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Job: Assistant Director for Sexual and Interpersonal Violence and Student Support Services, Student Support and Advocacy Center
In January 2020, Shayna Marlowe became the first full-time Student Support and Advocacy Center (SSAC) staff member based at Mason Square. Marlowe’s role is unique because she assists both student survivors of sexual and interpersonal violence and students who are experiencing personal concerns that impact their academic success or overall well-being.
Rethinking Well-being and Higher Education: Marlowe’s work with SSAC has made her believe universities can have a great impact on developing stronger people. Encouraging students simply to earn degrees is not enough, she said, Mason graduates should be able to connect with others in empathetic and genuine ways. She proposes institutions place more emphasis on student well-being, which fits Mason’s bolder, more inclusive ideal for higher education. “If we get both pieces together, we're creating the strongest human being for ultimate success in life.”
Knowing there is a support system in place is key to the start of that success. “The best thing I can do is keep figuring out ways to create safe spaces that foster bravery, understanding, and compassion, so that students feel comfortable reaching out for assistance,” Marlowe said.
Toward More Diverse Advocacy: Marlowe’s path to advocacy was influenced by seeing how interpersonal violence can affect Black girls and women and their worldviews. With 10 years of experience as an advocate, she’s built a wealth of knowledge on navigating legal systems, reporting processes, and health care services. Recently she completed a graduate certificate at the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution that focused on collaborative community action.
She cites course work at the Carter School and her training with Restorative Arlington for guiding her toward trauma-informed restorative justice practices. Her additional work with Restorative Arlington includes facilitating restorative practices within the Arlington community and trying to bring those practices to universities. “[Advocacy] work needs to move toward restorative practices that intentionally focus on survivor autonomy to create a truly understanding process, so survivors can be at the forefront of that healing process.”
Meeting Students Where They Are: Marlowe said SSAC provides confidential informational and emotional support for anyone impacted by sexual and interpersonal violence, including those involved in Title IX cases; support for those with substance-use recovery needs; and assistance for students experiencing financial needs and food hardship. Some of the center’s many programs include the Stay Mason Fund, Patriots for Recovery peer support group, and Patriot Pantry. This year, Marlowe wants to connect more with other offices and departments, especially those at Mason Square, so they know how to best help students while also supporting each other.