Dear Students,
This week, my Group Dynamics teaching assistant, Angelica Leon, suggested a check-in exercise called “A Rose and A Thorn.” Each person offered a highlight, success, or small win, as well as a challenge or something with which they need support. It led to a thoughtful and heartfelt sharing of our experiences as a learning community and helped us name the continual paradox of the current times. Students expressed excitement and pride at nearing the semester’s end – graduating! – as well as overwhelm with competing priorities from school, work, and home. We talked about the relief of Covid-19 vaccines in the U.S. and the despair that some countries are keenly suffering with rising covid cases, deaths, and oxygen shortages. Indeed, some of the countries that are struggling the most are home to many of our students and their families.

The next day, we learned the outcome of the trial in the murder of George Floyd. I felt a brief moment of relief at the verdict and then a crushing wave of pain thinking about Daunte Wright, Ma’Khia Bryant, and so many other innocent Black and Brown people killed by police. The George Floyd trial verdict felt like a raindrop in an ocean. I have some sort of whiplash in reflecting on the rose and the thorn and trying to hold on to hope and joy in the midst of despair and pain.

Angelica’s doctoral student peer, Jean Sohn, added “A Bud” to the check-in exercise. The bud represents new ideas that are blossoming or something you are looking forward to experiencing. The bud represents a liminal time, a period of transition. We are all in the liminal time right now, just ending the semester, finishing up finals and papers, wrapping up grading, scheduling final meetings before the summer, packing and unpacking, preparing to move or to start a new internship or job, saying goodbye to old friends and hello to new colleagues. Some of you are joining TC’s community for the first time. Others are ending your first full year of studies with us. Some are graduating. None of us is standing still, yet most of us have not yet moved beyond the liminal time. Transitions can fill us with anxiety and excitement simultaneously. We often feel uneasy – optimistic and anticipatory, yes, but also nervous and out of sorts. The boundary position is challenging, but also precious.

So, I urge you to savor these days as much as you can. Try to pay attention to what you are doing, thinking and feeling during this liminal time. Take a few moments to reflect on all you have learned and how much you have grown this past year. Steady yourself when you feel apprehensive and relish the feelings of excitement and hopefulness about what is yet to come.

The intense paradoxes of these times can feel disorienting and difficult. Working with all of you this year has helped me find equilibrium. I have been steadied by your thoughtful engagement in class, the kindness you’ve regularly shown each other, your optimism and drive amidst confusion and challenge, and your work for change and justice. For those of you who are graduating – we miss you already – and we are proud of all you have accomplished. For our new and ongoing students, we are looking forward to our continued learning together on Zoom this summer and in-person in the fall.

Wishing all of you peace, joy, time for relaxation and renewal and continued hope for our shared future.
Warm regards,

Sarah Brazaitis, PhD
MA Program Director 


Current Student Profile

Michelle Lai is currently a second-year M.A. student in the Social-Organizational Psychology program. After graduating from Mount Holyoke College with a B.A. in International Relations, Michelle joined a management development program at a financial institution in Upstate New York, where she had the opportunity to engage in her first organization-wide change management project. This ignited Michelle’s interest in change management, organizational design, and the human aspect of the workplace. After working in the financial industry, Michelle moved home to Ohio where she helped manage her family business for a few years. It was there that she realized her passion for organizational psychology and decided to pursue her master’s degree in the field.

Michelle enjoys her time as a full-time student making new friends and learning more in-depth theories that she can put to practice. During the summer of 2020, Michelle interned at PwC as a summer senior associate where she was able to implement theories she learned from TC as practical solutions for clients. Michelle is excited to be returning to PwC after graduation to start her new career in management consulting.

Alumni Profile

Samira Abdul-Karim is the Co-founder and Principal Consultant of Hyphens and Spaces, a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) consulting company that works to ​improve inclusive practices and implement meaningful change in organizations dedicated to furthering social causes.

Samira is an organizational psychologist with over 10 years of experience in DEI consulting, leadership and team development, designing learning strategies, coaching, and facilitation. She consults with organizations to generate and execute DEI strategies that create more equitable institutions and support the underrepresented and marginalized individuals within them. She takes a human-centered approach to organizational development and change by designing thoughtful interventions that leave team members and clients feeling empowered and connected. Whether in-person or online, she creates learning experiences that prioritize human connection and interconnectivity.

Samira has always had an interest in the study of people and cultures. She has lived and worked in different countries around the world and applies a culturally relevant perspective to DEI work. Samira’s educational training in anthropology and organizational psychology informs her culturally contextualized view of systems thinking.

Samira holds a master’s degree in social-organizational psychology from Columbia University Teachers College and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Wesleyan University.