Executive Letter, June 2022

Brooks photo

I treasure the Summer solstice in a newfound way. In the past, summers meant a chance to reset, reflect, and find new ways to feel free after shedding the stress of the academic year. The last few years have not been easy for many of us.

The ongoing pandemic, democratic instability, and lack of community have left many wondering what comes next and how to rebuild. Amidst this uncertainty, I find the workshop and IRT summer have a perfect opportunity to reset.

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Welcome 2022 IRT Cohort!

IRT is proud to welcome 104 Scholars into the 2022 Cohort! We are excited by the enthusiasm and diligence these Scholars have already displayed in just the first few weeks of engagement with the program. As is often the case amongst IRT students, this year’s cohort displays a zeal for producing scholarship, developing curriculums, and facilitating interventions which will greatly increase access to education and equity within all aspects of life for historically marginalized populations. Compared to recent years, this cohort has a bigger majority of scholars pursuing fields in education and pursuing Decorate degrees. Psychology, counseling, and therapy are increasingly popular fields amongst IRT scholars as well. We cannot help but wonder how much the pandemic, and our systematic and institutional responses to the global health crisis, have informed these growing fields and degree paths of interest amongst our scholars. One thing is clear; the passion, drive, and brilliance of the 2022 Cohort is a continuation of IRT alumni’s historic excellence, and we are excited to help this next generation of researchers, educators, and leaders apply to graduate programs on their pathways to transformative careers!

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IRT Welcomes Catherine Wong as Associate Director and Manager of Programs

Catherine Wong (she/her/hers) has been appointed Associate Director and Manager of Programs (ADMP) Institute for the Recruitment of Teachers,  an outreach program housed at Phillips Andover Academy, focused on diversifying graduate education and K-12 through higher education professions to include teachers, professors and academic leaders.

Ms. Wong is a lifelong educator focusing on teacher training, educational leadership and youth outreach while centering diversity, equity and inclusion. She is unwavering and uncompromising in her support of educators of color and first generation to college. She has long believed that it should be the norm, not the exception, that our students have well trained teachers, specialists, and school leaders, who are reflections of their lived experiences and communities. For Ms. Wong teaching and learning is not a top-down hierarchical process, but one of co-construction and connectedness. Her accomplishments were honored this past year as the City of Boston’s 2021 EXTRAordinary Woman .

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2021 IRT Cohort Future Plans

We are so very proud of the work and perseverance the 2021 IRT Cohort has shown over the past year. In the second year of the pandemic, IRT students have encountered many difficult decisions. IRT alumni especially have been so helpful with students navigating these important decisions with keen advice and insight on programs and schools. It takes a village and we are thankful to all alumni who have helped this year’s cohort and continually enhance the connections within the IRT!

Thank you a million times over for your assistance throughout my school application process. I am so grateful to have the incredible support network that I do, and it’s the reason why I pour into others— students, mentees, colleagues, my community. You’ve made all the difference for me during this incredibly difficult year. Thank you.

Abby Katz, IRT ’21
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Brooks and Wong Present at NCORE 2022

The 34th National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (NCORE) in Higher Education was held on May 31 – June 4, 2022 in Portland, Oregon. This annual educational event is committed to fostering inclusion and the exchanging of ideas and expertise in higher education. IRT Executive Director LaShawnda Brooks and IRT Associate Director and Manager of Programs Catherine Wong were part of an NCORE-invited interactive panel discussion benefitting educators with anti-racist (AR)/diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) responsibilities.

(L-R) Joe-Joe McManus, Catherine Wong, Michael Benitez
Photo Credit: Melissa Toledo

Sustainable Transformation; Making Progress While Battling Changemaker Fatigue

Advisor, speaker and author Joe-Joe McManus and Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion & Associate Professor of Multicultural Education at Metropolitan State University of Denver Michael Benitez joined Brooks and Wong in this session on what changemaking looks like in higher education, real barriers to progress, and proven strategies for institutional transformation.

The panel engaged in critical dialogue with conference participants on the understanding and successful engagement in transformative work. The discussion revolved around the following questions:

  • Are you the changemaker you had hoped to be when you became an educator? 
  • Do you feel a disconnect between the change agency called for in your position description and the work you are expected to do in the role?  
  • Are you questioning how to persist in your role given the lack of resources, unrealistic expectations and resistance to change that you encounter on a daily basis?  

“I feel fortunate to be both a participant and presenter at NCORE for decades. Through NCORE I have met inspiring and diverse scholars, practitioners and community leaders. The work of diversity, equity and inclusion is not meant to be done in isolation. NCORE provides the vital and brave space to have difficult conversations, to battle back at divisiveness and to center cross racial solidarity. The NCORE community does not settle for the status quo, the way things have always been, instead it is an interdisciplinary community that values reimagining what has not yet been imagined.”

Catherine Wong
LaShawnda Brooks (via computer) and Catherine Wong
Photo credit: Melissa Toledo

“I was honored to participate in this session with three phenomenal leaders and advocates. Throughout our ongoing pandemic, change-making and community building are essential to establishing a just future. Through this incredible conversation with student leaders and education leaders, I am hopeful we can all own our relative power in the fight for systemic transformation.”  

LaShawnda Brooks

(L-R) Joe-Joe McManus, Catherine Wong, Michael Benitez
Photo Credit: Melissa Toledo