Elena Quintana: She’s a Community Builder

September 27 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: Pay Attention!

Today, as my pet chirruped in an attempt for attention, I realized something: Don’t we all just want someone to notice us? It’s most obvious if you’ve ever been around a child who believes your focus should be on her at all times. Psychologists say this phenomenon of needing attention doesn’t go away as we age. Back in the day, when hunters and gatherers traveled in groups, there were likely moments of gratitude when foraging women scored some berries. And I’ll bet those industrious ladies appreciated the acknowledgement. Today, give someone a little attention, whether it’s focusing on your boss’ instruction during a work conversation or offering a hug to a friend in need. It’s sure to work wonders for their—and your—mental health.


1952: That’s the year a unique institution named for famed psychotherapist Alfred Adler opened, based on the idea that our well-being is tied to our community life. As the oldest independent school of psychology in North America, Adler University—which has a female-dominated leadership team, by the way—educates students about the importance of engaging communities and advancing social justice. It seems like old Alfred was really onto something!

WOMAN TO WATCH: Elena Quintana, Executive Director of the Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice at Adler University

Today’s Woman to Watch is one of those female leaders at that very institution, and she’s passionate about the concept that social issues can be solved, in part, by establishing a solid sense of community. Her name is Elena Quintana and she’s the lauded executive director of Adler University’s Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice.

The goal of the institute is to meet public-safety challenges with socially just solutions. And members of the institute, including the head boss lady herself, work with community groups and peer institutions in an effort to address those public-safety challenges and create unique partnerships that help strengthen communities and encourage personal accountability. Sounds like a pretty lofty goal, right? Luckily, Elena, a longtime advocate for violence prevention and community building who has a Ph.D. in clinical and community psychology, has the smarts to take on that challenge.

Let’s break down Elena’s important work in simple terms. When it comes to violence in any community, instead of cursing the darkness, Elena sheds light on what’s driving such violence. She considers such questions as these: What happened to a person committing acts of violence long before the incident took place? What help does that person need? Education? Aid? How do we get them that help? By asking such profound questions, real solutions can be created, not only for one individual, but also for those in similar situations. It all starts with giving someone the attention they need.

By working to prevent violence and establish a better approach to reaching those re-entering society after incarceration, Elena hopes to stop crime from destroying a neighborhood, a city, a country. But she’s not stopping at hope; she’s practicing what she preaches. For example, every month, Elena teaches a class for inmates at an Illinois correctional facility about how to identify their trauma, understand their triggers and create a game plan for how to respond in the real world in a nonviolent manner.

Thanks, Elena, for having the insight to highlight compassion for the individual as a means to create more loving communities. We think the world could definitely use a little more of your brand of social justice!


Life can get busy, leaving us longing for more time to focus on the things we love. It’s up to each of us to do right by the honor of living, as Elena Quintana says. So, with that thought in mind, here’s another quote from our Woman to Watch:

“There’s always time for more than you think.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

To learn more about our conversation, check us out at OnTheDotWoman.com and talk to us @OnTheDotWoman on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear your voice.

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