Associate Director & Manager of Programs Letter, January 2023

Greetings IRT Community! 

The beginning of a new year and the midpoint of the academic year is often a time for introspection. As I begin this post three words come immediately to mind – reflect, reimagine and reinvigorate. 

As I reflect on my time at IRT thus far, I feel fortunate to have the vantage point of experiencing IRT in several different realms from being a higher education partner as part of the Consortium of College and Universities, selected as Consortium chair and now hired as an IRT administrator. As a higher education partner I was deeply appreciative of how prepared the IRT scholars were for critically engaging with their academic discipline, navigating the nuances of graduate school life and exuding the confidence to fully be themselves even in the face of challenge. As Consortium chair, I was excited to work alongside the IRT leadership and higher education partners to create a collaborative environment. Though competition was a function delegated to our roles, it did not solely define our relationships. Several of us acknowledged that we could only accept a finite number of scholars into our programs, so why not learn more about what each other had to offer with regard to programs and support. In this way, we kept the focus on the scholars and how best to advise them about their aspirations. Now having the purview of being part of the IRT team, I see first hand the dedication, time and energy that goes in on the back end to adapt to the changing educational landscape and align support for our BIPOC scholars that elevates equity, expands knowledge and emphasizes wellness all while preparing them to apply to graduate programs. 

From these multiple perspectives with IRT the following questions come to mind for me. Given all that has happened in these past three years, what has changed or remained the same for you?  How many of you have changed jobs and/or institutions? Has your ‘why’ for doing this work shifted? How do we chart a pathway forward for change in the midst of injustice and resistance? I feel a deep dive into these questions will allow IRT stakeholders to set a course for reimagination. Reimagining a future whereby students in our classrooms are taught by highly qualified teachers as the norm not the exception, who reflect their lived experiences and who believe in young people’s brilliance from the onset, whereby being ‘smart’ is defined beyond being book smart but also by one’s cultural and community wealth (Yosso, 2005) and whereby liberatory design (Anaissie et al, 2021)  guides instruction and curriculum development. 

IRT has the unique opportunity to reinvigorate who we are, what we stand for and who we stand with by naming this moment in time and building upon our potential to create a year long graduate preparation program, to innovate outreach to our alumni and to provide professional development to the broader educational community. As in the wise words of educator Kevin Kumashiro, we do this work ‘systemically, intersectionally and relationally.’ This level of reimagining and reinvigorating does not come without its share of resistance. We live in a world where how and what we teach is being questioned, legislated and revised, where books bans are limiting whose stories get told and where even long term educators are questioning whether they should remain in the field. The urgency is there for IRT to step up and step in to create collaborative spaces for renewal, to nurture innovation and to bridge the divide between K-12, higher education and non profit educational organizations. This un-siloing of our educational counterparts offers hopes for creating educational spaces for learners of all ages where they feel a true sense of belonging and agency. 

I’d like to close with a Hawaiian proverb that has come to mean a lot to me and the work that I do on behalf of youth.

A’ ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka halau ho’okahi

All knowledge is not taught in the same school.

One can learn from many sources.

Olelo No’eau, Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings, 1983

Thank you for your continued support of IRT. I look forward to our ongoing work together! 


Catherine Wong
IRT Associate Director and Manager of Programs 

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