Welcome to the new IUME Up Close blog! ☆

| September 16, 2011

Hello everyone–thank you for stopping by our newly-minted IUME Happenings blog, affiliated with the new Pressible network at Teachers College, Columbia University. Our goal with this so-called “digital space” is to inform the community–both the academic community and the local community–with the many projects IUME is engaged with. More importantly, we want to hear from you–your thoughts, your opinions, your ideas on how we can best go about making a difference in both the local and national arena. To read more about this blog and its specific functions, check out our “About the Blog” page.

With the introductions aside and the logistics put on the shelf, what is on the agenda for IUME as the year new year begins? Well, before we can move forward, we must understand our past and what that sign above means every time we walk into the office: IUME has a powerful and deep history of seeking to improve the quality of life chances through education in the communities of urban and minority peoples. Dr. Edmund W. Gordon (of who the campus is named after), founded the Institute almost 39 years ago and has worked tirelessly, dedicating his life to social justice. In addition, the Edmund W. Gordon Campus is housed in the historic Theresa Tower in Harlem. Hotel Theresa (as it was once called) had been the hotel of choice for the likes of Louis Armstrong, Sugar Ray Robinson, Josephine Baker, Duke Ellington, Muhammad Ali, Ray Charles, Little Richard, and Jimi Hendrix in addition to visits from Fidel Castro, Malcom X, Nikita Khrushchev, John F. Kennedy and Eleanor Roosevelt. This is our past and we are extremely humbled to continue our work in such a historic building, but more importantly, in the honor of one of the foremost psychologists of this decade.

And yet, never has it been a more exciting time to continue IUME’s work than this moment as we prepare to usher the Institute into a new era. Not only do we have a new Director in Dr. Ernest Morrell (check out a wonderful new profile from the Arts & Humanities Department) merging with Assistant Director Veronica Holly who has been the brains and provided the structure for IUME over the past seven years, but a brand new team of accomplished post-doctoral fellows, a dynamic Fulbright Scholar, and many brilliant and dedicated graduate students all committed to changing the world. With a fresh start and a new team, IUME is starting with a blank canvas–a canvas that is ready to be blasted with ideas, new ambitions, and outlines for action.

Today, for the first time, the new IUME team met during a reception at the Gordon Campus today–for many of us, it was the first time shaking the hands and looking into the eyes (and hearts) of the individuals who make up this select group. After we each went around explaining what we had done prior to this opportunity and why we were here ready to commit ourselves to the work ahead, Dr. Morrell addressed us and laid out a few strategies for the upcoming year(s). He spoke about many things, but above all, he spoke about how the greatest calamity of this nation is our collective failure in wasting the extraordinary amounts of human capital this country has. America has millions of brilliant children eager to learn–each with new ideas and provocative ambitions. Sadly, this human capital is not utilized and part of our responsibility is to change this. And to change this, we must shift the paradigm of how families and children are color are portrayed–that these children can learn, that they want to learn, that these parents are eager to be involved in their students school life, assuming they are given that chance. We must shift the narrative to focus on failing schools to focus on succeeding schools–illustrating examples of curriculum that is both empowering and constructive. Finally, we must do all of this not just on a local level and community level, but make inroads at a policy level–connecting our successes on the ground to important structural change up top.

Over the course of the next several months, this blog will evolve and our main website will undergo heavy construction; frankly, it is a microcosm and representative of the new course of action for IUME and our budding plans. Carte blanche, the IUME team under the guidance of Dr. Morrell and Ms. Holly will be launching off with new ideas, projects, and strategies to figure out how we make the aforementioned rhetoric a reality. At the reception, Dr. Morrell also spoke candidly that all of this is slightly nerve-wracking–having a blank script with no set plans can be intimidating. However, this moment in time gives us the opportunity to collaborate in powerful ways to make a new script that is uniquely IUME. Drawing on the past history of the Institute and the experiences (and the passion) that we each bring to the team, we confront all of the ahead challenges with energy, patience, and humility.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently (and famously) declared, “the arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Well, we are dedicated to helping it bend back in that direction. So, it’s time to get to work–there is plenty of it to be done.