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Dean’s Newsletter: Fall 2021

As we begin a new fall semester, I write to extend a warm welcome to new and returning members of our College of Social Sciences and Humanities (CSSH) community!

Together, students, faculty, and staff in CSSH create and curate knowledge, addressing deep historical as well as pressing current issues ranging from climate change, to race and social justice, to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Collaboration is at the center of our Experiential Liberal Arts mission.

Welcoming New Students and the Summer Bridge Scholars Program

The College is delighted to welcome more than 650 new first-year students, 70 transfer undergraduate students, more than 270 master’s and 30 doctoral students this fall. It was exciting to greet new students in person at two convocations in Matthews Arena and at the CSSH Dean’s Welcome in Blackman Auditorium on Labor Day and to see the many welcome events that programs and departments have mounted in person, while safely masked, over the last couple of weeks. It was also exciting to connect virtually from Boston with students who are starting their studies in Rome and London. One fun piece of alumni news: we were thrilled that Political Science master’s alum and Ambassador of the Dominican Republic to the UN in Rome Mario Arvelo gave the global welcome keynote to incoming Northeastern students at our partner campus in Rome. As we are launching into the new semester, I am particularly grateful to the 106 CSSH peer mentors who will help our new undergraduate students dive into their programs this fall.

In July, Northeastern’s Summer Bridge Scholars Program, a key part of Northeastern’s diversity and inclusion work, gathered 513 incoming first-year students for an energetic week of academic and social events to acclimate them to the next phase of their educational journeys. The program included students from many different backgrounds, with 54 students from the College of Social Sciences and Humanities.

This was the first year that the program included incoming students from all of Northeastern’s undergraduate colleges. Faculty members, including colleagues from CSSH, administrators, and guest lecturers interacted with the new students on topics ranging from critical thinking skills that are a must-have for every course, to research opportunities, to the many cultural and spiritual groups available on campus. Each session enriched students with knowledge and skills that will help them succeed at Northeastern, whatever their college or major.

Peer mentors also played a big role in the program. These 90 advanced students, each assigned a group of incoming students to mentor, acted as guides and helping hands throughout the week. CSSH peer mentor Jimena Chavez, a third-year English and Communication Studies combined major with a minor in International Affairs, said she loved the program, specifically the sense of community it provided. “It was an amazing experience,” she said. “So many people together, it was just so engaging, and everything went smoothly.”

Peer mentor Jenia Browne, a second-year International Affairs major with minors in Environmental Studies and Cultural Anthropology, agreed that the program provided immense support for students who might be nervous about starting college. “It was really just letting them know that there’s somebody who is their age and more of a peer and maybe less intimidating who’s there throughout the program,” she said.

The week-long virtual program might be over, but the mentorship isn’t! Well into the fall and beyond, these peer mentors are committed to supporting their mentees on campus and virtually as they venture into their collegiate lives.

Welcoming New Faculty

We are excited to welcome many new faculty faces to the College this year, whom you can see here. Twelve new colleagues are jointly appointed, eight across colleges.

Régine Jean-Charles joined us on July 1 as the Director of Africana Studies, Dean’s Professor of Culture and Social Justice, and Professor of Africana Studies and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She brings an exceptionally strong profile of leadership in Africana, Caribbean, and Diaspora Studies, as well as gender studies, to CSSH. A preeminent Black feminist scholar, she has written and taught on francophone literature and cultures in the Caribbean, especially Haiti, and Sub-Saharan Africa, on Black France, and on the United States. She is the author of Conflict Bodies: The Politics of Rape Representation in the Francophone Imaginary (Ohio State University Press, 2014) and of over thirty articles and book chapters. Jean-Charles’s new book, A Trumpet of Conscience for the 21st Century: King’s Call to Justice, which examines three contemporary social justice movements through the lens of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s “call to conscience,” is forthcoming this fall. Her monograph Looking for Other Worlds: Black Feminism, Literary Ethics, and Haitian Fiction, is under contract with the University of Virginia Press. Jean-Charles is a regular contributor to media outlets like The Boston Globe, Ms. Magazine, WGBH, America Magazine, and WBUR’s Cognoscenti. We look forward to seeing the impact that Dr. Jean-Charles and our other new colleagues will make in the college and the broader university.

Faculty Recognitions and Press

Since I last wrote in May, CSSH faculty have continued to earn impressive recognitions, addressing questions around the pandemic, climate change, and civil rights, as well as other important social challenges.

Rashida Richardson is the latest faculty member to work on policy solutions in Washington, DC. The Assistant Professor of Law and Political Science, who researches the social and civil rights implications of data driven technologies, including artificial intelligence, and develops policy interventions and regulatory strategies regarding government surveillance, racial discrimination, and the technology sector, serving as Senior Policy Advisor for Data and Democracy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. In D.C., Richardson joins fellow CSSH faculty member Shalanda Baker, Professor of Law and Public Policy, who is serving as the Deputy Director for Energy Justice in the Office of Economic Inclusion and Diversity.

The William T. Grant Foundation has awarded Alicia Sasser Modestino, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Economics, and Rashad Cope, Director of Youth Engagement and Employment, City of Boston, an Institutional Challenge Grant in the amount of $650,000. The grant will support their ongoing research, Building a More Holistic and Inclusive Workforce Development System for Boston’s Youth, conducted through the Dukakis Center and in partnership with the City of Boston to evaluate the city’s summer jobs program.

Brandon Welsh, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, has been awarded the American Society of Criminology’s Division on Experimental Criminology Joan McCord Award, which recognizes distinguished experimental contributions with important implications for policy and practice. 

CSSH faculty continue to shape public discourse. Régine Jean-Charles published an op-ed in the Boston Globe on U.S. responses to Haiti. Costas Panagopoulos, Professor and Chair of Political Science, wrote in the Washington Post on research that finds non-White Americans routinely wait longer to vote. Dan O’Brien co-authored a report, picked up by Wired and other outlets, that some violent crimes tended to go up in a neighborhood a year or more after the number of Airbnbs increased. Serena Parekh, Professor of Philosophy, and Daniel Aldrich, Director of the Security and Resilience Studies Program and Professor in Political Science and Public Policy, both commented in News@Northeastern on the growing Afghan refugee crisis.

Upcoming Events

As the fall semester gets underway, we are looking forward to holding many more events in person or in a hybrid modality. I hope you will join the CSSH community for some important conversations. The recent upsurge in anti-Asian violence and bigotry in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has attracted renewed attention on a long-standing problem. Presented by the Asian Studies Program within the Department of Cultures, Societies, and Global Studies in CSSH, Asia America and the World invites a diverse slate of scholars from different disciplines to address critical issues confronting Asian American communities from a global or transnational perspective. The year-long event series kicks off on September 27, with a conversation on “Anti-Asian American Pacific Islander Hate in the Time of COVID-19” with the co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, Russell Jeung of San Francisco State University.

Beginning September 22, the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs’s Open Classroom will return each Wednesday evening, this semester under the theme “Repairing a Divided America,” with conversations on race, hate crimes, and reconciliation.

Last night was the beginning of a series of conversations and associated pop-up course on Sustainability & Resilience at Northeastern University, co-led by the director of SPPUA, Jennie Stephens. It features guest speakers who explore the challenges and opportunities for implementing sustainable and resilient programs at NU. The series is open to the entire Northeastern community (students, faculty, and staff), and topics include energy, recycling, ecology, resilience, sustainable food, and climate justice.

Later this fall, Laura Kuhl, Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and International Affairs, will lead students in another pop-up course that addresses the history and current issues in international climate diplomacy. The course (INPR 2183, Climate Negotiations) will be centered around the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference, to which Northeastern has observer status. Stay tuned for registration information.

It is exciting to see how the CSSH community, in collaboration with partners across the university and around the globe, works to tackle important issues of past and present, always evolving the contributions that perspectives of the humanities and social sciences can make to assessing the past and present and to finding solutions for a more equitable and healthier future. I wish all of us a successful fall semester, and I look forward to what we will learn and accomplish together in these times of challenge and opportunity.

With best wishes,

Uta Poiger
Dean, College of Social Sciences and Humanities

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