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An Interview with Kevin Bolling — Executive Director, Secular Student Alliance — Session 6


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/02/19

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What has been both the single honest biggest failure of the SSA and its single biggest success as far as you’re aware?

Kevin BollingI would have to think on the failure one. I am not sure what that is at the moment. Not that there isn’t one, that has not been a big focus of mine. For successes, the beginning of the Obama years, the post-Bush years.

At the end of that, SSA height and membership, over 400 chapters and organizations across the United States is clearly numerically a success. So, that is definitely something to be celebrated. There is going to be a resurgence in a need for students. So, we will definitely see the numbers for SSA continue to increase in similar political and societal situations. I

I also think one of the big successes more recently for the organization has been growing a lot under August’s leadership with more intersectionality in looking at what we all have in common and how we all can work together striving for greater equality.

SSA, if you look at the recent conference in 2017, all the diversity and inclusion and different messages that we had available to students who also want those messages and they’re much on that same page.

So, we are meeting students where they are and hopefully continue to challenge them. That is continually, vitally important for the secular movement as a whole. We will continue to see those messages and values continue.

So, hopefully, we are on the forefront of that. Hopefully, we will continue to push those boundaries. I am sure there is one. I do not have a greater failure at this time.

Jacobsen: Looking ahead, what are some goals, targeted objectives of the SSA?

Bolling: So, we started a listening tour. For me to get to talk with a lot of the secular leaders, the stakeholders of our organization. Then last Fall, we launched a tour of some of the schools in different areas of the country: being able to see the students at work on what they’re doing, being able to talk with them specifically and directly, hear what their concerns are, and what their needs are.

So, we can make sure that with the internal structure of the organization that we are doing that. That is one of the big goals currently in doing that. A big push for the organization is a little bit longer term. A lot of our primary focus has been on the students in the student organizations.

So, we are going to be looking at working with the advisor of the organization and what services that we provided them because they can offer a tremendous amount of stability and continuity to the student organizations and helping the student leaders.

So, that is going to be a big focus of ours. Another big focus of ours, a multipronged approach if you will, is looking at the issue, the personnel of student life and student affairs on campuses, and religious life on campuses.

Working with them, so, they understand that almost a quarter of their students on campus do not get into that primarily religious traditional mold that they’re used to. My guess is that most of them do not recognize that, making sure that they have some language and understand some of the concerns of secular students.

They can change some of their behaviors and the services they’re offering so that secular students feel much more included in the campus community. It is a much more welcoming community for them. I want to see that, especially on college campuses.

That something that continues to translate once we start affecting the college community. But being the unreligious is giving the same validity and same open welcome options as any religion that someone would choose.

That is a tall order, but us working at the college level is a great place to start that and begin this conversation. Once we are able to address some of these issues with higher ed., we clearly can see the interest.

With that interest, we can see what they’re only starting to do, interested in doing to help make sure that secular students and those conversations are being included and welcomed on our campuses. So, we think that is good.

We will have some additional goals coming later out in talking about the chapters on our schools and those sorts of things. Our big priority for the Summer of 2017 was working with the staff. One is our scholarship program.

SSA offers a variety of scholarships. We have one specifically targeted towards historically black colleges and universities. We help facilitate several scholarships for high school and college students for several other organizations that affect the community.

So, that kicked off in August. Then September was our huge push for being in the academic year. Right now, that is a huge focus for our staff. We are going to be asking a lot of the other secular organizations to assist us in increasing that awareness this upcoming year, reaching out to the people involved in their organizations.

“Hey, if you have a student who’s in high school or college. One, let them know that there is SSA, we’d love for them to get involved. They’d probably enjoy that. Two, if there is not one, please consider starting one.”

So, we have already had some additional conversations with some of the people in the secular movement and they’re excited in helping us out and doing that. So, that is going to be a big push in increasing the numbers and involvement across the country.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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