Ginsberg Is...Benjamin Hollenbach

As a Rackham Intern Fellow for Ginsberg's Matchmaking Team, my work was centered around institutionalizing Ginsberg Partnerships Work (day-to-day match processes) and special projects which allowed the Match Team to expand and promote its work. These projects included developing language around best practices for equitable and respectful partnership with religious organizations, working on a resource guide to help address the increased demand for DEI services and support from community partners, and working on ways to share stories of successfully matched projects. The aspects of Pathways I most directly interacted with were Community Engaged Learning & Research and Community Organizing and Activism. For me, these two aspects are indispensable to one another, as each supplements the effectiveness of the other. 

Coming into the Ginsberg Center, I had two major goals. First, I wanted to help in the work of continued meaningful engagement with the communities of Southeast Michigan, which I have come to greatly love and respect in my seven years living in Ann Arbor. For me, this work serves as a critical opportunity to cultivate that same love and respect among University of Michigan students, and show that educational goals and goals related to community-identified priorities need not be separate. My second goal was to be a part of the generative interdisciplinary collaborations that define the Ginsberg team. Interdisciplinary work is not only a passion I have discovered while at Michigan, but it also allows me to bring the lessons I learn back to my home department, as we too strive for greater levels of engagement in local communities.

My time at Ginsberg has reinforced the idea that effective leadership is rooted in collaboration. It's not about one person doing well, it's about collaborating with others to cultivate an environment where everyone can thrive. I will take these lessons with me in the coming year as I teach a community-based learning course I designed for the Residential College, with feedback from Ginsberg: "Interfaith Organizing and Social Justice." While I will be the instructor for the class and will "lead" it, the success of the class will be in collaborations. Collaborations between students, between myself and the students, and equitable partnership and collaboration with our community partner, the Interfaith Roundtable of Washtenaw County.

My training is in Anthropology, and in my dissertation, I am writing about LGBTQ+ inclusion in church life and ministry in progressive Christian congregations in the United States. I explore how queer people advocate for themselves by intervening in debates about theology, fellowship, and language in churches, re-defining the boundaries and expectations of community. One of the things I love most about Ginsberg is that it is also engaged in this work of re-definition, finding the ways that notions of community can be strengthened or made more accessible. 

My time at Ginsberg has given me invaluable skills and experience in promoting ideals of equity and social justice for public good through civic engagement. I have developed skills around supporting long-term community partnerships and connecting learning across contexts. Further, I have learned how imperative it is to engage in thoughtful and careful stewardship in creating networks between academic and community partners, taking power relations, levels of privilege, and mechanics of collaborative work into account.