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Words of encouragement are publicly displayed during a Take Back the Night event at TCU
Words of encouragement are publicly displayed during a Take Back the Night event at TCU, held each year to raise awareness and support sexual assault survivors.

In recent years, our society has been flooded with accounts of social injustice. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we all underwent critical moments ranging from racial violence and political discord to the pain of losing loved ones. Amidst these difficult times, it is prideful to know that fellow Frogs continue to fight on behalf of others and encourage movements for change. One of these Frogs is Dr. Nada Elias-Lambert. She is a social worker by trade and the current Chair of the Department of Social Work, where she is also an associate professor.

Dr. Elias-Lambert’s headshot
TCU Department of Social Work Department Chair;Associate Professor; Affiliate Faculty, Women & Gender Studies; Affiliate Faculty, Comparative Race & Ethnic Studies

Dr. Elias-Lambert’s trajectory began before she pursued her doctoral degree in social work. She first met her passion when she worked as a social worker to prevent gender-based violence. The experiences she had were paramount to her continued pursuit of social work in academia and professional settings. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, as a social worker, Dr. Elias-Lambert embraces the value of social justice. She realized that she wanted to help her community members transform from bystanders to upstanders. That was the genesis of the Bystander to Upstander: Transforming Culture program.

The Bystander to Upstander program aims to close the information gap that prevents faculty and staff members from protecting members of their community when incidents of gender-based violence and other social injustices such as racism, sexism, and heterosexism occur in their vicinity. In 2016, Dr. Elias- Lambert started the actionable awareness campaign that is Bystander to Upstander, B2U for short. It has since received a positive reception from faculty and staff on the TCU campus. TCU faculty have been remarkably engaged and facilitated the “train-the-trainer” model, where they return to their respective units and departments to share the information they received from the program. One of the hallmarks of culture change facilitated by B2U was when Dean Phil Hartman of the College of Science and Engineering adopted the program in his college.

More recently, Brad Stewart, associate director of Campus Rec at TCU, and Leah Carnahan, assistant director at TCU’s Campus Advocacy, Resources & Education office, are leading the bystander intervention efforts for students. The students, faculty, and staff develop bystander intervention skill sets to address gender-based violence, sexism, racism and other forms of injustice. Staff members, faculty, and students are collaboratively striving to prevent a continuum of injustices, from racist jokes to outright violence. Consequently, as more Frogs stand up for others, the more the purple community abandons the idea that violence intervention is “not my business.”

As with any other program that encourages a change in values and viscerally held opinions, there are difficulties. There are logistical struggles that limit Dr. Elias-Lambert’s outreach, given that she is a professor and cannot accommodate the number of workshop requests to meet the growing demand. There are also more persistent obstacles, such as eliminating norms that facilitate violence. Nevertheless, the Bystander to Upstander program receives institutional support, especially from Dean Watts in Harris College and Associate Provost for Research, Dr. Floyd Wormley.

Last year, Dr. Elias-Lambert worked with partners at the Center for Research on Ending Violence at the Rutgers School of Social Work to develop a B2U program implementation guide and is currently working collaboratively to implement and evaluate the B2U program with a pilot group at Rutgers early next year. Dr. Elias-Lambert is confident that the program will grow and will soon unveil workshop facilitator and implementation guides as well as a faculty bystander attitude and behavior scale to utilize in outcome evaluations.

By Milton Mondlane