For the past two springs, Thacher has committed itself to MayHEM, a three-and-a-half day block of time set aside for mission-driven, collaborative, project-based, cross-curricular learning. This year, the roster had a strong emphasis on issues of equity and justice..
We talked to Matt Balano, director of diversity and inclusion, about what he makes of this focus.
First, here is a list of the courses we discussed:
Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles: A Case Study in the Power of a Community-Based, Holistic Approach to Comprehensive Gang Membership Intervention.
Service Learning: Action and Reflection
Chasing Water: The Natural, Historical, Political, Technological, Societal, and Economic Perspectives of Water Security
The Art of Protest—Visual, Written, Spoken, Music
Gay* LA (*inclusive of all LGBTQ+ identities)
U.S.- Mexico Border / Not Another Brick in the Wall
Crafts + Activism = Craftivism
Roots and Wings: The Past, Present, and Future of Black and Brown Unity Through “Artivism” in Los Angeles
Why do you think there was such an emphasis on equity, diversity, and inclusion in the MayHEM courses this year?
I think there are numerous reasons. Among them is the national climate and current discourse. Regardless of where we may find ourselves on the political spectrum, I think we all recognize the discord and tension. Our school mission and philosophy call us to be leaders in the service of others. Among those “others” are those on the margins on society. I think MayHEM provides our community the time and space to collaborate and design programming that holds at its center a kind of discernment-and-action model that furthers students’ understanding of what it means to serve the greatest good.
In addition, I think the focus speaks to the increased diversity in our faculty and their commitment to the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion. In addition to the professional development work we have been doing on campus, over the past two years roughly one-third of the faculty has attended off-campus diversity, equity, and inclusion professional development conferences and courses. . A common message the presenters emphasized at these conferences is the importance of educators taking personal and professional responsibility for their growth, education, and actions in these critical areas. I think in developing these MayHEMcourses, many of our faculty members took that message to heart.
Student Comments on MayHEM Courses:
“Learning about social issues and getting to portray a powerful message through art was the most meaningful experience for me in this class.” Victoria ’21—Crafts + Activism = Craftivism
“I thought that the speakers that we heard were both informative and inspirational and really helped to shape my understanding of LGBTQ identity.” Klara ’19—Gay* LA
“I really liked going to Homeboy Industries and learning about a gang member's experience. It opened my eyes as to why he joined and the hardships that he endured during his life.” Christina ’20—Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles
“I think going to the Lighthouse Shelter for Women was very rewarding. I came in with doubts, because I don't interact with people with such different experiences often. I was ashamed that I doubted at all. The truth is, I wondered if the children would be harsh to each other or the women would be wary of us. However, I found that they were some of the most welcoming and generous people I have met. The kids were some of the sweetest kids I have ever worked with and I enjoyed my time there so much.” Maya ’21
You can read more about the MayHEM program in this story.