Reimagining the University: Transformative and Healing Strategies for Research, Pedagogy, and Practice

April 2022

Yanilda Gonzalez, Harvard Kennedy School

From state violence, armed conflict, and a global pandemic to environmental devastation and structural violence and inequality, today’s most urgent social challenges are defined by trauma. Yet, scholars, practitioners, and policy makers who work to understand and address these challenges often understand little about the traumatic processes such circumstances and events entail, and the consequences of these processes for the lived experiences and responses of the individuals and communities most affected by them. Traditional strategies for working with populations affected by trauma employed by institutions such as universities have often resulted in re-traumatizing practices, frayed relationships with affected communities, and, consequently, diminished knowledge of urgent social processes.

This seminar will explore trauma-informed approaches to research, teaching, and practice, based on an understanding of structural drivers of trauma and the impacts of trauma, and focused on building relationships with individuals and communities affected by traumatic processes based on transparency, sharing power, agency, and reciprocity. The seminar will identify, develop, and disseminate trauma-informed research methods, pedagogical approaches, and practice-based strategies for working alongside populations affected by trauma, bringing together a multidisciplinary, cross-national group of scholars, educators, and practitioners who have developed trauma-informed approaches in their work alongside populations ranging from survivors of state violence, communities grappling with structural violence, and Afro-descendant and Indigenous communities affected by historical and contemporary traumas. The seminar aims to strengthen the work done by universities to address urgent social challenges, foster improved relationships with directly affected communities, enhance knowledge production, and train future practitioners in key fields.