Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Keeping It Professional When Things Get Personal

 According to Grace Murray Hopper “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission”. 


This year’s cohort of 2016 Tulane VISTAS are unique. We are passionate because we are willing to address issues that affect our communities. We are considerate because we are willing to prioritize our communities needs over our own. We are resourceful and most importantly, we are powerful because we make our voices heard.

Every Friday, we meet for Professional Development. At the beginning of every session our VISTA leader Osman will lead each session by first setting the scene with tranquil music and leading us through an activity that will give us a positive start to the day. It is during this occasion where we can share resources with one another and address the issues and needs of the communities that myself and the other VISTAS are working with. We also address each other’s personal needs. While most of the time we are sharing good news, we are also addressing our problems as well. Within these past couple months, there were particular actions carried out by VISTAS who were justifiably willing to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.

There is always something going on in New Orleans where people can get involved to make a community impact. From meetings to address the city’s lack of economic support for its public defenders to rallies in support of those who are acting as a barrier between the South Dakota pipeline and armed forces. People are not only becoming more aware of these issues but they are willing to do anything that they can to bring forth the change that is needed and they are realizing the power that they have as a person. Indeed, I bet many of us wish that we could be in more than one place at a time to support but unfortunately we can’t so we end having to prioritize.

As a VISTA, your responsibilities within the community are stretched pretty long. Not only are you committing to the duties that have been set by AmeriCorp to address poverty but as a Tulane VISTA you are committed to carrying out the duties that have been set by Tulane’s Center for Public Service and your site’s duties. Everyday, while having to keep this all in mind sometimes the expectations of each entity can get personal when someone’s professional expectation interferes with something that is very personal to you like a human rights issue and/or a civil rights issue. Personally, you want to do something about it. You want the people of your community to understand your values and what your responsibility is personally to handle situations that mean a lot to you.

Within my VISTA cohort, many of us feel that physically positioning ourselves in places where we can make a difference matters. We are relationship builders and meeting and talking to people who have similar interests as us is significant because together we can collaborate to make an impact. Indeed, in order to bridge a build between the things that get personal and professional is good communication and it should never be ignored. If not, by the time things have gotten so personal when trying to keep things professional, one will be willing to block out the professional because it is almost as if the professional side of things would want you to create a barrier between your professional actions and your personal beliefs in order to check off that the job has been done. One’s personal interest should always be kept in mind when it comes to keeping things professional.

❤ Bri


About Brianna Cunningham

Brianna Cunningham is a graduate of Bucknell University. She majored in Sociology & English Literary-Studies. She spent her first year of VISTA at Stay Local and is currently a second year VISTA at NetWork Volunteers.

5 comments on “Keeping It Professional When Things Get Personal

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    December 29, 2016

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  2. Jim
    December 28, 2016

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  4. Tulane VISTA
    December 13, 2016

    I was hoping someone would chime in to make this point, i.e.,there was a way, a means to participate that removed any conflicts of interest or challenges to rules and regulations. There didn’t have to be a conflict of values or morals. Every VISTA has discretionary agency and can use their leave benefits as they choose. Your use of the idea of “acting and asking forgiveness rather than permission” is somewhat beside the facts of the situation. Part of learning to live in a bureaucratic world is to learn how to use the bureaucracy and in this situation that learning was not exhibited but rather had to be prompted in the face of mistaken anticipations of opposition, i.e.. a problem was perceived where none existed. However, if the point is raised that a sacrifice had to be made, i.e., losing a leave day, in order to honor one’s moral values then yes, there was a cost involved and the question becomes; “who’s to pay the cost for supporting one’s values or morals”? Often the “professional vs personal” conflict comes down to who’s got to sacrifice what?

  5. Emery Graham
    December 3, 2016

    Boy, was this a heavy duty, dig down deep, post. Great insights and description of the phenomena, the experience, of engaging the conscience, consciously. Glad to see that the Tulane VISTA experience is proving effective in developing consciousness while volunteering.

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on December 3, 2016 by in VISTA Field Reports.


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