Giving Away Our Heart: Dorothy Day Center’s Kathy Crawford Leaves for John Jay


Crawford is the associate director at Lincoln Center for the Dorothy Day Center for Service and Justice. JON BJÖRNSON/THE OBSERVER


Kathy Crawford, associate director at Lincoln Center for the Dorothy Day Center for Service and Justice, is tireless. Most McMahon Hall residents, when walking through the tunnels, don’t realize that in the corner office of the Dorothy Day Center sits one of the Fordham community’s most essential members. This has been Crawford’s final semester at Fordham Lincoln Center (FLC) before she leaves to lead experiential learning programs at the neighboring John Jay College. Crawford has dedicated her time at Fordham to a cause that is so noble, yet often seems utterly unachievable: making Fordham students care.

The Dorothy Day Office specializes in developing programs to help Fordham students be neighborly to its communities in the Bronx and Manhattan, making Crawford the person in charge of all neighborly efforts. With every social justice issue that comes to light on Fordham’s campuses, Crawford leads the students in putting together events to help our school community live and learn together in kinder, healthier ways. Crawford is the hidden influence behind many of the events on our campus. Every town hall, fundraiser, protest, awareness-raising event and the very community and justice-building tenets upon which several social justice-oriented clubs are built were either partly organized by Crawford or students she trained. If every Fordham student who in some way worked with the Dorothy Day Center is a neuron in the nervous system of its social consciousness, Crawford is the undisputed brain.

But even more than being the brain, Crawford has been the ever-pumping heart of Dorothy Day. Learning from her as a previous member of the now-defunct Social Justice Leader program gave me the lesson that completely shaped how I think about social justice work, that forming a community of joy and support is the foundation upon which all of your organizing is done. It is the joy that Crawford has brought to her work at Fordham that draws students to her and the Dorothy Day Center. There certainly are not any other community leaders I know who transition from discussions of academic texts unpacking white privilege to leading dance-offs to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” with the leadership and poise of Crawford.

I sat down with Crawford for an exit interview of sorts, in which we discussed her departure and the future of the Dorothy Day Center, and I was reminded that Fordham is truly losing a gem in her.

Shannon Constantine (SC): What do you most want Fordham students to do to continue working for social justice causes in your absence?

Kathy Crawford (KC): I think still getting involved. I think there’s many ways that students, even regardless of not being connected to our office, they’re still being engaged in social justice. Just continuing to create community on campus, continuing to connect to each other, and connecting to the larger NYC community and the larger Lincoln Center community is really important to do within your four years of college.

SC: What would you like Fordham to do as an institution to promote its social justice and service programs in your absence?

KC: I think still engage community. I think that, especially when we talk about it in the Lincoln Center neighborhood, what is our responsibility to this neighborhood as an institution? And so I think Fordham can play a really powerful role in really supporting; we’ve started to do that more. But starting to support the local high schools, and supporting the local organizations in a deeper, more mutually beneficial way.

SC: How do you see your role changing as you go to John Jay?

KC: I’ll be in a different position, more like a managerial position, so I’ll be supporting and supervising other people. I’ll still be doing experiential learning, which is something I love to do in service learning, so I’m excited that I’ll get to continue to do that work. It’ll just look different, especially because I’ll be working out of the Center for Career and Professional Development. So it’s a completely different division and department to work through.

SC: What do you hope your legacy is as director of the Dorothy Day Program will be?

KC: Oh, my legacy … I think, just seeing students come back and seeing what students do after college and who they become has been one of the most rewarding things in my work here for the past nine years. It’s seeing students really transform who they are and who they believe themselves to be, especially as agents of change throughout their four years and then continuing that outside of Fordham. I think that’s one of the most powerful things to be a part of this center and to have worked here so long is to see all the students that have come back and just see what they’re doing.

SC: You’ve clearly had a great effect on the lives of the Fordham students here. And what is the greatest effect that Fordham students you’ve worked with have had on you?

KC: I’ve learned so much from Fordham students. I’ve just liked their compassion, how to be compassionate, how to create community, how to be a real stand for what you believe in and a stand in really creating change. They’ve kept me young, they’ve kept me hip, (laughs) … I think it’s just been really special getting to know students on a completely different level and getting to be in relationships with them in a completely different way that I’ve learned how to create community outside of Fordham. So that’s been really special and something that I will forever remember from Fordham students.