the work well,” said Oakley. “I love the idea of being part of equipping more of us to make sure that we live in a world where every single one of us have what we need, is seen as valuable because we exist, and are able to contribute the gift(s) that is inside of each of us regardless of our perceived level of ability. This is literally the stuff that gets me out of bed in the morning because frankly we cannot afford to live in a world where we don’t make space for each other or value what is present in each of us.”

For the past three decades Oakley has focused on meaningful ways to help people embrace diversity and become part of welcoming and inclusive communities. As the current Executive Director of Support Coordination at Neighbours, Inc., Oakley leads a team of statewide facilitators that helps New Jerseyans with disabilities, one-by-one, vision for their lives, connect to resources, and learn how to braid together different resources to live a life that is self-determined and self-directed. She has also worked closely with government systems, local communities, and service organizations to take strong steps towards values-driven transformation.

Much of her work as a member of the Presbytery of New Brunswick’s Committee on Ministry, helped congregations to lay out a path to either transform into an outwardly facing ministry or to transition gracefully out of existence. An active member of Westminster Presbyterian Church’s lay leadership she sits on the Early Ministry Institute for the Synod of the Northeast, where she helps design multi-day immersive educational experiences for new clergy, that hopes to increase the longevity of their tenure in ministry.

She holds a masters degree from Rider University and a bachelor’s degree from Drew University, and has been a founding board member of several nonprofits that focus on the health, healing, and wellness of those marginalized by society or living in urban communities.

Oakley will serve as the Community Partner-in-Residence through the end of December 2018. Members of the Princeton University community can meet Oakley during her office hours, 4-5:30 p.m. on Mondays and 12:30-2 p.m. on Wednesdays. Sign up for office hours via WASE.

“Having this opportunity to think with a community of service-centric folks, throw in with those also rolling up their sleeves, and to share what I have learned about engaging people in dreaming, planning, and acting on those plans promises to expand not only what is available within the Pace Center but also what will be within me,” said Oakley. “Who wouldn’t want that?”