Executive Letter, April 2021

Brooks photo

As we shift into spring, a profound period of transformation, I cannot help but think how far we have come; and how much farther we have left to go. Throughout this unbelievable year, we have done our part to persevere. We have listened to the stories behind our students and the ways they are transforming and inspiring change through an entire cohort.

This spring, our staff and students stretched in abilities that they never had to in years past. Our staff utilized virtual platforms to host more online events than ever before, supported students throughout the application process, and aided the navigation of matriculation and future planning. Our students embraced the mindset and courage to keep going taking on the challenges of applying to graduate school during a pandemic. We are proud of all of our scholars that weathered an unprecedented graduate admissions year.

As we look ahead, we get ready for another graduate admissions season. Currently, we are evaluating candidates for our 2021 cohort. It is encouraging to see so many individuals interested in continuing to work in education. Especially after the year we have endured.

To that end, it was significant for us to express joy and care to our scholars. This year, we will mail out certificates of completion to our 2020 class and care packages to our 2019 class. To all alumni in our program, please be sure to reach back and let us know how you are doing. We take pride in seeing the change you impart in society and the transformation you achieve each day.



Online Recruitment Increases Access

Travel has undoubtedly changed for everyone this past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the first time in 30 years, IRT recruited 100% online this past season through zoom information sessions, monthly webinars, and consistent emails to schools, community partners, college access programs, and prospective candidates. Last year, IRT recruited on campus at 32 institutions and this year conducted 64 online webinars. While Recruitment and Admission Programs Specialist, Monica Reum, says meeting students face to face during her on-campus visits is one of the best parts of her job, she also reflected and shared “In a time where things felt like they were on fire left and right in the world, I find peace with IRT in knowing that we doubled our recruitment efforts and reached students in ways we normally would not have.”

Our engagement with our new programs and institutions highlights our commitment to social justice. This year, we witnessed our inequities exposed by the pandemic and pursuit of racial justice. We seek to expand access to the IRT and increase equity. As such, we are excited to build relationships with women’s colleges, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and other programs that share our commitment. We are eager to admit this year’s 2021 cohort!

Newly recruited institutions and programs include but are not limited to:

  • Agnes Scott College
  • California State University, Long Beach
  • Clark University
  • Nevada State University
  • Occidental College
  • University of Alabama
  • University of Puerto Rico
  • University of Mississippi
  • University of Kansas
  • Black Latino Male Initiative
  • Cohort Sistas
  • LEDA Scholars
  • QuestBridge Scholars
  • Recreation Worcester
  • Schular Scholars
  • Squash Education Alliance

“IRT Moments”

by Alejandro Velasco, IRT ’99
Associate Professor, New York University and Co-Chair, IRT Advisory Board

They happen unexpectedly. Sometimes while I am teaching, often while I am reading, occasionally in random conversation. I call them my “IRT Moments.”

One took place just a few weeks ago, while teaching NYU’s core PhD seminar for modern Latin American history students. We had been discussing recent books on cultural politics in 1960s and 1970s Argentina, a fraught time of growing political tensions eventually culminating in a brutally repressive military dictatorship that murdered tens of thousands of its own citizens. How did cultural producers, we wondered, navigate this landscape of heightened repression, censorship, and recrimination?

Obliquely, it turned out, through pathways of dissimulated meaning that conveyed and critiqued power more through metaphor and implication than direct allusion. Drawing on subtle but unmistakable codes that went unstated but were widely understood by the population at large, artists, novelists, and cartoonists turned words and images into searing indictments of their political context, and from there, into sources of resistance and hope. “In other words,” I added, much to my own surprise as the reference was decidedly unplanned, “through what Julia Kristeva calls poetics.”

I say surprising because the last time I read Kristeva’s writings on poetry as a tool of political struggle was over twenty years ago, during a sweltering summer in Andover as an intern at IRT’s 1999 summer session. A rising college senior at the time, I had come to Andover knowing next to nothing about critical and cultural theory, about power relations, about liberatory pedagogy. I knew even less about graduate school, academic life, or teaching in practice. Over the course of four weeks, morning and night, in classrooms and dorm rooms, our cohort of interns soaked up knowledge like dry sponges dropped on the sea, reading widely, debating passionately, and above all, struggling mightily with texts and ideas whose deeper meanings we knew were of vital importance but nevertheless seemed just beyond our full grasp.

In the ensuing years, like Kristeva suddenly coming to mind in my seminar, those texts, their deeper meanings, and the context in which I encountered them would surface without warning, helping me make connections across time and ideas. As a graduate student, they provided a foundation to engage and debate colleagues from various disciplines, while also tempering my imposter syndrome when someone name-dropped this theorist or that. When writing my dissertation, often late at night on too little sleep, they reminded me that intellectual work matters, especially when understood as a way to help chart ways past historic and structural injustices. As a junior faculty member facing a fast dwindling tenure clock at a PWI, they saved me time and again when I recalled the passion and energy and encouragement that IRT faculty and staff devoted to all of us interns and associates, and drew on that energy to redouble my own commitment to a life of learning and teaching.  

Now as a tenured professor, those texts and ideas continue to surface at random moments, connecting my here and now not only to my time at IRT, but also to the experiences that have followed. The common thread is that with each “IRT moment,” I am instantly taken back to that sweltering summer, and jolted anew with the excitement and urgency of IRT’s mission, promise, and challenge: to imbue generations of educators with a vocation to learning and teaching through, with, and for social justice.

Today, as co-chair of IRT’s Advisory Board alongside Andover alum and steadfast IRT supporter Alarik Myrin, I am grateful for the chance to help continue and expand IRT’s mission at a time when that mission not only remains but has grown ever more urgent. That work begins by acknowledging that much like IRT’s curriculum has changed over time to reflect new ideas and debates, so too must IRT adapt to fast moving debates –and opportunities– around the promotion of justice and equity in the United States and indeed, the world.  With over thirty years of IRT moments to draw from, I am confident every IRT alum stands ready to meet that challenge, and excited for what it portends. 

Alejandro Velasco is an Associate Professor of Modern Latin America at the Gallatin School and Department of History, New York University. He received his doctorate in History in 2009 from Duke University and is the author of Barrio Rising: Urban Popular Politics and the Making of Modern Venezuela (University of California Press, 2015). For more information please visit his NYU faculty profile.

IRT Alumni Engaging in Issues

Beyond the Border: A Critical Dialogue Series

hosted by Shantel Palacio, IRT ’17

The Beyond the Border series explores questions and engages in conversation on race and diversity issues. The fourth session, “A Hip-Hop Mogul & A Financier,” aired on March 31, 2021 and hosted by IRT alum Shantel Palacio. This session focuses on issues of access and pathways to success, and features John Forte, Grammy Award Winning Artist, producer for the seminal hip-hop group The Fugees, writer and activist, and Eric Logan, Principal, Industrial Manufacturing Strategy; Operations CoE lead at KPMG. 

This recording and others in the series can be found on
the UNH media channel.

NCORE Webinar Series: Alumni Commentary

Commentary by Patricia Feraud-King, IRT ’14, ’17
PhD Candidate in Higher Education, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

On February 3, 2021, four UMass Amherst graduate students, including IRT alumnae and PhD candidates Patricia “Tita” Feraud-King, IRT ’14, ’17 and Kat J. Stephens ’13, presented at National Conference on Race and Ethnicity’s (NCORE) webinar series. Their interactive session titled, “ADOS, Sh**t-Hole Countries, and (Which) Black Lives Matter: Engaging Contemporary Intra-racial and Transnational Dynamics Surrounding Black College Students” had over 200 attendees. Their session focused on the complexity of the Black transnational collegiate identity and the implications of contemporary issues such as the American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS) movement, Black Lives Matter, U.S. political climate and policies, and the pandemic. They spoke about the differences and shared experiences of Black immigrant collegians, Black international students, and Black children of immigrant collegians, including experiencing nativism and racism. Their presentation was grounded in the following research studies: their ongoing Diverse Black Student study, Feraud-King (2020), Feraud-King & George Mwangi (2020), and Stephens (2020) studies. Based on these studies, the theme that connects the three groups of the Black transnational population is that it is essential to build intra-racial relationships among the Black population regardless of the nativity because of their shared Black identity. Yet it is also vital to acknowledge that each group has their unique experiences related to their foreign identity.

Their presentation’s goal was to “connect the influence of the U.S. sociopolitical climate to the college experiences of diverse Black students, particularly racist nativism, anti-Blackness, racial homogenizing, and intra-racial dynamics (tensions and community); identify practices that address Black student heterogeneity and Black intra-racial dynamics across ethnicity and nativity, especially during the pandemic; and assess whether their campus practices acknowledge Black student heterogeneity,” (NCORE, 2021).  For Tita Feraud-King, M.S.Ed, the presentation has “affirmed my identity as a second-generation Black immigrant and reminded me why I am doing this work—this work matters, people care to learn more about foreign-born and children of immigrant Black experiences, and the importance of discussing the ill results of white supremacy, anti-Blackness, and nativism”. To watch their webinar online, click here.

Commentary by Kat J. Stephens, IRT ’13
PhD Candidate in Higher Education, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

I had the tremendous opportunity and privilege to share research on a topic and community close to my heart. Myself alongside three of my University of Massachusetts Amherst colleagues, presented a webinar for NCORE, (National Conference on Race & Ethnicity). It was titled “ADOS, XYZ Countries, and (Which) Black Lives Matter: Engaging Contemporary Intra-Racial and Transnational Dynamics Surrounding Black College Students”, and we were invited to speak and deliver the webinar to their audience and membership. As a Black immigrant from the Caribbean (Guyana, to be exact), with the majority of my formative secondary and postsecondary education in the United States, this academic experience was personal and exciting. 

I entered my higher education doctoral program with a primary research agenda which encapsulated a desire to bring forth narratives, experiences, and solutions regarding the lives of Afro-Caribbean immigrants and international students. Being invited to speak with my peers was a welcome experience, and any opportunity to share my own empirical research on this topic is welcomed. I thoroughly enjoyed a platform like NCORE’s which graciously allowed us their platform to center and recognize our work. In sharing some of my findings from my research study titled, “Caribbean Scholar Tings: Afro-Caribbean Collegians Navigate Race while Enrolled at Predominately White Institutions”, it re-solidified the importance of my research, and that there is a true need for an expansion of Blackness in the African Diaspora. This opportunity was one I will never forget and will remain a signifier to keep my focus on the work, and to continue doing meaningful research.

Alumni Accolades, April 2021

~Class of 2004~

Orly Clergé, IRT ’04 will join the department of Sociology in July 2022 as Assistant Professor at Yale University. Dr. Clergé’s research focuses on race, migration, cities, inequality, and identity. Orly is the author of The New Noir: Race, Identity & Diaspora in Black Suburbia (University of California Press, 2019; winner of the Mary Douglas Prize for Best Book in the ASA Culture Section, and SSSP C. Wright Mills Book Award finalist), which is a comprehensive exploration of the making of Black diasporic suburbs.

~Class of 2014~

Jonathan Cortez, IRT ’14 successfully defended his dissertation and received his PhD from Brown University from the department of American Studies. Congratulations Dr. Cortez! His research interests include 20th century U.S. history, Latinx History, race and race making, relational ethnic studies, critical geography and spatial studies, labor history, and public humanities.

~Class of 2016~

Charlinda Haudley, IRT ’16 is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation in Arizona and is the Project Manager, Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Arizona. Charlinda was awarded her doctorate in Higher Education in 2021 from the University of Arizona. Congratulations Dr. Haudley! Her research focuses on intertribal student engagement at a university Native American student center.

~Class of 2019~

Francesco Yugiro Asano, IRT ’19 is a PhD student in American Studies at New York University. He is interested in questions of race, empire, and nature, particularly in the context of imperial hunting and wildlife-conservation history. Public Books, an online magazine of ideas, scholarship, and the arts has published Francesco’s recent article “When Nature Is Valued over Human Life.”

~Class of 2020~

Congratulations to the 2020 IRT Cohort! So far the cohort has reported a total of 241 acceptance offers from graduate programs across the nation. These offers range from partial to full funding and we will have more details to share in our June 2021 Newsletter. Congratulations to all cohort members for their amazing work throughout this year!