Dear Students,
 
Fall has truly arrived in New York City and the crisp, cool, sunny days and gorgeous fall foliage are a welcome backdrop to essential daily walks outside during the pandemic. I hope this finds you and yours holding up okay. These are challenging times.

On the days when I have not made time for fresh air or exercise or downtime with my family, I am not at my best. Those are the days I complain about how I have to reimagine and reconfigure every single task in my work and home life given our Covid-19 context. Every day brings new problems and most have unsatisfying solutions. An Org Psych student living in Hong Kong wants to move to New York City to take her classes in the Eastern time zone as she is understandably exhausted by the time difference. But I have little help to offer given stringent visa restrictions. I field regular inquiries about whether we will have hybrid classes in the spring, in-person classes in the summer, and be back to normal next fall. I can only say I don’t know. I am trying to imagine, design, and plan robust virtual group relations conferences for my future Group Dynamics classes, while still getting used to our newly transformed e-GRC happening right now. A hoped-for in-person tailgate with our ELDP students at West Point (a tradition of over a decade) is now on Zoom. My 17-year-old son’s SAT exam has been cancelled three times. He no longer feels motivated to study for it, and I don’t blame him. My 14-year-old son, Mateo, started high school last month, fully on-line, and the transition has been bumpy. There were Zoom failures, schedule snafus, 9th graders trolling in the chat box, and the announcement that for the foreseeable future, all the school’s afterschool sports programs would also be fully on-line. Mateo emerged from his bedroom after a particularly difficult school day, burst into frustrated tears, and said, “I just want to learn, Mom! Why is everything so hard? I just want to learn.” Indeed.

I replay Mateo’s words in my head often and his plea reminds me of the joy of learning, the wonder of it, the revelation. I hear his voice and I use it to try to lean into my own learning. After all, I know that part of my complaining is about how hard it is for me to “not know.” I sometimes say I am addicted to knowing. (I love to know and to be right and my spouse will attest to this.) In this time of massive uncertainty, change, and despair, my addiction to knowing is undoing me. This fall’s TC group relations conference director, Dr. Eliat Aram, CEO of The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, once told me that what she loves about group relations is that there is always something else to be discovered. “When there is nothing left to learn, well, what’s the point, then? When we are still learning, we are still living,” she said. Indeed.

In our Social-Organizational Psychology community, we are learning together and often learning publicly with one another. I am trying to learn in real-time about how to create a rich and productive on-line learning space for my Group Dynamics students, how to build faculty and student relationships on Zoom, how to source internship and employment opportunities for our students in a tough labor market where employers are recruiting virtually. I, alongside my S-OP faculty colleagues, am trying to learn more deeply what our community needs from us in our anti-racism efforts.

Learning necessitates that we make mistakes. I am still trying to figure out how to help multiple voices speak up on Zoom in my large classes, how to pace my course material virtually, how to tackle difficult conversations in class when we have such a richness of diversity among our students and yet our world is so divided. On my better days, I feel excited to learn new ways of doing my job, of being a parent and a person. On my bad days, I feel embarrassed by my mistakes, stumbles and complaints. Learning is exhilarating, frustrating, motivating, humbling and tiring. It is also a privilege. I feel grateful to be in a learning community with all of you, with my faculty and staff colleagues at TC and in the world of group relations, and with my children, who remind me that just wanting to learn is sometimes exactly right.

Wishing you as much joy of learning as possible this fall.
 

Warmly,

Sarah Brazaitis, PhD
MA Program Director 

 

Current Student Profile

Ronald Taylor II is an M.A. Candidate in Social-Organizational Psychology. Ron’s passion for community-building, cross-cultural understanding, inclusion, and equity is at the forefront of his interest in Social-Organizational Psychology. These drivers led him to co-found the Teachers College Coaching Club and become a member of the S-OP Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Antiracism (DEIA) Working Group.  
 
Formerly an Education Specialist for the University of Maryland, he has spent his professional career committed to bringing equity to underrepresented communities in professional and academic settings. Outside of TC, Ron founded the Committee for Diversity at Montgomery High School in New Jersey, to address issues of diversity and inclusion from a student perspective. His work at Legal Outreach, a pipeline diversity program in New York, afforded him the opportunity to interface with students, faculty, staff and administration around education and employment opportunities for students participating in intensive co-curricular programs in preparation for college and careers in law. 
 
Ron is committed to combating institutional systems built on inequity and the disenfranchisement of communities based on their race. Lending his voice to changing the narrative on race relations is something Ron credits to his friend and mentor, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski. Upon completion of his master’s program, Ron plans to work in the areas of DEI, social responsibility or organizational development. He looks forward to moving the conversation – and the development of new corporate practices – forward, beyond the simple optics of equity. He feels his experiences, contributions and commitment can change the trajectory of corporate America’s draconian employment practices for people of all races; because it is just and because it is right.