In her sophomore year at Mizzou, recent graduate Grace Nielson became a peer educator in the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention (RSVP) Center. Through Nielson’s deep passion for advocacy, what began as volunteering became a student staff position. Her journey culminated with the development of the “Empathetic Mandated Reporting” training for faculty and staff, something she considers her most rewarding experience in her college journey.
Read on for a Q&A with Nielson about her experience at the RSVP Center.
How has working at the RSVP Center impacted you?
I have had some of the best mentors within that center who have taught me how to believe in myself and stand up for the things I believe in. One of the things that was so great working at the RSVP Center is that it gave me a sense of empowerment in every aspect of my life. Not just in advocacy work, but in academics and in my home life. It really helped me grow not just professionally but personally in who I am.
What is something special about the RSVP Center and what do you hope it continues to do?
There are two things that are special about the RSVP Center. The first is the staff that work there. You will not find more passionate people and more dedicated changemakers in any space on campus whether you see them doing the work or hear them doing the work out loud. They are constantly advocating for all of us, and I think there is something so special about that kind of commitment and dedication to people they don’t know. The other part of it is its integration of students into all aspects of what they do. The space gives students not just a platform to learn, but a platform to be advocates and grow in their own leadership.
What advice might you have for someone who wants to use the services at the RSVP Center or work for RSVP but isn’t sure how to get involved?
My advice would be just to start. You just need to make that first jump into something uncomfortable and new. The best thing about the RSVP Center is that your time there can be whatever you want it to be. If you’re passionate about programming, they will let you plan events. If you are passionate about education, they will let you build presentations. If you are passionate about working with clients and learning about intimate partner violence, they will get you into spaces where you can do those things appropriately. You really can make the space what you need it to be for your personal and professional growth.
What work are you most proud of as you reflect on your time at the RSVP Center and what impact do you believe you have had?
I created a training called “Empathetic Mandating Reporting,” teaching faculty and staff about how to be empathetic to students when they disclose sexual misconduct while still maintaining their obligation as a mandated reporter. I presented it to 150 faculty and staff over the past year or so and the conversation has been great.
Why is your work with the Division of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity important to you and what makes spaces like the RSVP Center an important resource?
What is great about it is there is a space for you regardless of who you are, who you want to be, and who you end up deciding to be. As you change throughout the four years here you will always find a space where you belong. I think spaces like the Women’s Center, Multicultural Center, Gaines/
The RSVP Center is located in G216 in the lower level of the MU Student Center. They are open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
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