Personal Development in the Social Development Field

By Megan Salmon

By: Megan Salmon

It’s been a rough week in class so far. Between visiting prisons, a police station, and hearing a survivor’s story, there has been a lot to take in and I’m still processing it all. For that reason, I’m choosing not to write about one of those heavy topics today (I’ll revisit later) and instead opt for something lighter: a self-reflection.

In the field of peacebuilding, we focus on building up communities and changing structures of power. Our aim is to develop social settings in which all have the equal opportunity to thrive. Yet, this definition changes so often as we progress as a society. There are aspects of peacebuilding that I know couldn’t have existed ten, twenty, or thirty years ago. There are identities that we recognize today that we hadn’t in the past. There are practices that we understand as problematic that we didn’t in the past. This is the only way we can grow: by constantly checking ourselves and adjusting our actions as we gain knowledge. In this blog I am going to be a little selfish and evaluate my own growth.

As mentioned in class today, Guntram Herb taught me in the past as my International and Global Studies 101 professor. At the time, it was my first semester of college, my first time taking a course in my field of study, my first time being away from home, my first time being around the level of privilege at Middlebury, etc, etc. I was different than I am now. The first day of IGS 101 Professors Herb and Wyatt posed the question: what does it mean to be a global citizen? As we spoke in small groups and went around the room, the typical twenty-first century rhetoric of cultural diversity spun around the room and made its way onto the board. Learning a language, traveling abroad, studying cultures… we heard it all. I had yet to understand the extent of the implications of the concept of “global citizenry,” nor had I yet to understand the agency that a typical Middlebury student has.

Because at the time I bought it. I was a young IGS major fresh into college and excited to change the world. I didn’t quite realize yet that I wanted to change the world in a way that mirrored only those that I had previously studied without giving due respect to movers and shakers around the world. Either way, I had some concept of what a global citizen was and it was my goal to achieve that status.

Just two years later, I am a junior with a job, an internship, and much more academic experience crossing cultural bounds than when I was in IGS 101. As we discussed in class, I now question the circulated concept of a “global citizen.” Who came up with the idea and why? Who is it accessible to? Who has already reached the status and who has to work for it? These are questions that just two years ago, although I thought I was pretty “woke,” I wouldn’t have asked myself. Now I critique global citizenship as a neoliberal badge of honor to bestow upon white, wealthy Westerners who have the money and time to “immerse” themselves in “global culture” by using their funds to travel. Achieving our conception of “global citizenry” isn’t accessible people of color, women, and people struggling economically because they cannot move through the world as fluidly as white, wealthy Westerners.

I have grown enough to ask these questions with every new concept I learn, and I only realized this personal development today in class. It’s not exactly a pat on the back, but it is a recognition that I have gone through the process of checking myself and adjusting my actions as I gained knowledge. This is a part of the peacebuilding process, which is why it is such a dynamic field. There will always be work to be done and new perspectives to be considered. For me, this was a reminder that I need to constantly re-evaluate my position in peacebuilding and how I can improve my understanding of a situation. This cycle of evaluation and personal development is never-ending, but ever-necessary. It is crucial for peacebuilders to undertake so that we may adhere to our principles, which of course, will also change. What will I learn in the next two years?

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