Building Your Community

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Life is not lived in a vacuum. All life is found in contexts that are unique to each life form. There are plants that grow only in specific places and have unique characteristics because of their distinct contexts. The context in which each plant grows enhances its life by providing unique elements and conditions that are favorable to the growth of the plant.

A picture shows a tiny sapling growing out of the soil.

Source: Photo by Sushobhan Badhai on Unsplash.

Some plants need more sunlight, whereas others need more shade. Some plants need specific soil types and others need entirely different conditions. As a gardener you manipulate the conditions (the contexts) of each plant to facilitate the plant’s health and productivity. While you are not a plant, you are a living being who thrives in certain conditions. Some conditions are thrust upon you from outside of yourself, whereas other conditions are fully dependent on you and your choices.

Your community is your context. Connections to specific people, places, and things have an undeniable impact on who you are, how you act, and where you go as you venture through life. Fortunately, you have significant power to build a context in which you can thrive and make significant contributions. Your connections are an important part of your collegiate career. The people with whom you associate in these years often become keys to building your future. The relationships open experiences, additional relationships, and understandings of self.

The process of building meaningful relationships requires intentionality and investment. If you take a moment to consider what was necessary to build your relationship with your best friend or your most dependable mentor, you most likely see a series of interactions that moved you toward the relationship that you now enjoy. Some interactions are carefully planned and consider the ways that both people in the relationship might experience benefit. When the interactions are serendipitous, you need to interact in appropriate and acceptable ways.

The ways that you present yourself to others make a difference in how relationships are formed. First meetings, on their own, do not generally result in deep, long-lasting, and meaningful relationships. However, they can result in the destruction of the potential for any meaningful relationship in the future. Meetings with peers are different from meetings with supervisors or professors. The type of relationship dictates the forms of appropriate and effective interaction.

There are roles and skills, when enacted well, serve in building your community:

  • Are you able to develop collaborations that are mutually beneficial while also serving a greater shared purpose?
  • Are you aware of the communication skills that assist in verbal and written exchanges?
  • What messages do others receive when they see you in person without your saying a single word?
  • Are you willing to work closely with a mentor?
  • In what ways might you contribute to various communities that will build the community at large?

Your community can serve you very well if you are willing to develop the skills to serve it well.

Suggested Readings
Covey, S. R. (2020). Seven habits of highly effective people: Powerful lessons in personal change (
25th anniversary ed.
). Simon & Schuster.
Block, P. (2008). Community: The structure of belonging. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Davis, L. (2019). A guide to collaborative leadership [Video]. TED Conferences.
Gamble, T. K., & GambleM. W. (2020). The interpersonal communication playbook. Sage Publications.
Richardson, B., Huynh, K., & Sotto, E. (2019). Get together: How to build a community with your people. Stripe Press.