A dozen undergraduate and graduate students will present their summer research on boundary-pushing topics ranging from housing design in Kakuma refugee camps to transnational activism in opera, as part of a symposium today organized by the Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity and Transnational Migration.
The symposium, which will feature 12 of the 22 students who received funding from the center, is just one piece of the newly established RITM center’s expanding efforts to support and highlight the study of race and ethnicity on campus. Established less than a year ago in the wake of campus protests about, among other things, a lack of support for minority scholarship, the center has hit the ground running. Over the past few months, it has formed partnerships across the University and pushed for ambitious cross-disciplinary projects. Stephen Pitti, founding director of the center and head of Ezra Stiles College, said the center’s work is collaborative and interdisciplinary in nature and aims to create a presence across Yale.
“I think that the [symposium] is a fantastic way of showcasing student research and discovery across countless disciplines,” said Jake Colavolpe ’18, who will be speaking at the symposium under the subtopic of New Cartographies. “The RITM center itself is going to be an amazing site of interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation, and I look forward to what the future holds for this new and cutting-edge project.”
The RITM center has a full slate of plans for the year ahead. In 2016-2017, the RITM center will focus on art and performance; labor, food and environmental change; and global indigeneities, among other issues. Beginning Sept. 27, the RITM center will co-sponsor a series on “Racial Justice and Food” with the Yale Sustainable Food Project, opening with visiting Los Angeles Times journalist Rich Marosi.
The center is also working with campus figures in the arts, with an emphasis on performance. Along with the Yale University Art Gallery and several other Yale groups, the RITM center sponsored visual artist Carrie Mae Weems’ performance this month of “Grace Notes,” a production at the University Theatre focused on social justice. The RITM center plans to continue working with the YUAG and Sterling Memorial Library, and will coordinate visits by artists and poets, Pitti said.
“We’re aiming to develop a center that is important across the University, as a place that engages with many departments and programs, and reaches out to the professional schools, libraries and museums,” Pitti said.
The RITM center also hosts various academic programs and projects, most notably the Ethnicity, Race and Migration program. ER&M Chair Matthew Jacobson said the RITM center’s dedicated resources, programming and calendar of events represent a major expansion of the University’s intellectual opportunities around matters of race and migration.
“I would also say that RITM will allow us to marshal existing resources to much better effect, engendering higher levels of engagement across disciplines and across divisions,” Jacobson said. “A year or two or three from now, we will undoubtedly have an ER&M ‘public,’ if I can call it that, that will be broader, more inclusive in disciplinary terms and more robust than ever before at Yale.”
Despite its brimming schedule of programming and events, the RITM center will continue to see changes itself, both in its physical location and in its administrative staff. The center is currently located on the first floor of WLH but will move to 35 Broadway in the near future, Pitti said. He added that there is an ongoing search for an administrative staff for the center.
While the RITM center’s is still finalizing its administrative structure for various initiatives, it has already shown itself to be a valuable campus resource, history and American studies professor Ned Blackhawk said.
Over time, people will become more comfortable approaching the center for resources and assistance, ranging from general guidance to academic or even financial support, Blackhawk said. The center will also serve as a resource for student projects such as summer research and making connections with Yale alumni in fields of interest.
“In general, the broad open ambition is that we have the opportunity through the center to establish a more permanent physical, administrative and intellectual presence on campus for these overlapping areas of interest,” Blackhawk said. “That physical presence will allow many faculty, and both graduate and undergraduate students, to find an academic space on campus outside of cultural centers to engage with these subjects.”