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Introducing... Laura Harjanto!

Laura is the newest member of the Office of Social Justice team. She joins our team this week as the Justice Mobilizing and Advocacy Fellow, a one year position with our office. Laura comes to us with a background in Political Science after attending Calvin College. We are thrilled to welcome Laura to the team!

Who is one of your social justice heros?

It’s difficult to choose one! The first person to come to mind, however, is Krista Tippett. She is the host of On Being, a podcast centered around "animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live?". She is brilliant at asking insightful questions, posturing intentional listening, and creating space for conversations that expand moral imagination. I think much of the work of pursuing social justice relies on productive conversations, which I continue to learn how to do from listening to her podcast.

You have a degree in Economics and Political Science.  What has been one of the most formative experiences or lessons learned from either your education or work in that field?

There are so many ways that both disciplines have shaped my lens, one of which is opening my eyes to the systems and structures underlying the society and community around me. As humans, we are excellent at creating written and unwritten rules and ways of organizing ourselves. Our fallenness inevitably renders these structures as unjust and broken. This perspective fuels my passion to be more aware of the broken structures around me and to find ways that I can help bring restoration and healing. 

Tell us about a time you have been inspired by your congregation or church.

In high school, our youth group collectively decided to look for tangible ways to help refugees during the Syrian crisis. We decided to raise funds and gather supplies to welcome a family of Syrian refugees who were newly arriving in Chicago. Personally, it sparked a connection between the theological concept of love that I hear from the pews and actually putting it into action as we are called to do as Christians. 

You led as a Presidential Fellow at Calvin University. What were some of the most formative experiences you had in that role and how do you think that experience will enrich your work in the area of social justice?

I have two formative experiences that I was very privileged to have. The first is being mentored directly by Calvin’s senior administration, which allowed me the insight into the joys and challenges of being a leader. At the core of it, I learned how self-leadership is integral in being able to lead others well. In my mentor, self-leadership came in the form of intentional reflection and persistent pursuit of growth. I found that the lesson of self-leadership is applicable without having positional authority as a prerequisite.

The second formative experience was being able to attend the TED Women conference in December. I had a chance to learn from female leaders from all over the globe who are each change-makers in their own communities. It inspired me to reflect on how I could use the resources and privileges that I have at hand to impact the community around me. I think sometimes the term “social justice” has the heavy weight of the world’s injustices on it. However, the speakers challenged me to think of social justice on a smaller scale: how can I recognize the injustices proximate to me? What can I do about them? 

What TV show or book character or best embodies you and why?

I am a huge Harry Potter fan and have always aspirationally identified with Hermione. Although not quite to scale, I share her hunger of knowledge and admire her dedication to her community and to those who are vulnerable. Growing up, it always stood out to me that she recognized the slavery of House Elves and stood up against it even though the people around her accepted it as status quo.



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