A message from the director in these turbulent times: 

The Graduate Mentoring Center offers its condolences and support to members of the IU community who have been affected by recent tragedies throughout the world – from Orlando to St. Paul; Baton Rouge to Dallas; Nice to Juba.  

The first three tenets on which we are structured – balance, community, culture – mean that we strive to create and maintain a safe space in which all are welcomed into a community of mentors and scholars, where all cultures are respected, and where balance through contemplative practices and intentional mentoring can be achieved. 

Last academic year, undergraduate and graduate students invited me to attend meetings that addressed the attacks on minority students in Bloomington and on campus. As director of the center and a faculty member in the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies, I accepted as many of those that I could: if one of the center’s primary objectives is to serve historically underrepresented minority students, the decision was an easy one to make. At stake was and is the welfare, cohesion, and growth of those students and our IU communities.  

All graduate students face challenges in completing their degrees, some more than others and some with more serious circumstances than others (e.g., funding, family, health). Minority students face those challenges and those that are connected to, for example, their racial, ethnic, gender, socio-economic, and/or religious identities and their histories (and perceptions about them).

The Graduate Mentoring Center exists to help all students understand the contexts that shape their lives and to help them develop tools and strategies that will guide and sustain them through the graduate process. As part of the President’s Diversity Initiatives, we also exist to ensure that Indiana University remains a site where historically underrepresented minority students can attend Indiana University and thrive. This also ensures that all students at IU thrive. The University is a place where knowledge and experience, evidence and lived experiences permit each of us to learn from each other in order to create a “community of scholars” who can be the change we want in the world.  

One of my dissertation committee members asked me: what good will you do with this education? The center wants to make certain that through all this that we see that there is good to be received, done, and shared. 

Based on the events of the summer, this academic year promises to be one of deep contemplation and struggle. However, it also promises to be one of profound epiphanies, ones that can lead us to a community that is willing to work together to make change that will lead to healing.  

Last academic year, I had opportunity to work in Juba, South Sudan in March 2016 and June 2016. Two of my IU colleagues had to be evacuated in July. I spent my time in June teaching students about trauma, skills and knowledge they could use when faced – once again – when under attack. Since the new conflict in Juba on the eve of their independence, students have been emailing me their assignments from under their beds, in the midst of shelling, from refugee camps. The point is that this moment in time offers a myriad of chances to a true community of scholars not only at IU but in the world, a community in which we support the success of others while working towards a society in which we honor each other and work to make and keep peace.  

If you are a graduate student who wants to discuss these issues further, or simply want a place where you can talk about the work you do in the world and learn about contemplative strategies you can use to live fully in the world AND complete your thesis in a supportive community, join our Tough Topics/Safe Spaces series. In it, we learn about mindfulness and contemplative practices that help us be present and also help us recognize the importance of self-care. Also, feel free to join our Sitting for Peace meditations. Check our calendar for more information on both.

Please: If in these turbulent times you need to talk to someone confidentially, contact Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).  

Thank you for all the work you continue to do.  

Thank you for your dedication to learning and teaching.  

Thank you for being willing to be present during these times of change and transformation. 

Truly, YOU are the ones we have been waiting for.  

Maria E. Hamilton Abegunde, PhD