Listen First, Act Second: Joy Moore Drives the Student Body Forward After just a year leading the Division of Student Affairs, Joy Moore has taken strides in redefining student outreach.

"[Moore] is a wonderful balance … of understanding where BC is headed as an institution and always also understanding what students need to be successful." Kelli Armstrong

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or Joy Moore, leading the Division of Student Affairs is like driving a car: Sometimes it’s her job to help the student body accelerate—other times, it’s to ease off the pedal. The most important thing is that it keeps moving.

Since taking the reins as the interim vice president of Student Affairs last fall, Moore, BC ’81, has taken extra care to assess when to speed up and when to slow down. She’s always considering students’ feelings and attitudes, along with keeping tabs on the campus climate as a whole.

“You can’t accelerate all the time, because you’re just going to crash,” she said.

To keep from crashing, Moore’s strategy is simple. She gets to know students as individuals.  

 “One of the best feelings each day is when I’m out and about, walking through the Quad, or through the halls of Maloney, and a student shouts out my name, and I can shout back theirs,” she said. 

While Moore holds office hours—called “What’s Up With Joy Moore”—every Wednesday, students see her whenever they get a chance. She knows that her hours aren’t going to work for everyone, so students have learned that they can email her, and she’ll find a time to meet with them—in her office, at Lower, or anywhere else that’s convenient for them. 

“She’s really tried to be visible and present … and has really tried to get a good pulse on the student body,” said Michael Osaghae, president of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College and MCAS ’20. 

“That was really interesting to see her be so hands-on, which I thought was very necessary, especially given the difficulties that our campus has had to endure the past few years with different incidents. Just making sure she was visible from the start was very welcoming.”

Moore said that a big part of her job is listening first, then acting second. Simply meeting with students has had a tremendous impact on how she understands her role, she said—it’s allowed her to focus on what’s going on with students and what’s important to them.

“I could do that possibly by observing, but there’s nothing like sitting down with a student or a group of students and having a conversation about what’s on their mind, what questions I might have, advice that I am looking for,” she said. 

Moore met with an advisory group made up of 16 freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors at various points throughout the year, asking questions and exchanging perspectives with them. The group has helped her learn a lot about the ebb and flow of students’ daily lives, she said.

“As administrators, we’re sort of here in our offices, and I know I have to do some of that,” she said. “But for me, getting out and being part of what’s going on with the students … has been important. And I want to make sure I am able to do the same or more of that in the year to come.” 

Moore helped gauge student opinion in a much more formal way last fall: the Student Experience Survey. While the survey had already been designed when Moore moved out of her role as the associate director of alumni relations into her current position, she was instrumental in launching it and marketing it to students. Now, she’s helping to spread the survey’s findings throughout the BC community. 

"There's nothing like sitting down with a student or a group of students and having a conversation about what's on their mind, what questions I might have, advice that I am looking for." Joy Moore

“As the survey was getting compiled and we saw many elements of the results, we wanted to make sure that we represented the students’ voices as accurately as possible,” said Kelli Armstrong, outgoing vice president of institutional research, planning, and assessment. “And [Moore] was just incredibly insightful in terms of what needed to be shared. I found her an indispensable partner on that project.”

The most pressing issue revealed by the survey’s results, Moore said, is the large number of students who said that they don’t feel welcome on campus. AHANA+, high financial-need, and LGBTQ+ students, in particular, indicated that they felt less welcome at BC than white, low financial-need, and non-LGBTQ+ students, respectively.

“I don’t know how someone is able to thrive and do their best when they’re in an environment where they may feel unwelcome,” she said. “That’s all of our responsibility to make everyone feel welcome.”

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oore has already started taking on this responsibility. For her, it’s a priority to help students find similarities among all their differences—which she said means bringing a variety of groups together as often as possible.

At this summer’s orientation sessions, she will be talking to parents and incoming students about how, at BC, students are expected to create an environment that is welcoming of everybody.

Moore has recently worked to help foster this kind of environment for Muslim students. In the past, these students have not been able to get a proper breakfast to start their day during Ramadan. Muslims do not to eat or drink during daylight hours throughout the holy month, which this year, overlapped with finals week. Moore gathered UGBC, the Muslim Student Association, and BC Dining together to develop a system for Muslim students to get breakfast in Lower at 3 a.m. and have a space where they could eat together before going on to prayer.

"I don't know how someone is able to thrive and do their best when they're in an environment where they may feel unwelcome. That's all of our responsibility to make everyone feel welcome." Joy Moore

“That was really empowering to see her go to that length to ensure that every student was not only able to really follow their faith as they wish but was able to have an equal chance to succeed on finals,” Osaghae said.

Moore also had an instrumental part in launching DiversityEdu, an hour-long online course designed to teach skills for understanding the impact of unconscious bias, language, and behavior, this fall. Once the deadline for completing the module had passed, she slowed down and absorbed feedback from students, searching for ways to improve the initiative.

Changes based on students’ recommendations have already been made to DiversityEdu, Moore said. The module—which, in the future, will be taken by incoming freshmen and first-year graduate students—now features BC students, administrators, and faculty members, and scenes from BC’s campus. 

As requested by the students on its review committee, there will also be an assessment at the end of the module—students will have to answer a certain number of questions correctly in order to get credit for completing the program. 

“Vice president Moore … worked her hardest to ensure that there was a student voice at the table in these conversations [about] DiversityEdu and that it wasn’t something that was just solely driven by administrators,” Osaghae said. “If it weren’t for [her], a lot of the time we wouldn’t have a chance to voice our opinions.”

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hen she first joined Student Affairs, Moore said it was likely that, in a community the size of BC, another race-related incident that was similar to the racist Snapchat and the defacing of a Black Lives Matter sign that occurred in October 2017 would happen again. Moore said that she didn’t fear the fallout from such an incident—her goal was simply to not let it grind the University to a halt. 

Moore was right. In December, Michael Sorkin, CSOM ’21, was arrested after committing racist vandalism in Welch Hall. Even though the incident occurred just days before final exams, Moore said that students did anything but hit a red light.

“I didn’t have to worry about putting the foot on the pedal there—it was already on,” she said.

In fact, Moore said that it was her job to help students ease up. She looked to provide a space for them to express their feelings, then bring everyone back to a place where they could get to work and figure out specifically what issues they could address or act upon.

Moore met with students and other administrators the night of the racist incident to figure out how to provide this space. She, members of UGBC, Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley, and Vice President of Mission and Ministry Rev. Jack Butler, S.J. worked together to organize a large town hall, which they agreed would be the best way to let the entire community express their feelings on the issues surrounding the incident. 

“People’s feelings were so deep and passionate on that, and I just wanted to be sure that we were providing a space for people to get their feelings out,” Moore said.

Moore said she often hears from students that there will be a lot of attention directed toward an incident immediately after it occurs, but passionate activism tends to die down in due time. Moore set out to make sure that, this time, the conversation kept moving.

She was instrumental in developing the student-administrator forums, smaller gatherings of up to 50 students and various administrators that take place in Maloney Hall—five of which took place this past semester. All of the forums have focused on different themes—including diversity and inclusion, faculty hiring, mental health, financial aid, and the Student Experience Survey. Each topic was proposed by students.

Moore said that not only are these forums going to continue on a monthly basis next year, but a “Courageous Conversations” series—similar to the student-administrators forums, except with faculty—will be starting up as well.

One of Student Affairs’ goals, Moore noted, is to address the fact that a large proportion of BC students indicated that they don’t think BC welcomes open discussions on issues of difference in the Student Experience Survey. She has made it a goal of hers to ensure that students know about the number of organized conversations about diversity and inclusion that are happening on campus.

With the student-administrator forums, Moore has given students the opportunity to talk to different administrators and faculty directly, Osaghae noted, which is something students have been fighting for for a long time. 

“She has the ability to bring in people from all parts of campus and make it work at the end of the day, which I think is really necessary and vital,” Osaghae said. “And she doesn’t do it just because she’s an administrator. She’s a human being first. She’s a person in this community, who went to BC, who is deeply personally tied to the place and institution, as well as the students.”

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oore received a degree in special education from the Lynch School of Education in 1981 and an honorary doctorate from BC in 2010. She said that thinking back on her time as a student helps her put her feet right in her students’ shoes.

Moore said that she never felt like she was marginalized during her time at BC—she had a strong conviction that she deserved to be there just as much as everybody else. She said that it’s possible that things were going on around her that people today would deem racist, but she didn’t pick up on them because she was focused on being an integral member of the BC community and seizing every opportunity available to her. 

During her time as a student, Moore was a member of the track and field team, worked at an off-campus supermarket, was involved with Black Student Forum, and did volunteer work with students with special needs.

“Was it easy for me all the time as a student of color? No. And no one promised that it was going to be either,” she said. “I just figured, all right, well, I better get in there and do as much as I can, and show that I’m going to be part of this community, just like everybody else is.”

"She's a human being first. She's a person in this community, who went to BC, who is deeply personally tied to the place and institution, as well as the students." Michael Osaghae

As a former student, Moore now strives to be a voice for all students on a larger stage. Of course, she said, she couldn’t do this alone. She stressed how vital her colleagues in Student Affairs and the students she works with have been throughout the year, as well as the importance of her division’s partnership with UGBC, Academic Affairs, and Mission & Ministry. She also emphasized that much of the work she does is championed by members of the Board of Trustees.

“[Moore] is a wonderful balance … of understanding where BC is headed as an institution and always also understanding what students need to be successful,” said Armstrong. “She will often, as we’re talking as a senior administrative team, represent the student voice and say what is on students’ minds.”  

Armstrong described how amazed she is by Moore’s ability to juggle so many jobs. Not only does she attend to the many activities and duties being the interim vice president of Student Affairs demands of her, but she is also managing Commencement. 

“Those are usually two separate jobs, but she’s doing them both with grace and excellence,” Armstrong said.

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hen Moore first assumed her new role, Akosua Achampong, former president of UGBC and BC ’18, said that one of the most important lessons Moore had taught her was that doing the right thing will bring people to your cause. 

Moore said that she still stands by this advice, but would like to add something to it: Don’t give up. 

Issues of diversity in particular can have a lot of emotions surrounding them, according to Moore, and this leads to people wanting change as quickly as possible. She said that racism is unfortunately going to outlive her, as well as every BC student—but that doesn’t mean that people should stop trying to make things better.

“You have to continue to persevere, or strive, for things even when it gets tough and you feel like you’re pushing and it’s not going anywhere—it eventually does,” she said. “When things get tough, when you feel like you’ve been trying and trying and feel like no one’s listening, don’t let that deter you.

“We still have to move forward.”

Featured Image Courtesy of University Communications

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