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Defining Community Through Language | Rebecca Baiman '15

December 2, 2013

Becca Baiman is a Junior math major from Oak Park, IL

At our most recent team training, a couple of staff members from the Career Development Office at Pomona College talked to the Draper Center coordinators about where their experience at Draper could take them after college. Much of the presentation focused on rewording the work we do here to describe what employers or graduate school admission officers might understand. Walking in to the Draper Center, you might notice funny terms flying around like “co-co’s,” “mutually beneficial,” “positionality,” and “community engagement.” After three semesters as a Draper coordinator, these terms naturally sneak in to my everyday language. However, to many people outside the Draper community, the phrases used in this office seem confusing or wrong.

Like most communities, Draper has developed slang and language to fit our mission and our work. These common terms help us to understand one another and to shape our Draper community. On the flip side, the use of slang and in-group language also alienates others. The language we have developed not only confuses potential employers, it also confuses our peers, our broader Pomona community, and even some of our community partners. By defining our Draper community through language, we have made our community exclusive: those who are in the community understand our language and those who are not are confused.

This reflection may be an over-dramatization of the exclusiveness of Draper Center. In many ways it is easy for peers and community members to join our Draper community by spending time in our programs and our space. This immersion will teach them our language. I am just intrigued by the balance between defining a community through language to form a cohesive community and keeping Draper community inclusive to our peers and members of the broader community.

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