Get to Know the HARO Board: Q&A with Dr. Janelle Briggs

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Over the next few weeks we are interviewing our board members so you can get to know them better and what drives their passion for HARO’s vision of “renewing and transforming homeschooling from within.” Today we’re interviewing HARO board member Dr. Janelle Briggs.

About Janelle: Dr. Janelle Briggs has a PhD in Speech Communication and a Graduate Certificate in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Her doctoral research involved the intersection of feminism, sporting culture, political theory, and ontology. She currently works as an Academic Counselor in the C.A.T.S. Academics office at the University of Arizona. 

Dr. Briggs has taught courses at three institutions in Communication and Women’s studies, including Public Speaking, Interpersonal Communication, and a senior seminar entitled Women and the Body. With over 7 years of experience working in Higher Education, Dr. B has knowledge of all aspects of the college process, from admissions to financial aid, choosing a major and making effective life/study plans, to thriving through graduation and beyond. 

She has her M.A. in Communication Studies and her B.B.A. in Business Marketing from the University of Louisiana, Monroe. She is the proud mom of a 5 year old old doxie­beagle named Dewey. Dr. B loves sweatpants, coffee, and the Gilmore girls. In her spare time, she enjoys having friends over for dinner, couch cuddles with the pup, and exploring downtown Tucson. 

You went from a homeschooled kid to a professional academic counselor in a university setting. What are some positive things your parents did that you think helped get you to where you are today?

One of my best skills is getting to know people and making them feel comfortable, and I learned this from my parents’ actions growing up. My parents always have people over for dinner—families new to the neighborhood, or single individuals that they met at the bank or at work. Looking back, this is one of my favorite memories and it shaped who I am today in very profound ways. My mom still reminds me often to “help the underdog—it’s what we do.” I learned early on that there is beauty and kindness in opening your home to other people, whether that be for a meal, or for a homeschool get-together. I try to emulate that in my work; I want my students to feel comfortable coming to my office and asking for help in navigating their college experience.  

What are some things your parents did during your homeschooling experience that, looking back now as an adult, you’d suggest that current homeschooling parents not do?

One of the inevitabilities of homeschooling with multiple children, especially if they are close in age, is the desire to putting them in the same grade. As the older sibling, I felt like I had to share key experiences that would, perhaps, have been my own if we were in public or private school. In this sense it’s not about the academics, as my brother and I both thrived in school. It’s about children forming their own connections to the world and figuring out how they fit in as individuals. I would urge homeschooling parents to do their best to help their children learn that they are their own person, separate and important from their siblings. 

Are there ways that your Christian homeschooling experience influenced your interest in feminism?

I was so grateful when I was introduced to feminist theory in graduate school because I finally had a language to describe the frustrations and concerns with Christianity and the patriarchal nature of so many homeschooling families that I had harbored growing up. Knowing what I know now, I probably became a feminist in ninth or tenth grade, I just didn’t know it! For example, while in high school, I started questioning the responsibility placed on my friends and myself by our homeschool parents to be modest, so as not to tempt our male peers, when there was no such requirement for them. I remember being furious when parents and friends would insist that something wasn’t my place because I was female—a biological fact and subservient social position I was taught God had ordained before my birth. These experiences paved the way for my passionate commitment to women’s full equality specifically, and the need for progressive social justice more broadly, as well as my eventual departure from the faith.   

As a homeschooled woman of color, what are some things you think could be done to make the Christian homeschooling world more inviting to and respectful of other homeschooled children of color?

This is a great question, but I have no idea how to answer it right now…. I am actually working through this with my therapist.

Imagine HARO ten years into the future. What do you hope to see HARO doing then?

Scholar and author Brené Brown writes on the power of owning and sharing our stories to create positive change in our relationships. I am so proud of the brave individuals who have told their stories in our online community; I hope that in the future our community is filled with people who have not only survived abusive and mentally damaging homeschooling experiences, but also people whose experiences were changed for the better due to our work. As an educator I believe that change will also come from incorporating these stories into our curriculum and continuing our grassroots work to raise awareness about the mental, physical, and spiritual abuse so many homeschooled children face.

What’s the best Gilmore Girls episode?

This question is blasphemy! There is no one best episode—they are all perfect in their own right. That being said, my current favorite episode is S3E18: “Happy Birthday, Baby” (2003).

Jess: So, it’s been a couple days since you made the big decision. You still going to Yale? 
Rory: Yes, I am. It’s got all the classes I want and some really great teachers, and plus, you know, as an added bonus, it’s really close to here.
Jess: 22.8 miles. 
Rory: How’d you know that? 
Jess: Do you Yahoo? 
Rory: You looked it up?
Jess: Yeah.
Rory: You looked it up.
Jess: I just hit a couple buttons on the computer.
Rory: You looked it up.
Jess: I was bored. There was nothing on TV and I was fooling around, it was something to do, that’s it. 

Rory: You looked it up.



Author: The HARO Team