Professor of English & Cultural Studies Kimberly Segall has devoted her life and career to cultural understanding among peoples of the world and for the benefit of students. “In terms of career and work abroad, I’ve always been a mix of the academic and the practitioner, so that’s a bit of a challenge sometimes,” says Dr. Segall in a recent interview with SPU Voices author Heidi Speck. The practice she refers to is in the area of social justice for the Middle East and beyond.
Regarding her initiation into the complexities of that region in her twenties, Segall observes that “[c]onnecting with Iraqis — Muslim, Christian, and Jewish — I learned about our Abrahamic connection. Making friends with women and learning that they had great authority in their families, worked with NGOs, and are now politicians in Baghdad, challenged my naïve perceptions of women in the Middle East. Living with an extended family sort of shattered my gender misconceptions.”
Understandably, Segall is a strong proponent of study abroad for students at Seattle Pacific. “When you move out of your comfort zone, there’s going to be anxiety. But there’s also a place of strength, courage, and excitement when you cross that border. You’ll come out stronger than when you left,” she says. “I recommend SPU study abroad trips because you have a mentor from the University with you during and after the trip. So if you go your sophomore year, you can have three years of mentoring with a person who watches you grow and helps you on that journey.”
Because of her experience as well as her academic training, Segall was tapped to head up the social justice and cultural studies major at Seattle Pacific when it began two years ago. “For me, social justice is the Bible. God’s love is so transformative that God takes on flesh for us and dies so that we can have grace, and we’re asked in response to love our neighbors as ourselves [ . . . . ] [T]hat means you have to understand the marginalization and oppression that other people have faced before. You can work with them and enter that space of reciprocity — of service — that’s an equal exchange, respecting others, learning as we serve. That’s the cross, that’s the Bible, that’s the message. It’s the whole thing.”