CVIC at home at UND
Community partner enlisted to educate campus on sexual violence prevention and healthy relationships
This month, Peggy Jo of the Community Violence Intervention Center (CVIC) will learn a lot of new names and meet many new faces at the University of North Dakota.
She’ll meet with department heads, student organizations, and other campus groups to build connections with the people she’ll be supporting in their efforts to prevent interpersonal and sexual violence.
“We know the rates of violence are high on college campuses, especially among young adults leaving home for the first time, not having their typical surroundings and support,” Peggy Jo said. “I want to help guide culture shifts in creating healthy relationships.”
Peggy Jo is UND’s new Campus Prevention & Education Coordinator – the face of a fresh program called CVIC at UND. The program, which began Jan. 2, is a collaboration that builds on an already strong partnership between UND and CVIC.
The two groups signed a memorandum of understanding in December, following several conversations about how they could work together to offer services and programs that were previously offered by the recently vacated roles of UND Women’s Center staff and the Coordinator for Sexual Respect and Violence Prevention. When these key staff members chose to leave the University, Vice President for Student Affairs & Diversity Cara Halgren saw a chance to examine what had previously been provided, and how UND and CVIC could provide those resources and opportunities in a way that is most beneficial to students.
“We knew that CVIC has been a leader in our community for a long time in terms of doing this work, and they had staff immediately available to join us on campus to do this work,” Halgen said.
“From CVIC’s standpoint, this really falls in line with what we’ve been doing over the last few years – really trying to focus more and more of our energy and resources on prevention efforts,” said Edie Dahlen, CVIC Director of Community Investment. “We’re really excited about this partnership.”
Outreach and education
Peggy Jo’s CVIC at UND office in the Memorial Union Room 262 will be the student doorway to prevention information.
She will raise awareness about services and provide outreach and training surrounding sexual violence, healthy relationships, bystander intervention, stalking, bullying and more. Any group of students that is interested – including fraternities or sororities, student clubs or organizations, residence hall floors, academic courses, etc. – can contact Peggy Jo for personalized sessions.
CVIC at UND will also assist with traditional campus programming like Take Back the Night and the Clothesline Project.
“What’s most important for me is for students to know that they can ask questions, especially around dating and healthy relationships,” Peggy Jo said. “For a lot of people in these presentations, they have questions but they’re scared to ask them in front of people. They worry that it’s something they should know – is this normal, is this right if someone does this to me?”
For more one-on-one help for those who have been directly impacted by interpersonal violence, Peggy Jo is there to offer a referral to CVIC’s campus advocate – a free and confidential resource that has been available at UND for four years.
“Peggy Jo will be out there educating students about healthy relationship development so that we don’t have as many people having to go to [the CVIC campus advocate],” Halgren explained. “We recognize that our students come with different levels of experience and skillsets in navigating healthy relationship development, and her role is about working with those who want to learn more.”
Safe, happy campus
As the captain of One UND Strategic Plan Goal No. 5 (foster a welcoming, safe and inclusive campus climate), Halgren recognizes that teaching students the skills necessary to have healthy relationships is the first step to creating an environment that students feel comfortable continuing to call home.
“What we’ve seen is that when students struggle with relationship issues, there’s a high possibility they will choose to leave UND as a result,” she said. “This is about retention and making sure students are here and successful academically, but happy and healthy as well.”
Halgren adds her team is grateful for the leadership and support of UND’s students in providing student fees to pay for this new position, and that the financial backing makes it all the more important that CVIC at UND is a “student-centric” program.
Alex Pokornowski, UND director of Student Rights & Responsibilities, says the network of students influenced by CVIC at UND will stretch far beyond those who have been, or may be, impacted directly by unhealthy relationships. The outreach must extend to students who know people – peers, friends or family – who have been impacted.
“When you talk about the breadth of students who have been touched by these issues, it’s incredibly broad and it’s incredibly impactful on their lives and their ability to be successful,” he said. “There are things that we can do to educate people so that they are aware and can look out for each other as a bystander, so that we can help prevent or mitigate these situations.”
Peggy Jo is looking forward to settling into the UND community and breaking open up these campus conversations. It’s been her calling since she was small, and continues to be her drive.
“I always knew that I could help make a change in culture,” she said. “So if I can make a change now, I want to.”
Students or groups who want more information about CVIC at UND can reach out to CVICatUND@UND.edu or call 777-3807.