We’re lucky to have talented and passionate faculty and staff here at HECUA, in our domestic programs and abroad. Every so often we like to feature members of our amazing team on the HECUA blog. Today is one of those days! We’d like to provide blog readers with a digital introduction to one of HECUA’s two brand new program representatives: Raegan Jaeger. Raegan is HECUA’s point of contact for the University of Minnesota and Augsburg University. Read the short interview below for more about Raegan’s own HECUA experience, her artistic practice, and what surprising pet she brings along on camping trips.
HECUA: Welcome to HECUA! We know you’re a recent graduate – can you tell us a little bit about your college career?
Raegan Jaeger: I recently graduated with a double major in English and Studio Art from the University of Minnesota. I began my college career at University of Minnesota-Duluth and finished the last 2 years down here, in the city. I participated in HECUA’s Art for Social Change program during my junior year and interned with Patrick’s Cabaret during the return of Ron Athey and the Culture Wars Cabaret. Following my off-campus experience, I returned to campus recharged and ready for more experiential learning. I began working as the Art for Social Change program Student Advisor, volunteered as an ELL tutor, and finished my senior year with an internship at Urban Arts Academy, facilitating environmental arts and social justice education for k-12 students. I didn’t connect with community engagement until later in my college career and I regret that, which is why I work hard to connect students with HECUA’s programs!
HECUA: What makes you excited to work with HECUA as a program representative?
RJ: I am excited to work with HECUA because as an artist, I have always sought meaning in my work. I came into one of HECUA’s programs without the slightest clue as to what I wanted do within my academic majors, or what post graduation looked like. I was also silent and naïve about many of the issues within my community. HECUA guided me not in finding my voice, but instead using it. HECUA helped connect me with the community and empowered me to ask questions and take control over how I learn and what I learn. The reason I am so thrilled to be a program representative is to help connect and support other students with the same opportunities that so drastically changed my life! I am so proud to work at an organization that is pushing boundaries, working for change, but also critically reflective in our pursuit.
HECUA: You are a HECUA alumna! Which program did you choose, and why?
RJ: As mentioned, I participated in Art for Social Change, here in Minneapolis. Like most students, I heard about the program through a class visit. Unlike most students, I applied for the program within weeks of hearing about it. I was a fresh transfer student at the University of Minnesota, and to be honest was very intimidated by the city. When I heard about Art for Social Change, though I wasn’t 100% sure what it was, or even what a nonprofit was, I knew it was a program made for me. I chose Art for Social Change because I am an artist, but I needed some guidance in figuring out what that meant. I had my first personal exhibition during my program participation –a challenging thing to do to say the least– but the program gave so much support and feedback when I needed it.
HECUA: How did off-campus study change your outlook or views about your world? Your community?
RJ: The biggest learning curve was realizing my privilege. Reflecting back, it was my privilege that shaded me from so many realities, that helped me avoid learning about issues firsthand. Before I began the program I thought a lot about the environment, but I really didn’t look at the intersection of environmental justice and human rights and how the two are one and the same. Before the program, I was afraid of differences and afraid of being wrong. I learned it’s okay to be wrong, ask questions, and to be silent only when listening. I am always learning new things about my community. The Twin Cities have issues, but there are so many inspiring people working to creatively combat the issues from the smallest project to the biggest ideas and movements.
HECUA: If you had to choose one HECUA program to enroll in now, which would you choose, and why?
RJ: If I was to enroll in one of HECUA’s programs now, I would enroll in Race in America with no hesitation. My reasoning: this program represents some of my largest personal issues and some of the most challenging past and current issues. Race in America not only looks at history (a area where I have never excelled) but also at identity and the current political reality. It is a program that would force me from my comfort zone. When explaining the program, Lena Jones, one of the program directors, said to me “History is just the doorway.” That was a quote that stuck with me.
HECUA: Last but not least: any fun hobbies, interests, or projects we should know about? What do you do when you’re not at work?
RJ: Well, first and foremost I am an artist! I am a painter and work primarily in watercolor and acrylic, painting on everything from canvas to scrap wood found in my back alley, even broken skateboards from friends. I also enjoy installations and working with power tools, but I am still breaking through the surface with that. I have had two personal exhibitions, one academic, and spent the entirety of last summer doing an artist residency outside of Yosemite National Park. My work has even been published, twice! I am currently working on my next exhibition but will not give a date nor details just yet. My biggest project at the moment is a website redesign. It’s a lot of work, and very technical. Though I’m a techie, I am also an ‘outdoorsy person’– I love to hike, bike, swim, camp and canoe, preferably with my dog (Bernie) and bird (Cooper). Yes, birds can go camping too. I’ve been on many backpacking trips throughout the U.S. but the Boundary Waters remains my favorite. I go once or twice a year. I love to read, write and cook. There is always other stuff but that is a small glimpse.