Brittany Zorn, IRT’ 13 Arts & Sciences Specialist, IRT
Since the inception of IRT’s Associate Program, we have been dabbling in the realm of cultivating virtual community, but it is perhaps no surprise that living with this pandemic for the last two years has fast-tracked the development of our best practices for engaging with IRT Scholars remotely. Because we decided against hosting a physical Summer Workshop in 2020 and 2021, we were suddenly tasked with replicating the natural community and connection that Recruiter’s Weekend offered the cohort in a completely online setting. Since the start of widespread work-from-home policies, we have incorporated more regular virtual touch points for Scholars throughout their IRT participation, including the implementation of three All Cohort Meetings (ACM), almost monthly Social Hours, triple the number of alumni panels and workshops, and more frequent required meetings with IRT Advisors, all carried out via Zoom. We have already seen the positive impact ACMs and Social Hours have had on the 2021 Cohort; these meetings have provided a communal space for IRT scholars to talk through the challenges of applying to graduate school as people with multiple historically marginalized identities, to commiserate over the uncertainty that comes with pursuing a graduate degree during an unprecedented global health crisis, to share strategies for managing their time, their stress, and their health with each other, and to lend a supportive ear or a cathartic chuckle as a collective.
IRT staff share go-to-activities for stress free ways to endure the cold weather months!
Winter in New England is long and after the holidays it can be a little dreary. IRT staff are finding ways to enjoy these months each in their own way. An outside holiday gathering and doggie play date with Basil, Millie & Henry in a fun, outside setting started the early winter months off right!
Kevin Pajaro-Mariñez, IRT ’15 shares his journey with the IRT community in this interview with Brittany Zorn, IRT ’13, Arts and Sciences Programs Specialist, IRT
In an era when there is so much demand on our time, attention, and energy, nothing soothes the soul like returning to the simple pleasures life has to offer, like celebrating our community. Despite an endless and unprecedented amount of challenges this past year, there has also been an endless amount of accomplishments across the IRT alumni network. More broadly, there has also been an unprecedented amount of interest in issues of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) in this country since the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmad Aubrey sparked a series of protests for racial justice last spring.
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.
Commentary byPatricia 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.
My Thursday mornings know no sunrise without the feeling of crisp autumn air. I wake up to neatly manicured lawns, orange-green leaves, and jogging students as I welcome another Amherst fall day. The scene bears a striking contrast to the weight of black pain on my mind, body, and soul.