Community Spotlight

For this issue, we are highlighting events held by student organizations Queers and Allies at MIIS, Dinner with Friends, International Cultural Gathering. We also hear about a restorative practice training held for faculty and staff.

by Sarah Fulton, TI 2020

Going into its second year, Queers And Allies At MIIS (QAAAM) set a goal of offering events focused on the LGBTQ+ community at least once a week. We succeeded, often offering two queer-focused events each week. Our recurring events ranged from study halls to potlucks to TEDTalk discussions, and, of course, our popular monthly Cheers for Queers! Happy Hour. One highlight early in the semester was our collaboration with MIRA to screen “Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America” followed by a discussion with the documentary’s subject, Moisés Serrano. A few weeks later, we screened the first presidential town hall on LGBTQ+ rights hosted by HRC and CNN to hear what the Democratic hopefuls plan to do for the LGBTQ+ community in America and abroad. Rounding out our screenings, was the docu-series “Room to Grow” about LGBTQ+ youth across the US.

Closer to home, we bonded with our local community of MIIS queers and allies at our first ever Gay-me Night, featuring pizza, card games, and a virtual haunted house! Keeping it spooky, we provided safe sex supplies (and candy) for Halloween festivities in partnership with Student Council. We are so appreciative of the broader MIIS community’s support of QAAAM’s activities, and look forward to hosting more fun, educational, and community-building events in the spring semester.

Dinner with Friends
by Jasmine Sturdifen, BA/MPA 2021

Dinner with Friends, or DwF, is a campus organization focused on creating and strengthening social ties. Nomsa Ndongwe, MANPTS ’20, and I conceived of this club based on the belief that the most important networking one can do is intimate, intentional, and intended for long-term relationship-building; often, we MIIS students find ourselves exchanging phone numbers, résumés, or business cards with the dim hope that we might connect–in the short term–with one or two people. Through rapport-building exercises, shared meals, and conversations about the expertise and experience latent within our community, our goal is for students to leave MIIS not only prepared for the tangible challenges of their future employment, but for the social and emotional rigors of the modern work environment, too.

This semester, we hosted three events: Friendship Speed Dating, Meet & Eats (in collaboration with Student Council), and The Table. Friendship Speed Dating was our first-ever event, and it allowed students, both first-semester and returning, to have funny, frank, and unexpected conversations in just three minutes! We carried the theme of engaging conversation over to our collaboration for Meet & Eats; participants were “served” a menu of topics to be consumed throughout the course of the actual meal. Finally, The Table was a panel of three students, moderated by students, which showcased the incredible breadth of experience and perspective we have among our student body. And that’s the big idea behind DwF: we want to create more opportunities for deeper conversation and more memorable interactions. We believe that the strongest personal and professional networks are built on meaningful connection, and our events are designed to foster that bond-building. Ultimately, DwF is designed to be that little slice of time you choose to carve out in your schedule that is dedicated to inviting these encounters into your life. Connection doesn’t have to be fancy, but oftentimes it must be intentional—and that’s the need we hope to fulfill.

International Cultural Gathering
by Rachel Lott, NPTS 2020

The idea behind creating the International Cultural Gathering (ICG) club was to create a platform on which students, staff, faculty and members of the community could gather together to engage in a variety of activities, while sharing and learning aspects of international cultures. Our previous activities included a get-to-know-you kickoff, a cuisine night and a dancing night. As ICG committee planners, we have thoroughly enjoyed these gatherings and judging from the great turnout and agreeable atmosphere at our events so far, we sense that the feeling was mutual among all attendees.

Through these events, we’ve had the pleasure of learning from dancers, chefs and musicians about Spanish, French, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Arab cultural aspects. Some highlights of the events so far have included grazing on gourmet foods ranging from French artisan bread to Thai Som Tum and exploring the phenomenal culinary and musical landscapes of the Middle East, Latin America and beyond. I can think of few ways to better break boundaries to connect with and embrace the unknown. It is our hope that through continued efforts in organizing these events, attendees will be able to relax and have fun, while deepening community connections and friendships.

Restorative Practices Training
by Patricia Szasz, Associate Dean for Language and Professional Programs

I first became familiar with the Restorative Justice movement through my doctoral studies in education. Many of my classmates are working on social justice in K-12 urban settings, and they are using RJ as a tool to combat the school to prison pipeline. When I heard that there was movement at Middlebury to bring Restorative Practices to our campuses, I was interested in learning and engaging with the content. I readied myself to be open, honest, and vulnerable during these trainings. Knowing the powerful topics that might be addressed through RP and RJ, I was ready to do the hard work of facing up to my own privilege.

In November, some members of the Institute community participated in an intensive, three-day workshop on Restorative Practices with trainers from the International Institute of Restorative Practices. The training follows a series of workshops held in Vermont for Middlebury senior leadership and staff. Residential Life staff at the College have started to use Restorative Practices as a guiding principal of their work over the past two academic years. Our Monterey training followed IIRP’s curriculum, which is comprised of four components: affective statements and questions, the social discipline window, fair process, and the RP continuum. (See for more details on their approach.) The overarching concept is that we should be our whole, true selves at school and work. In fact, the “restorative” aspect is somewhat misleading. The idea is that if we spend 90% of our time building relationships and trust, we might only have to spend 10% of our time rebuilding those relationships when harm occurs. Workshop participants included 12 staff from a variety of campus departments, 4 Institute Council members, one faculty member, and one alumna. I’ll be honest and say I was not a big fan of the intensive three-day format. As a person who runs professional development programs, I know this kind of “brain dump” approach is often used out of convenience’s sake but sacrifices something in the way of deep learning. I’m glad that we are considering how we can implement fair and transparent decision making at our institution. The week after the training, our colleagues from Vermont visited on their way to a Restorative Justice conference in San Diego. It made me feel better to know that are taking the IIRP training as just one element of a bigger approach to building community, transparency, respect, and social justice in their work. I hope that here in Monterey, we will do the same. The IIRP model is a first step, but we will need to keep digging deep and confronting the big issues beyond a three-day workshop. As an ally, I’m committed to doing the hard work and in supporting others to do the same.