By Tori Pender
Aubrey Daniels, assistant professor in Rider’s Department of Graduate Education, Leadership and Counseling, Eri Millrod, assistant professor of dance movement therapy, and Sravya Gummaluri ‘20 and Demi Banchs, graduate students in clinical mental health counseling, co-wrote an article on forming support groups on campus to address racial injustice.
The article, “A Shift to Critical Pedagogy in Action: Counseling Students Mobilize an Online Support Group during Racial Injustice and the COVID-19 Pandemic,” will be presented at the 2021 New Jersey Counseling Association conference.
Gummaluri explained, “This was a wonderful opportunity to spread awareness of the significance of having safe spaces such as ours [for] the broader community. Especially since oftentimes safe spaces concerning racial injustice and the impact of this on BIPOC students is often limited.”
Millrod added, “I also thought we had something unique developing in that we shifted the group leadership from faculty to the student and alumni leaders. That faculty [herself and Daniels] were present as group members and not as the designated leaders for the group aligns with critical theory and critical pedagogy, whereby we challenge the traditional power hierarchy. I thought making that explicit would be valuable.”
Daniels and her colleagues saw the need for similar support groups at other colleges, which became the momentum for writing their article.
“Responding to the murder of George Floyd, I initially reached out to all counseling students and alumni to have a support space to process reactions, feelings, racial trauma and vicarious traumatization that followed,” explained Daniels. “During the meeting, Gummaluri and Banchs shared they were also planning on cultivating a support space in the form of a support group, and naturally Millrod and I wanted to join them in a supporting role.”
Gummaluri emphasized that Daniels and Millrod have been incredibly supportive of the group since the first meeting, discussing topics surrounding racial trauma.
“We were motivated to start this group due to the immense feelings of helplessness that we felt with everything going on in our nation, and a support group seemed like a perfect way to support others who may have been processing difficult feelings related to racial trauma and feelings of helplessness,” said Gummaluri.
Gummaluri continued, “This group placed an emphasis on how to be actively anti-racist and active advocates against racial and social injustice. Various professors from different departments at Rider University also joined in as support for meetings.”
The support group has been growing since June 2020, consisting of Rider students, staff and alumni.
Banchs explained, “We were meeting weekly for a while and then monthly via Zoom to adhere to COVID[-19] protocols and also to make the group more accessible to the Rider community.”
Banchs and Gummaluri led off the discussion in the monthly meetings by creating a welcoming environment.
“Joining a support group can be nerve-wracking, but there are also so many beautiful parts to it, such as finding a sense of belonging, community and connection to those who may be going through similar lived experiences as you,” said Gummaluri. “The best part is that sometimes for support groups such as ours, it is more than OK to come and to listen to what others are saying if you don’t feel comfortable speaking in the moment.”
Those who are interested in joining the support group can contact Daniels at firstname.lastname@example.org