by Brittany Zorn, IRT ’13, Arts and Sciences Specialist, IRT
One of IRT’s greatest assets is by far our expansive network of alumni. Since joining the IRT team in 2016, I have had the pleasure of meeting, celebrating, and working alongside so many incredible scholars, educators, leaders, and artists through the IRT alumni family. Engaging with alumni on social media, alumni who serve as Summer Faculty for our Summer Workshop, alumni who sit on the Advisory Board, and alumni who reach back out to the program for one reason or another has always been an enriching part of my experience as a staff-member-who-is-also-an-alum. In 2021, I had the opportunity to work with our alumni in a new way, through the External SOP Advisor role. We sent out an invitation to serve as an SOP Advisor in our blog, on the IRT Alumni Network, and on social media (FB, IG), and I was heartened to say we received responses from more than two dozen alumni with an interest in the role!
Monica was named a 2021 MacArthur Fellow. The MacArthur Fellowship is unrestricted and unofficially known as the “Genius Grant.” The MacArthur Foundation considers that the fellowship “is not a reward for past accomplishment, but rather an investment in a person’s originality, insight, and potential.” Congratulations, Monica, on this prestigious award.
Monica Muñoz Martinez, IRT ’05 Photo credit: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
It may be hard to believe that in just 3 months we will welcome 2022. For many educators, 2020 was the year that flipped our lives upside down and forced us to (re)discover elements of ourselves as people, family members, teachers, and leaders. We tended to others before tending to ourselves and had little to no opportunity to stop and reflect about all that we had learned and unlearned in the months of a global health pandemic and the racial justice movement of our lifetime.
A year ago, I was a 7-year veteran principal in the nation’s capital and was launching the first-ever virtual school year. It was both exciting and unnerving and I struggled to find my new leadership voice in a virtual setting. My superpower was leading with love, justice, and vulnerability- everything else felt like a test or like I was functioning off gut instinct. Throughout the months, we heard scholars, organic intellectuals, elders, parents, and students alike say the same thing, “We can’t go back to what was normal. Normal wasn’t working for our Black and Brown children.” Families were officially seen and acknowledged as co-educators and the school and family partnerships were stronger than ever. We finally saw a light that felt bright enough to follow, one that would lead us to deconstruct, reimagine and rebuild a new (a better) educational system for our children. This was the chance and for a large part, it was not taken.
The statement of purpose (SOP) is a significant component of any graduate school application. For IRT Scholars, who apply to upwards of seven graduate programs, writing and refining 7+ school-specific statements of purpose is a demanding process. Each year, the IRT provides the opportunity to a group of External (i.e. outside of the IRT office) SOP Advisors to assist current students in drafting, revising, and finalizing all of their SOPs, in addition to providing support on other written application materials such as the writing sample, resume/CV, personal history statement, diversity essay, and so on. External SOP Advisors are often IRT alumni, but also come from the Phillips Academy faculty pool and other partner organizations. External SOP Advisors work closely with IRT Scholars through the Fall SOP Advising period, which spans 8 weeks in September and October, hold weekly meetings with their advisees, review SOP drafts uploaded to Canvas on a weekly basis, and provide support for finalizing other written application materials.
IRT seeks External SOP Advisors from a variety of graduate disciplines and professional fields, but we especially welcome applications from folks with expertise in African Diaspora and African American Studies, Anthropology, Education, Philosophy, Political Science, and Psychology.