For Assistant Professor of Government Precious Hall, community service is a civic responsibility. She aims to not just leave every place better than how she found it, but to empower others to continue her work and create lasting change.
Assistant Professor of Government Precious Hall is a strong believer in leaving our communities better than they were when we found them. That’s the impact she made during her time as a faculty member at Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) in Reno, Nevada, and a mission she’ll aim to fulfill as one of the St. Lawrence University community’s newest members.
“I was always taught that in every space that you're in, it's your responsibility to find a way to try to give back. I believe that to whom much is given, much is required,” she says.
For Hall, who was recognized with a community service award during her time at TMCC, giving back to others is one of life’s greatest callings. Her approach involves identifying existing needs and channeling her passions to become an agent of lasting change.
“You don't engage in service just to say, ‘I did something.’ You want to engage in service to say, ‘you know what? I'm passionate about this particular area.’ One of the ways that I like to do that is to see where there may be gaps. Is there something here that's missing or something that could help others? Then, I try to fill in those gaps,” she explains.
While teaching at TMCC, Hall completed extensive work to uplift underrepresented students, faculty, and staff in her community. Among her many roles, she served as a TMCC Diversity Advocate, was a founding member of the Faculty of Color Coalition, and served as an advocate for foster youth, helping them access resources and overcome barriers to meet their academic and professional goals.
“I'm very proud of the fact that even though I'm no longer at TMCC, those services still continue to exist. That's always the goal—to not only engage in service and to fill in a gap, but to make sure that even if you're no longer there, those services still continue.”
Hall’s hopes for what her students will take away from their time in her classroom, regardless of their major or career interests, reflect her philosophy on advocacy, giving back, and the overarching meaning of citizenship.
“Citizenship is a relationship. Citizenship is not just a matter of being born in a particular place and being a citizen of that country. It comes with a responsibility and a duty,” she says.
She also wants students to understand the role they play as citizens in helping to shape, and hold accountable, the institutions that govern them.
“My goal is to get everybody to see that no matter who you are, no matter what you do, no matter where you come from, the government is an important and integral piece of your life,” says Hall.
When it comes to her research focus, Hall is an Americanist and a race scholar. She studies the behaviors of individuals in American institutions, such as Congress and the court system, as well as voter behavior.
Citizenship is a relationship. Citizenship is not just a matter of being born in a particular place and being a citizen of that country. It comes with a responsibility and a duty. —Assistant Professor of Government Precious Hall
“Under race and politics, I look at things that impact voter turnout, things that impact economic stability for racial groups. I study forms of oppression and privilege. I also study forms of rhetoric and communication as it relates to minority politicians,” she says.
Over the past year, the global COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. presidential election, and Black Lives Matter protests in response to the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery aimed a spotlight on issues of racism, representation, and voter suppression. Though Hall has addressed these topics in her classroom since she started teaching in 2008, she’s noticed a shift in interest from her students in the last few months.
“The curiosity among students and the willingness to have the conversations has changed,” she says. “Although I would never say that I'm glad that these things have happened, their effects and impacts have opened up the space for the conversation.”
During a time when political divisiveness risks stymying the momentum and progress of social justice initiatives, Hall aims to equip students with the tools they’ll need to be effective, responsible citizens, including the ability to communicate across differences.
“My job is to help facilitate students’ understanding. Even if you disagree with a point of view, it doesn't mean that you shouldn't seek to somewhat understand it and know why a person thinks that way. We can agree to disagree, and we can do it respectfully.”