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Chaparral 2017-2018: 26.5 Civic Engagement Spotlight

As part of the 2017-2018 GCC campus-wide theme of Civic Engagement, the coordinators will spotlight campus activities throughout the year, that are aimed at increasing civic engagement at GCC. Please let us know what you’re doing in your classes or across campus by dropping us a note at and

Onward! Sandy Somo and Julie Gamberg

Civic Engagement Spotlight: Jenny Krestow


Jenny demonstrating to studentHow do you define civic engagement and why do you believe it is important?

Well, I think that civic engagement is the process of interacting with the community in a positive and beneficial way. It is talking with your neighbors. It is helping someone in need. It is thinking of the community and engaging with the members of that community in a way that will leave the community better off as a result of your interaction with it.

Civic engagement is terribly important. It is the glue of a stable and happy society. With growing engagement and communication on the part of community members, there is more opportunity for understanding, which one hopes will lead to a more egalitarian and just society. Whether civic engagement is on a small or large scale, it helps society flourish and so is vital to the community.

Planetarium outside and insideWhat are the primary barriers to civic engagement here at GCC?

The GCC community is made up of a large, diverse, and fascinating group of individuals. As a whole, the community is involved, but I feel that many individuals often feel left out of that whole. It’s the “being lost in a crowd” sort of thing, as others rush past to get to classes or work or the other aspects of their lives. Finding community in such a fast paced society is a bit like finding a quiet pool in a fast moving river; the pools are there, but you need to seek them out. While some people are skilled at finding these places where they feel comfortable and included, others glimpse them only in passing and might rush past them and realize their existence only after the fact. Helping the individuals of the campus community find their niche would certainly help overcome barriers of student engagement at GCC, since when people are happy and at home, they are more likely to stretch out and get involved.

How are you addressing the college theme of civic engagement this year in your work or classes?

I work in the college’s digital planetarium, where we strive to create an intimate, engaging environment where everyone feels welcomed and at home. We are working to be that quiet pool in the raging river that is the college at large. While it’s true that the schedule of the planetarium is filled mostly with the college classes and school group field trips, we do open our doors for everyone, every week, over the lunch hour. Every Monday at 12:30, there are star shows. On Wednesdays (again at 12:30 p.m.) there is some sort wellness workshop, from yoga to mindfulness to workshops on nutrition and sleep. Fridays have the starlit rest and recharge half hour (starting at 12:30 p.m.), for quiet contemplation — or naps. Additionally, once every month we have professional astronomers come to converse with the audience about their area of expertise. During these events everyone is welcome to come and relax in our quiet, calm space, on our wonderfully comfortable, reclining chairs. Leaving the stresses of the day at the door, and being a bit more relaxed allows people to engage with other curious people and fosters a sense of community. While we can’t take the stars out of our doors, we can open our doors and invite everyone in to see the stars!

What do you wish the GCC community knew about civic engagement?

You’ll feel so much more fulfilled if you get off your phones and engage with real people, in real time, in the real world!

Is there anything we didn’t ask that we should have asked?

Yes! Something simple, like how does the structure of helium differ from hydrogen? That would have been a much easier question to answer!


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