Middlebury Institute Chief Diversity Officer Pushpa Iyer has started an in-depth community dialogue challenging bigotry and racism, involving faculty, staff, alumni, current and future students. One of the questions Iyer asks participants to pose to themselves is: “What I am going to do?“
Iyer and Dean of the Institute Jeff Dayton Johnson sent a letter to the MIIS community on June 2 in response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and national protests demanding justice and social change, imploring the MIIS community not to be complacent. They wrote:
It is timefor all of us at MIIS to check in with each other.
It is timefor all of us at MIIS to listen to each other.
It is timefor all of us to hear the emotions of those who have been affected.
It is timefor all of us to take a stand with those who have been targeted.
It is timefor all of us to oppose all kinds of discrimination in the spaces we navigate.
It is timefor all of us to shake off the comfort that the status quo provides us.
It is timefor all of us to be outraged at the violence meted out to all in the BIPOC community and particularly black Americans.
It is timefor all of us to reflect on our values, individual and collective, and stay true to them.
It is timefor all of us to rededicate ourselves to our mission: “The Middlebury Institute of International Studies educates professionals to advance understanding, promote peace, and drive change in pursuit of a more just world.” Are we doing and saying things that support our mission statement?
It is timefor all of us to include what is happening in this country when describing international studies at our Institute.
It is timethat we at MIIS commit to taking an antiracist approach in our teaching (pedagogy and curriculum), research, and practice.
Student Council President Madeleine Smith MPA ’21 and Vice President Lincoln Ngaboyisonga MAIPD ’21 also called on fellow students and the community as whole “to enact your agency for change,” and to “engage in uncomfortable conversations with people of all backgrounds, educate ourselves by reading black and POC authors, support black and POC entrepreneurs with our purchases, and vote for black and POC civil leaders at the polls on local, state, and national levels.” As the new student leaders for the Institute, they pledged to prioritize diversity and inclusion at MIIS in a variety of ways including creating more forums for deeper conversations and welcomed input from the student body. They also expressed their intention to work with the MIIS administration and the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer to see how we might bring more diverse perspectives into the classroom.
Iyer, who in addition to being Chief Diversity Officer is a professor of conflict resolution and founding director of the Institute‘s Center for Conflict Studies, invited the community to engage in active conversations, sharing experiences and discussing how to be effective in the fight for social justice and equity - via Zoom, email, Google form, and over the phone. Additionally, she is hosting a webinar on June 9 for incoming students to discuss how to integrate activism into their education.
Faculty, staff, and students in large numbers have signed up to be part of these conversations. In the first round of meetings, community members have shared their pain, anguish, anger, despair and more with each other. Iyer says it has been heartening to see the great sense of community we are building at time when we are so isolated from each other. She believes in using the current momentum to focus on deep personal and community change.
Human rights activist, poet, former Black Panther and political prisoner Ericka Huggins gave an inspirational and interactive keynote address to kick off the Middlebury Institute’s Center for Conflict Studies fourth annual conference.
Middlebury Institute student Nathaniel Sawyer is featured in the Monterey County Weekly as part of “new generation of inspiring leaders“ who see “ways forward to create a Monterey County free of racism.“