Lynch’s ERA Program to Present at Columbia University Conference

The Boston College Lynch School of Education and Human Development’s Experience, Reflection, Action (ERA) program was chosen to present its submission at the 38th Annual Winter Roundtable: A Pandemic of Racism hosted by the Teachers College at Columbia University. 

According to its website, ERA, a weekly seminar that serves as Lynch’s first-year experience program, aims to give students foundational skills to succeed throughout their time at BC and afterwards. The goal of the program is to develop students into well-rounded individuals through the Jesuit values of care for the whole person and care for the community. 

The roundtable, according to its website, is the longest-running continual professional education program in the United States that invites individuals, including scholars, students, and researchers, to discuss cultural issues in psychology, education, and social work. 

This year’s roundtable will place emphasis on the effects of systemic racism, specifically in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and police brutality, themes that relate to the curriculum of this year’s ERA program. 

“What we had been doing was very much around raising awareness in the ERA program on racial injustice and environmental racism, and in fact, the collaboration of the provost’s office and the ERA program this fall was particularly designed on consciousness raising on environmental racism,” said Lynch’s Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students and Programs and ERA Director Julia DeVoy. “That is an interesting happenstance or synchronicity.”

The ERA program’s submission is entitled “Raising Racial, Environmental, and Social Justice Awareness in Predominantly White Higher Education Settings.” In addition to DeVoy, ERA co-coordinators Laura Gonzalez and Christopher Ceccolini and ERA instructor Lianzhe Zheng will present, while seven other ERA instructors will attend, Devoy said. Applicants had to submit a proposal to present at the conference. 

“Environmental racism has been a topic of importance and that was the focus of our three design-thinking design swarms this fall in ERA,” DeVoy said. “So, when we wrote our submission for the Columbia University conference, we wrote about that. We wrote about how we used this topic and this set of tools to elevate awareness and to raise consciousness in our first-year students around this issue.”

The roundtable is headlined by keynote speakers Roxane Gay, author of Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body and Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, and Danice Brown, an associate professor at Towson University. It will run from Feb. 25 through Feb. 27. 

In 2017, Lynch redesigned the program to incorporate a design-thinking model and introduced a multilevel cohort model, consisting of undergraduates of all levels, instructors, and graduate students, to place a greater emphasis on mentorship and build a strong support system, according to DeVoy. 

“It was really clear that we needed to have it evolve to meet the strategic direction and the strategic plans of Boston College, and just to be more aligned with the future and the futures of Boston College,” she said. 

Faculty members from Lynch have presented about ERA at several national programs since the 2017 redesign, Devoy said—in 2018, at a conference in San Francisco hosted by the American Association of Colleges and Universities, and in 2019, at a conference hosted by the Society for the Psychological Study for Social Issues, a division of the American Psychological Association.

DeVoy said that ERA will continue to look at complex problems through a comprehensive and interdisciplinary lens in the future. Its curriculum for the spring semester will deal with freshwater scarcity, world hunger, agricultural sustainability, and global mental health and wellness, she said. 

“Enormous, multifaceted complex problems in the world will require collaboration across multiple disciplines and an interdisciplinary mindset, so that’s really a huge part of what the ERA team is doing,” she said.

Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor

February 7, 2021