October 2021 Issue

Humans of Campus Life Series

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Jess Deutsch, Associate Director, Student-Athlete Services

Person looking at the face into the camera.

Jess Deutsch, Associate Director, Student-Athlete Services

Which identities are you most proud of? 

Mom… wife… sister... daughter… friend… advisor… colleague… and teammate. As a white woman aware of my identity as a Jewish person, I more recently name what I am not proud of –  a too-long lack of awareness about how whiteness has worked. I have done a lot of reading and wrestling, listening and re-thinking. I am driven to use my unprivileged identities to have empathy, self-awareness, and understanding, and to use my skills, education, and voice to amplify and try to be in the mix of uncomfortable and necessary reflection and action.

What kind of household/family did you grow up in and how did this impact your identities?

I grew up in a family where things looked good from the outside. My dad was a doctor taking care of most of our town. My mom was busy and happy doing photography and taking care of us. My sister was musically talented, I was smart, and my brother was fun. Beneath the surface were more complicated, unspoken realities. I grew up invested in the performance, without language for depression or anxiety. Eventually, that didn’t hold up. I am grateful, in retrospect, for the breaking apart.  It drove me to seek out or at least to not run away from grey areas and intersections.

To exist in a deeper place, understand my own truths, and be with others to explore theirs. I’m pretty sure that was why, as an English major, I wrote a thesis about autobiography. It has shaped all the parts of my life -- parenting, volunteer work, and choice to be a professional in higher education.

Reflecting on your identities, how do your identities impact you and your work toward realizing the goals put forth in the 2020 2025 Campus Life Strategic Plan?

 In supporting Princeton’s student-athletes, I think a lot about cultivating a sense of belonging. How teams are stronger when every member of the team can show up fully, and how health and wellbeing are essential to high performance. I love to engage with student-athletes and coaches about serving and leading while also achieving the big goals they have for themselves in the classroom and in competition. How to communicate without adding to  busy-ness is an ongoing challenge. I am inspired by the Black Student-Athlete Collective and Asian Student-Athletes of Princeton who are building inclusive community within our department as Tigers Together. I am grateful to serve as co-chair of professional development for the Campus Life Development Committee, with fabulous, inspiring colleagues.

We invite you to share a brief, specific anecdote or perhaps a self-reflection that captures how your identity inspires how we re-imagine the campus life experience for Princeton students.

I’ll  share this little video that was recorded by the Office of Sustainability during our time away. It is true that Holder Hall is my favorite spot, for the reasons I mentioned. I still hope students cultivate gratitude and presence.  But I also think that as we reimagine campus life, we have to attend to where the student, faculty, and staff experience does not feel warm, or cozy, or welcoming, and make it all of our jobs to make it more so. A quote on the wall of the Carl A. Fields Center says, “Everyone should feel welcome in every space at Princeton.” That is our work.


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