An Interview with Dr. Jessica Samuel, IRT ’15 on Educational Equity

Dr. Samuel is an education equity expert. Her experience includes advising for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, consulting for the Commonwealth Corporation, and coaching for the Institute for Recruitment of Teachers. In addition to working with education organizations, she also provides 1:1 coaching and small group workshops for various education stakeholders.

Dr. Samuel recently spoke with Brittany Zorn, IRT ’13 on her work and experiences. The written transcription of their conversation, link to an audio copy and an introduction by Brittany is included below.

Introduction by Brittany Zorn, IRT ‘13

As an IRT alumna, I started my role as Arts & Sciences Programs Specialist for the IRT with a ton of enthusiasm and boundless energy. Early on in my career, I was tasked with incorporating more opportunities for current students to connect directly with alumni. One of the ways I sought to bring more alumni perspectives to our advising curriculum was through the curation of multiple alumni panels and alumni-lead talks during the Summer Workshop (this was, of course, pre-pandemic when in-person programming was still the universal standard.) As luck would have it, I was casually scrolling Facebook one day and came across a post by IRT alumna Jessica S. Samuel, IRT ’15 regarding some of the work she was doing at Boston University around self-care for BIPOC students at PWIs as a revolutionary and libratory act. I instantly identified Jessica’s work as addressing a gap in IRT’s advising curriculum that I was working to close; we wanted to facilitate more intentional conversations around wellness for our scholars, and Jessica clearly demonstrated some specialization in this area through her post. I reached out and invited her to lead IRT’s first ever Wellness Day keynote address in the 2017 IRT Summer Workshop, and this collaboration served as the starting point of our working relationship ever since. 

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2022 IRT Summer Workshop Faculty

As we head into July, the IRT virtual Summer Workshop Faculty and staff are busy finalizing curriculum, organizing alumni and professional panels, consortium liaison meetings and other events throughout the upcoming month. Join us in welcoming this year’s summer faculty!

Renée Wilmot, IRT ’12, ’17

My name is Renée Wilmot, I use she/her pronouns. Currently, I am a Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State University in the Teacher Education program. My research interests include (1) the historical legacy of Black women as educators and activists in the Black community and (2) Black girls’ practices of thriving and resisting in white supremacist schooling structures. I am originally from Virginia and I am a former secondary English/Language Arts teacher.

Advice for the current cohort
Do your best to commit 100% of yourself. Take advantage of this opportunity – take risks and push yourself.

Suggested Reading

  • Ebony & Ivy by Craig Steven Wilder
  • White Architects of Black Education by William H. Watkins
  • White Rage by Carol Anderson 
  • Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde 
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  • Black Feminism in Qualitative Inquiry by Venus E. Evans-Winters


My biggest takeaway from my IRT experience was that this is a safe space for me to push myself, risk failure, and then get up to try again. I had never been in a space where I could “mess up” academically, experiment with time management and reading strategies, and take risks. 


My grounding quote for this year: “We protect and nurture our collective well-being. We strive to make our home place a positive environment for everyone. We all agree that integrity and care enhance all our lives.” (hooks, ,p. 101) 

My current favorite song: “Dim All the Lights” by Donna Summer 

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Alumni Accolades, June 2022

Karina Fernández Montilla, IRT ‘06 is a recipient of the 2022 Dr. Sue Estler University of Maine Higher Education Distinguished Alumnx Award. This award is given by the University of Maine Higher Education graduate programs in honor of Dr. Suzanne E. Estler, Associate Professor, Emeritus of Higher Education. Karina is Assistant Dean of Advising and Director of the James Baldwin Scholars Program at Hampshire College.

Teresa Gonzales, IRT ‘06 will be joining the sociology department at Loyola University Chicago this fall.

Heather Moore Roberson, IRT ’07 was appointed Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Allegheny College. Congratulations!

Dr. Heather Moore Roberson
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All Cohort Meeting

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.

This photo is a snapshot from ACM2, which we held on January 12th, demonstrating a moment of collective joy being shared towards the end of the discussion about preparing for campus visit and interviews.
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Relieving Winter Stress & Staying Healthy

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!

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