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Cheri Love’s first day on the job was April 1 — the beginning of sexual assault awareness month. The new Safer assistant coordinator said she was thrown into the action, and she loved it.
“So far it’s been really fun, really exciting,” Love said. “It’s been an exciting time, and as someone stepping in and learning and seeing what this program does, I’ve been amazed by what Christina, our coordinator, does, and also the students who volunteer here and give so much of their time to our office.”
A 2010 alumna from Cal Poly’s psychology masters program, Love has plenty of experience with the university. But now, seeing it from a different perspective, she’s been impressed by the university’s support for Safer. It’s rare, and it’s something the community should be proud of, she said.
“I think it would be easy for the community to take us for granted, but as someone stepping in and being able to see with new eyes, it’s pretty incredible what’s done here,” Love said. “I’m very excited to be part of it and support it, and see how I can help even make it a stronger program.”
Students showed their support for Safer approximately a year and a half ago, when they voted to give more money to the organization in a Student Success Fee vote, Safer coordinator Christina Kaviani said.
Before Love’s hire, Kaviani was the only full-time staff member. The rest of the team is made up of two part-time graduate students and 15 undergraduate students, some of whom are paid, Kaviani said.
“We’re doing everything really well, but just like most nonprofits, when you have low staff, you’re just doing it well day to day,” she said. “And if anyone leaves, it can crumble. So having more people can make the foundation stronger.”
Love was hired through a rigorous interview process. After submitting a detailed application, she had a Skype interview with a panel representing the university, and then an on-campus interview, during which she gave a 20-minute presentation on what she would do to change rape culture at Cal Poly, she said.
Kaviani chose Love because of her experience in counseling, marketing and the academic world, as well as her compatibility.
“I wanted to find someone who complemented skills that aren’t as natural for me, and she has those with her assessment skills, her detail-oriented skills,” Kaviani said. “She’s very process-oriented, and I’m like, ‘Quick, let’s get it done.’ It’s nice to have complementary styles.”
Though she is technically Love’s supervisor, Kaviani sees them as more of a team. Together, they will be able to add more programming, legitimize the work Safer is doing and make that work more efficient.
Love’s addition to the staff opens many doors for Safer, Kaviani said. Her role will largely focus on the organization’s long-term goals, such as organizing Safer and making it a “model program” to show to other universities, she said.
Love will also work on finding evidence that Safer’s educational programs are having direct influence on student behavior and lowering violence, Kaviani said. Ideally, that would lead to the organization being given more money to expand their programs.
Kaviani encourages students to give feedback on Safer’s programs and tell her what they want to see change — because now, with Love, it’s possible, she said.
“I encourage students to tell me what they want to see here, because we have more staff to make it happen,” she said. “The door’s open for comments, questions, ideas on what they want to see happen.”