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  • School of Social Work Hosts Listening Session on Voter Mobilization

    Screen Image of Zoom meeting with four attendees on the right side. On the left and center part of the image there is a slide that reads "Fair and Inclusive Voter Engagement Register Be Counted, Vote!" Within hte text is an image of multiple hands painted red, light blue, and dark blue with stars on them.

    Co-authored by Anna Gwiazda and Vicki Lekkas

     On Tuesday, September 14, 2021, Monmouth University’s School of Social Work hosted a listening session, titled “Social Workers, the Vote, and U.S. Democracy.” The event was co-sponsored by the Institute for Global Understanding and other organizations at Monmouth University. Dr. Sanjana Ragudaran, Associate Professor of Social Work at Monmouth University, moderated the session. The first speaker was Professor Mimi Abramovitz, the Bertha Capen Reynolds Professor of Social Policy at Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College,  and Co-Chair of the National Social Work Voter Mobilization Campaign. The second speaker was Dr. Terry Mizrahi a Professor (Emeritus) at the School of Social Work at Hunter College, Co-Chair of the National Movement to Advance Macro Practice in Social Work, and Co-Chair to the National Social Work Voter Mobilization Campaign. The primary focus of the session was on social workers’ role in advocating and making it accessible for all individuals to practice their civic duty of voting. This session was the first of a four-part series this fall, “Growing Together as Allies,” which addresses voting, advocacy, and action.

    Professor Abramovitz explained how the current political system is plagued with voter suppression ideologies and laws that restrict voting accessibility.   She shared the troubling statistic that “80 million eligible voters did not register in 2020 or more than 24 percent of the eligible population,” which does not account for the individuals who were registered to vote but never showed up to the polls. Professor Abramovitz recommended that all social workers ask their clients in a non-partisan manner if they are registered to vote and provide them with resources to do so. Additionally, she encouraged social work students, practicing social workers, faculty, and all individuals to visit the following website ( to access free training, campaign activities, and other resources.

    Dr. Mizrahi, a respected community organizer, explained a social worker’s responsibility for advocating against injustice on a larger scale. She referred to an ethical standard in the National Association of Social Worker Code of Ethics, which provides that social workers should “facilitate informed participation by the public in shaping social policies and institutions.” Dr. Mizrahi then described principles and tools of community organizing to combat laws that restrict voting and make voting less accessible. Slide from zoom meeting that reads, "Benefits of voting. For Individuals: Higher levels of health and mental health, stronger social connections, better employment outcomes, and a greater sense of individual efficacy. For communities: Communities with high voter turnout receive more attention, quicker responses, and greater resources from legislators than communities with low voter turnout. For the porfession. Voting elevates social work's visibility and voice. It supports programs and services that benefit out clients, communities, and wider society.

    The Institute for Global Understanding recognizes the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the gold standard in the promotion of an equal, just, and prosperous world. Throughout the listening session,  the speakers highlighted the challenges our country faces with voter suppression and voting accessibility. This injustice conflicts with SDG number 16, which seeks to promote “peaceful” and “inclusive societies.” Urgent action is needed to protect and promote voting because democracy is the foundation upon which our government was built. For more information and to resources on how to encourage voting please visit the ( webpage.

    Access a recording of the Social Workers, the Vote, and US Democracy Listening Session Here. To learn more about the other listening sessions hosted by the School of Social Work Growing Together as Allies Fall 2021 Speaker Series, please click here.

  • IGU 2021 Biennial Symposium Features Monmouth Student Panel

    By Muge Gore

    On Saturday, March 27, the Institute for Global Understanding (IGU) presented the Monmouth Student Panel during its biennial symposium, which showcased five students and their state-of-the-art projects revolving around the intersection between human rights and the environment. Dr. Melissa Alvaré, a lecturer in the Department of Political Science and Sociology, moderated the event. Hannah Burke, a graduate student in the School of Social Work, presented her topic, “Death and Sustainability: Post-Mortem Conservation”; Jessica Stos, a graduate student in the Department of Professional Counseling, presented her topic, “Nature’s Rights: A Discussion on Mother Earth, Cultural Sensitivity, and the Impact of Nature’s Constitutional Rights on Indigenous People”; Katelyn Snyder, a graduate student of English, presented her topic, “Intersectionality of Social Justice Concerns with Art and the Environment: A Case Studies of Pictures of Garbage”; Dan Conte, an undergraduate student in the Department of Political Science and Sociology, presented his topic, “Ocean Acidification as a Climate Change Harm in the Inter-American Court System”; and lastly, London Jones, an undergraduate student in the Department of Communication, presented her topic, “Keep the Culture, Change the Fate: Responding to the Threat of Climate Gentrification to Asbury Park’s West Side.” Together, these students informed and inspired the audience on their cutting-edge topics.

    Hannah Burke's PresentationThe panel began with MSW graduate student Hannah Burke on the innovative and useful practice of embalming. During the American Civil War, physicians preserved the bodies of soldiers who had died in battle and prepared them to return home intact. However, the process involved harsh chemicals, and the funeral industry quickly turned into a funeral market. Today, embalming a human body typically costs between $500 and $700, and funeral costs range from $7,000 to $12,000. This industry makes about $15 billion a year from grieving families. Burke explained how the practice of contemporary embalming has led to deforestation due to harsh chemicals, including the release of carbon monoxide into our environment, and to the “death denial” phenomenon in modern American society. In relation to this, embalming today does not involve family and loved ones in the process. Burke suggested that instead of the mainstream tradition of funerals, some eco-friendly options are natural and conservation burials. Both practices are not only ecosystems-friendly but cost significantly less than traditional funerals. Burke’s strategy captures the true essence of environmentally friendly methods to promote a more sustainable future.

    Student panelist Katelyn Snyder, a graduate student in the Department of English, delivered a presentation on a subject that dovetails with Burke’s approach. Snyder presented on the intersectionality of social justice concerns with art and the environment, diving into a case study of pictures with garbage. Capitalism has contributed to garbage’s proliferation and the tendency for people to physically throw stuff away, with feminism playing an important role in the rhetoric’s effectiveness on pollution. Through an analysis of the documentary titled Waste Land and with a collection of pictures of garbage, Snyder argued that aesthetic rhetoric and constitutive rhetoric regarding climate change and pollution allow for an intersectional recognition of how art can reveal the dynamics of class, racism, and gender in connection with pollution. An interesting outlook that Snyder addressed was an art piece of an Afro-Brazilian woman who depicts the normative gender roles of female frailty and women’s domestic labor in Brazil. Poverty, race, and gender set a true divide, as Brazilian history shows, because marginalized populations experience the most significant environmental challenges. Her presentation set the stage for addressing several different human rights and environmental concerns that left the audience searching for more answers.

    Burke’s and Snyder’s presentations were followed by compelling climate justice presentations from London Jones and Dan Conte, which addressed local and global dimensions of these challenges. If we continue to conduct these important educational conversations locally and globally, we may proactively address issues such as environmental degradation, intersectionality, carbon emissions, a shifting death culture, and climate gentrification.

  • IGU’s Intracampus Synergies Committee Seeks to Engage Students and Build Interdisciplinary Partnerships Across Campus

    By Chelsea Franchette

    “Intracampus synergies” is a complex phrase that can be simply explained by examining each word in the phrase. The first word, intracampus, means within a college or university, and synergy means to have two or more entities interacting and cooperating with one another to achieve a common goal. These terms as a whole signify collaboration among various organizations on a campus to accomplish a larger goal, namely, the IGU’s mission of promoting awareness of global affairs and cross-cultural understanding issues both on and off campus.

    The Intracampus Synergies Committee was established in July 2020 as part of the IGU’s official relaunch. The IGU Faculty Advisory Council created this committee because it identified a need for an organization that could bridge the gaps among faculty, staff, students, and student-led organizations. The Intracampus Synergies Committee encourages unity among these different groups and will assist the organizations in reaching the goals that they might have struggled to achieve on their own. This committee facilitates synergy through outreach to student and faculty leaders on campus who are involved in the various organizations.

    The Intracampus Synergies Committee has three members: Professor Claude Taylor, a lecturer in Communication Studies and the Director of Academic Transition and Inclusion; Dr. Lisa Daniella, Professor of Psychology and the Director of the Program in Gender and Intersectionality Studies; and Associate Professor Jing Zhou of the Department of Art and Design. The IGU Faculty Advisory Council collaborates with the committee to advance the committee’s mission of connecting with students, student organizations, faculty, employees, and institutes at Monmouth University to develop ways for people within the campus community to become involved with the IGU’s work. The committee seeks to support organizations at the university in their global thinking in the hope that these organizations can increase their engagement with the IGU. The institute seeks to amplify students’ and student organizations’ voices on subjects worldwide.

    The importance of a committee like Intracampus Synergies at Monmouth University lies in its significant capacity to promote cross-cultural and global conversations outside of the students’ classrooms. Students of any major can apply what they are learning in their courses to their lives outside of the classroom. This allows students to grasp how they fit into the world around them on local and global scales.

    One of the committee’s immediate goals is to introduce itself to the Monmouth community. Doing so will raise campus and community awareness of the IGU and of global issues with local opportunities for education and engagement. Although the current COVID-19 pandemic has complicated the committee’s efforts, the committee members are conducting and joining virtual meetings to reach students and faculty to inform them about the committee’s — and the IGU’s — mission.

    “The most important task we have had as a committee in year one is to get connected to student leaders interested in the work and mission of IGU. Our series of spring semester virtual meet-and-greet sessions served as a great way for student leaders to get to know IGU and to brainstorm together on ways we can create student-centered synergies.” – Prof. Claude Taylor, lecturer in Communication Studies and the Director of Academic Transition and Inclusion

  • IGU Presents Monmouth Faculty Panels on Human Rights and the Environment in Biennial Symposium

    By Madison Hanrahan and Emily O’Sullivan

    On Friday, March 26, the Monmouth University Institute for Global Understanding (IGU) hosted faculty panels discussing human rights and the environment as part of its biennial symposium. Dr. Catherine Duckett, Associate Dean of the School of Science, moderated a panel featuring Dr. Melissa Alvaré, Dr. Kathleen Grant, Dr. Eric Fesselmeyer, and Dr. Abha Sood. Tony MacDonald, Esq., Director of the Urban Coast Institute, moderated a panel featuring Dr. John Comiskey, Dr. Tom Herrington, and Dr. Robin Mama. The presenters covered a wide variety of informative and engaging topics, ranging from climate gentrification to sustainable development goals.

    Dr. Alvaré, a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science and Sociology, was the first panelist of the afternoon. She discussed how sea level rise brought on by climate change has led to challenges for coastal communities, such as flooding. As a result, wealthier coastal communities relocate inland to escape the flooding into low-income and minority communities. This process is known as climate change gentrification. As it is impossible for everyone to move inland, one proposed method to alleviate the risk of flooding in coastal areas is to create green infrastructure such as wetlands and rain gardens to hold stormwater. Dr. Alvaré explained that utilizing green infrastructure in areas prone to flooding can actually cause more gentrification in these areas because this infrastructure, which contributes to the utilities and aesthetics of an area, raises property values, further gentrifying the area and displacing existing communities from their homes. Some examples of cities that are currently affected by climate change gentrification include Southbridge in Wilmington, Delaware; Philadelphia; and Boston. Dr. Alvaré proposed a variety of ways to prevent climate change gentrification, such as utilizing organizations focused on environmental resilience, sustainability, and clean energy initiatives; enforcing rent control and tax freezes; preserving and building affordable housing; and most importantly, organizing within local communities to address gentrification.

    Next, Dr. Kathleen Grant, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Counseling, gave a presentation on the link between advocacy for climate change and social justice. She explained white people’s domination of resources and belief that the Earth itself is a resource to be extracted, utilized, sold, and discarded. She compared this view to how groups treat people of color. Dr. Grant provided an example of this issue with a description of the Flint, Michigan water crisis and the construction of pipelines through Indigenous communities. Both examples show how society has neglected to fund and invest in basic life-sustaining infrastructure in many communities of color. This lack of basic human rights toward people of color is evident throughout the United States; from the lead water crisis in Newark, New Jersey to the higher frequency of flooding and natural disasters in low-income communities, and to the industrial and waste sites that are primarily located in poorer neighborhoods. Dr. Grant explained that dominant groups typically have more political and economic power, and since older white males are the dominant demographic in positions of authority in the United States, they protect themselves against these harms, which leads to institutional racism.

    Dr. Eric Fesselmeyer, an Associate Professor of Economics, followed Dr. Grant, and presented his work on whether heat affects certain populations disproportionately. His theory is that people trade environmental quality for lower housing costs, which puts many people of color in neighborhoods with more concrete and less nature, thereby increasing the temperature in those communities. Using the 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census data, Dr. Fesselmeyer provided multiple maps and graphs outlining the connection between higher temperatures and factors that define lower-income neighborhoods. He concluded his presentation with substantial evidence that shows a connection between race/origin, rent, income, and college education.

    The last speaker on the first Monmouth faculty panel, Dr. Abha Sood, who is a Lecturer in the Department of English, gave her presentation on the displaced community of the Isle de Jean Charles. This island used to be part of the marshes of southern Louisiana, but due to sea level rise and the effects of drilling and infrastructure along the Mississippi River, it is now no more than 320 square acres. The inhabitants were primarily Native Americans who integrated with a small French community. According to Dr. Sood, “Since the inhabitants are a mix of Indian and French Acadians, the government did not recognize them as Native Americans,” which led to the loss of the state government’s financial assistance. In the 1900s, communities along the Mississippi River began to flood, so engineers installed infrastructure such as dams, locks, levees, and floodwalls to protect them. As a result, however, the flow of freshwater and rich sediment that traveled down the Mississippi River to the marshes where the Isle de Jean Charles is located was interrupted which turned the marshes into saltwater and prevented crop cultivation. In 1950, oil companies appeared around the marshes and destroyed the land in search of oil. Additionally, multiple hurricanes in Louisiana further damaged the region, leaving the marshes unrepaired. Due to the Isle de Jean Charles’ poor condition, almost all the residents of the island have left. Louisiana is more focused on the residents who still reside on the island rather than on the tribe. This case study of the Isle de Jean Charles seems to parallel the tribe of Kivalina, Alaska, as both struggled to secure the government’s assistance. As Chief Naquin stated, “The plan is no longer meeting the goals and objectives set out by the residents and IDIC tribe.” The Isle de Jean Charles is just one example of many that show how detrimental climate change can be, especially when multiple parties disregard human involvement’s consequences on the surrounding environment.

    Leading off the second Monmouth faculty panel, Dr. John Comiskey, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice, presented a talk titled “Climate Insecurity: An Anthropocene Security Approach to a Sustainable Global Future.” A professor in the Criminal Justice Department, Dr. Comiskey offered a perspective that linked climate inaction to “systemic security risks,” explaining that environmental degradation “undermines our security ecosystems.” Citing Hurricane Katrina as an example, Dr. Comiskey illustrated that natural disasters pose as significant a threat to the nation’s security. Accordingly, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security must “securitize” climate change and consider it of the highest priority. In doing so, the U.S. could achieve climate security, a term Dr. Comiskey defines as the “sustained implementation of prevention, mitigation, and resilience measures necessary to permit the responsible management of climate change risks.”

    Dr. Comiskey constructed climate models in which he created several scenarios based on the climate change realities experienced today. He provided attendees with the long-term consequences of such models, which include but are not limited to hospitals stretched beyond capacity; food and water shortages, instigating looting and violence; soaring unemployment; and a nationwide increase in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety. Since the United States’ current policies are insufficient to prevent these outcomes, Dr. Comiskey underscored the urgency of bringing the climate crisis to the forefront of security discussions.

    Following Dr. Comiskey, Dr. Tom Herrington, the Associate Director of the Urban Coast Institute (UCI), shared his research titled “Climate Change-driven Coastal Migration: State of Our Knowledge and Required Research Questions that Need to Be Answered.” Dr. Herrington began by identifying coastal populations as the most vulnerable to climate change due to sea level rise. Indeed, it is estimated that, by 2100, 13.1 million people in the United States “may be displaced from the coast due to up to six feet of sea level rise.”

    With this in mind, Dr. Herrington asked three core questions: Where will this population relocate to, when will the relocation process begin, and what resources are necessary to prepare? First, he found that people will likely move to an area in close proximity to their original home given relocation’s difficulty. Similarly, he concluded that there is a class component for internal migration: those who come from well-resourced communities have an advantage over those from under-resourced neighborhoods. “Where we have highly resourced or privileged populations, they have a lot of capacity to move or to affect their own outcomes whereas, where we have marginalized, under-resourced communities, they are vulnerable and left with few options,” Dr. Herrington explained, echoing Dr. Grant’s presentation. Furthermore, there is minimal data on the whereabouts of those whom natural disasters have displaced. For example, little is known about what happened to the people who Hurricane Katrina devastated, underscoring the need for further research in this area. Thus, Dr. Herrington encouraged increased research on the matter and emphasized the value of learning from past experiences.

    Finally, Dr. Robin Mama, the Dean of the School of Social Work, offered a perspective from her field through her work titled “Sustainable Development Goals: Action Comes Alive!” As an International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) Representative to the United Nations, Dr. Mama discussed the IFSW’s efforts toward sustainable development. The IFSW represents over half a million social workers spanning 141 countries, and the federation possesses special consultative status with the UN. According to Dr. Mama, the IFSW’s focus as an international organization is to “promote social work to achieve social development, to advocate for social justice globally, and to facilitate international cooperation.” As a representative, Dr. Mama advocates for the social work profession and assists the UN in attaining its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), explaining that social workers are critical components of the latter due to their holistic, interdisciplinary skill sets. For example, social workers are always present in natural disasters and conversant in the discipline of disaster mental health. Therefore, it is clear that social workers are essential combatants in the war against the climate crisis.

    To view the recording of the faculty panels, enter the following passcode: @?N0$sY


  • Monmouth Social Work Day at the UN: A Look into IFSW’s Involvement with Dean Robin Mama

    By Muge Gore

    Dean Robin MamaOn March 16, 2021, the Social Work Society at Monmouth University participated in the 37th Annual Social Work Day at the United Nations (UN). This year, the group explored the new world of the COVID-19 pandemic, shining a light on social workers collaborating across borders to discuss education during this time. The event featured several discussion topics, such as online learning and field placements, self-care and socialization, and decolonizing the social work profession. In addition, the discussants addressed how social workers have prepared to work internationally because of the pandemic.

    The panelists consisted of International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) representatives and UN representatives from the North American region. The following School of Social Work faculty members made special appearances: Associate Professor Dr. Michael Cronin (IFSW Regional Commissioner), Dean Robin S. Mama, Ph.D. (IFSW Representative), and Associate Professor Dr. Anne C. Deepak (UN Representative). Graduate social work students Shenae Osborn from Fordham University and Hannah Burke from Monmouth University joined as event co-chairs.

    The IFSW strives to achieve social justice, sustainable social development, and human rights and inclusiveness through its promotion of social work practice and engagement in international cooperation. It has six different regions: Global, the African Region, the Asia-Pacific Region, the European Region, the Latin American and the Caribbean Region, and the North American Region. With 128 national members, each region holds commissioners who are tasked with coordinating with the UN. The commissioners regularly take part in the IFSW board meetings, supply necessary information about the two organizations, and network with other commissioners and with representatives in the process. They also lead report submissions and communications with the UN, all while handling the UN Commission budget.

    In leading this discussion, Dean Robin S. Mama described the IFSW and her journey within the organization. Regarding Monmouth’s goals, the School of Social Work hosted an event on March 16 titled “Responses to COVID-19: Standing Together Makes Us Stronger.” The panelists spoke about the pandemic’s effects on their agencies to date. The panelists included representatives from the UN Development Program, the International Labor Organization (ILO), and the UN Research Institute. The panelists also addressed the pandemic’s implications for social workers moving forward. Normally, this annual event is held for select individuals to attend at the UN Headquarters in New York City, but due to COVID-19 restrictions the event occurred virtually. Dean Mama remarked that the virtual setting contributed to a better turnout than in previous years.

    With her sustained involvement, the IFSW has impacted not only Dean Mama’s professional life but also the student body on Monmouth’s campus. Her affiliation with the UN has provided more experiences than she ever anticipated to develop and to reflect on her field. The program builds opportunities and relationships with members at the UN, therefore allowing Dean Mama to connect IFSW members to the Monmouth community in various ways. Her own introduction to the IFSW has influenced her work as well. Dean Mama shared a story about her time as a graduate student when the former Bryn Mawr College Dean of Social Work, who was the President of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) at the time, was asked to provide a name for the UN team in New York. Because she stayed connected with the NASW president and consistently networked on a macro level, her name was suggested. Dean Mama also emphasized how much she enjoys social work on a macro level because this dynamic field offers continuous inspiration and challenge.

    In an interview, Dean Mama included a couple general tips. First, she suggested that no one should turn down an opportunity. By building experience and a strong network, one can reach goals beyond their imagination. Secondly, with Monmouth’s relationship with the UN, the university has enjoyed multiple opportunities to bring speakers to the university, to provide internships, and to connect faculty members with other UN events. In its ties to the UN and with the commitment of the faculty in the School of Social Work, Monmouth University continues to make strides in “standing together to become stronger.”

    You can view a recording of the 37th Annual Social Work Day at the UN here.

  • IGU Launches 2021 Symposium with Remarks from Congressman Frank Pallone and Prof. Maxine Burkett’s Distinguished Lecture

    By Emily O’Sullivan

    Professor Randall AbateOn March 25, 2021, Monmouth University’s Institute for Global Understanding (IGU) launched its three-day biennial symposium, inviting attendees from around the world to join experts in exploring a central theme: human rights and the environment. Though the IGU had orchestrated several symposia during its initial period of existence, this event marked the relaunched IGU’s first major event since the institute’s hiatus from 2015-2020. Soon after Prof. Randall Abate was appointed Director of the relaunched IGU in March 2020, Abate and his colleagues on the IGU Faculty Advisory Council devoted nearly a year to prepare for the forum, enlisting the help of multiple student assistants and interns along the way. Though the COVID-19 pandemic’s realities forced the symposium to pivot from its usual in-person format, the use of an online platform made for a truly global experience, connecting speakers and participants from across the globe and allowing the IGU to exert its greatest possible impact in its first year back on campus.

    Following a warm welcome from Monmouth University President Dr. Patrick F. Leahy, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr.President Patrick Leahy addressed the virtual crowd. Born in Long Branch, Congressman Pallone has firsthand experience with the Monmouth community. He has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1988 and currently represents New Jersey’s 6th congressional district, a position in which he fights for many issues that are integral to the IGU’s mission. Specifically, he is a fierce environmental justice advocate, combating the climate crisis in his role as the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and working to maintain the ecological integrity of coastal New Jersey communities.

    Congressman Frank Pallone Jr.In relation to this passion, he happily reported that the United States has become “re-engaged” in the battle against climate change, with President Biden rejoining the Paris Agreement during his first days in office and reinstating important relationships with international allies. Given the urgency regarding climate action, such measures are paramount. Congressman Pallone remarked that New Jersey residents in particular experience the consequences of inaction, hearkening back to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the years it took to rebuild what had been destroyed. With this in mind, he stressed the importance of service at both the local and global levels, and he praised the university for its commitment to “international affairs and global understanding” and to “the local community and so many things involving the Jersey Shore.” The IGU similarly values local-global connections, and it strives to promote an environmentally just future alongside key leaders in the movement like Congressman Pallone.

    As the founder and inaugural director of the IGU, Dr. Rekha Datta first instilled this Provost Rekha Dattaprinciple into the institute’s mission. Through her current posts as Monmouth’s Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Datta works toward this vision on a university-wide scale. Speaking after Congressman Pallone, she provided a bit of insight into the IGU’s history, explaining that “a small group of faculty and staff getting together in the student center in June of 2001 and just wondering what we could do to promote more global and cultural literacy on this campus” spearheaded the IGU’s creation. Guided by Margaret Mead’s philosophy, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,” the IGU was born. Functioning as a space of faculty and student engagement throughout its 20-year history, the IGU has long envisioned a world that understands the connection between human rights and the environment as significant to every living being, and the re-launched IGU now hopes to build on Dr. Datta and her colleagues’ legacy.

    As a step toward this goal, Director Abate secured Professor Maxine Burkett to deliver the symposium’s Distinguished Lecture, titled “Root and Branch: Climate Migration, Racial Crises, and the Future of Climate Justice.” Hailing from the University of Hawaii’s William Richardson School of Law, Professor Burkett is a world-renowned legal scholar known for her work on climate migration and on climate justice inside and outside academic contexts. In addition to her role as an educator, she currently serves as the Co-founder and Director of the Institute for Climate and Peace, a position that highlights her skills as “a leader in the intersectionality of climate change as an issue that is fundamentally at the corner of human rights and the environment.” Professor Burkett’s scholarship focused on these issues long before they entered mainstream dialogue, which is why Director Abate referred to her as a “pioneer” in the environmental justice movement and honored her longstanding efforts toward a better future for all.

    Professor Maxine BurkettProfessor Burkett began her talk by establishing the linkages among racism, racial hierarchy, environmental degradation, and the law, deeming contemporary climate change “the climax of centuries of wrong relationships with our natural environment.” She then proceeded to discuss climate migration within our constructed geopolitical landscape, explaining that man-made borders exacerbate the conditions of climate-driven movement and perpetuate “racialized exclusion.” Before diving further into her discussion, she defined common terms in the climate mobility lexicon, differentiating between climate displacement and climate migration on the basis that the latter implies a degree of voluntary movement while the former results from short-term force. On a similar note, a key understanding of climate migration is that the most vulnerable — the poor — often lack the resources to emigrate from their established communities, creating a problem of “trapped populations.” Moreover, climate migrants cannot turn to any legitimate source of recourse, for no single governance entity is required to respond to their troubles. Consequently, Professor Burkett moved onto an analysis of reparations, citing various scholars who hold that countries that have historically contributed to the climate change crisis should assume responsibility for mitigating the challenges that accompany today’s climate migration. She also noted that the most substantive reparation is one committed to the principle of “non-repetition,” guaranteeing that future communities will not have to withstand the past’s ills.

    On a related topic, Professor Burkett explored the work of Jason Hickel, a renowned anthropologist who argued, “rich countries aren’t developing poor countries: poor countries are developing rich countries, and they have been since the late 15th century.” Similarly, she explained that the leading world powers attained their status by exploiting the countries we often refer to as “developing” today, supporting her argument that countries can perhaps best help those that are struggling from environmental degradation by simply wielding “less harm” on them. In short, a global system of inequity has created the current climate landscape, and world leaders must actively reject past habits if they seek to combat the climate crisis effectively.

    Importantly, Professor Burkett concluded her lecture on an optimistic note, paying homage to the many who work alongside her to catalyze an increasingly equitable future. Like Congressman Pallone, she expressed appreciation for the Biden administration’s recognition of the crisis’ urgency and its prioritization of relevant initiatives, even beyond the Paris Agreement. Ultimately, Professor Burkett encouraged the attendees to consider that people are capable of a better tomorrow — to reach one, though, they must first evaluate the roots that brought them to their current destination and learn enough from them to never make the same mistakes again. As Professor Burkett noted in her lecture, “Decision-makers have generally favored low-hanging fruit in our problem-solving yet, at the roots, we find the origins of both a dangerously cabin view of the environment and a political economy that has relied on sacrificing land and people.”

    To view the opening remarks and Distinguished Lecture, please watch the recording on YouTube.

  • Monmouth’s World Cinema Series Concludes the 2020-2021 Season with “Woman at War”

    By Emily O’Sullivan

    Woman at War PosterOn Thursday, April 15, the World Cinema Series rounded out an enlightening year of film analysis with Benedikt Erlingsson’s Woman at War. The capstone of the 2020-2021 theme, “A Delicate Balance: Global Communities and the Natural Environment,” the 2018 release invites viewers to grapple with one of the most pressing issues of our time: human-induced climate change. Set as a battle between Halla, a middle-aged environmental activist devoted to ecological integrity, and the Icelandic government’s plans for a multinational corporation’s construction of an aluminum plant, the film communicates a poignant message: this generation is the last capable of coming to the Earth’s defense in the long-running war against it, and there is simply not any time left to waste.

    World Cinema Series Director Dr. Thomas Pearson assembled a compelling panel of discussants, each with expertise that complemented the film’s distinct components. The audience first heard from Dr. Catherine N. Duckett, an entomologist by training and the Associate Dean of the School of Science. With a multitude of experiences relating to the science and politics oDr. Catherine Duckettf climate change, Dr. Duckett finds great reward in helping her students “find their activist voice.” She approached the film with an understanding that “climate change in the United States is often viewed from a lens clouded by misinformation… when climate scientists share their knowledge, they’re often labeled as an extremist or as an alarmist when, for the most part, they have been erring on the side of caution and sugarcoating results.” From this perspective, she launched a conversation surrounding a key question at the root of the story’s narrative: how can one distinguish between an activist and an extremist?

    Dr. Nancy Mezey, a Professor of Sociology and the Dean of the Honors School, labeled this quest for classification as motivated by a “false dichotomy,” adding that one can absolutely “be angry without being violent.” Dr. Mezey teaches courses in race, class, and gender studies,Dr. Nancy Mezey and she spent two years serving in the Peace Corps before earning her Ph.D. at Michigan State University and arriving at Monmouth University in 2002. A specialist in family sociology, she pointed out another conflict at the heart of the film: can Halla identify as both a “good mother” and a fearless activist? To Dr. Mezey, this issue represents a similar false dichotomy, especially given that the definition of a “good mother” varies widely from culture to culture. In Woman at War, Halla’s bold stance against the climate injustice before her reflects her take on both motherhood and activism: “It is our inalienable right to protect future generations, and our children and our grandchildren will have no chance unless we act now.”

    Professor Maiya FurgasonProfessor Maiya Furgason, an instructor in the Leon Hess Business School with over 35 years of wealth management experience and whose travels span 103 countries, offered critical insight about the Icelandic corporate setting. Mainly, she dissected the “major role of industrial sabotage” against ecological initiatives that has left world citizens without “much time to rescue our environment.” Though the aluminum plant only employed a few hundred of Iceland’s 343 million people, it accounted for roughly 23 percent of the country’s GDP, forcing the Icelandic government to juggle between environmental and fiscal interests. Unfortunately, the latter frequently prevail over the former, underscoring the significance of generating discussions like those that have transpired at the World Cinema Series events all year long.

    In his closing remarks, Dr. Pearson noted, “Time pressure is very significant… for my part, I think of my granddaughter: what kind of world is she going to have 30, even 20 years from now?” With another successful year of the World Cinema Series on the books, Dr. Pearson is soliciting theme suggestions for the 2021-2022 academic year. Suggestions can be submitted to Dr. Pearson at The IGU has enjoyed engaging with this robust and engaging forum over the past year and looks forward to next year’s season with a new theme.

  • IGU and UCI Co-Host Global Ocean Governance Panel on the Intersection of Fisheries Governance and Social Justice

    By Madison Hanrahan

    Blue Economy SlideOn Friday, April 8, the Urban Coast Institute (UCI) and the Institute of Global Understanding (IGU) co-hosted a Global Ocean Governance panel focused on the topic of global fisheries governance and social justice. This panel included three speakers: Dr. Erika Techera, a professor of environmental law at the University of Western Australia; Dr. Xiao Recio-Blanco, the director of the Ocean Program at the Environmental Law Institute; and Dr. Yoshitaka Ota, a research assistant professor at the School of Marine & Environmental Affairs at the University of Washington. The panelists discussed issues such as social justice and accountability, the promotion of small-scale fisheries and sustainable fisheries, and the blue economy.

    IORA Member States MapDr. Techera’s prerecorded presentation addressed illegal fishing and governance in the Indian Ocean. She emphasized the Indian Ocean’s importance, as it connects multiple regions and countries with vastly different cultures, development, and laws that comprise a diverse and unique realm of fishing governance. Because this region is the fastest growing economy in the world, it is critical that policymakers and researchers examine and improve ocean and fishing regulations. All the countries in this region are highly dependent on the ocean. Dr. Techera noted that ensuring sustainable fishing practices in the Indian Ocean is necessary for the environment and for the region’s future development. In light of the fact that the technology to create sustainable fisheries already exists, there should be no hesitation in adopting the technologies. Dr. Techera explained that two areas of concern for countries surrounding the Indian Ocean and for the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) member states are that the region researchers and states need to improve their understanding and recognition of the region to help these countries achieve their blue economy goals and confirm that sustainable fishing is crucial for this region. The countries bordering the Indian Ocean rely on the ocean for food, for security, and for their peoples’ livelihoods.

    Next, Dr. Xiao Recio-Blanco delivered a lecture on galvanizing community participation with regulatory reform for small-scale fisheries governance. He emphasized that 90 percent of the world’s 120 million fisheries are small-scale fisheries, and each is extremely diverse in terms of technology and cultural use. He discussed the importance of regulating small-scale fisheries, as current laws are not tailored to a specific county or region’s needs, and small-scale fisheries are typically underfunded and politically weak compared to their industrial counterparts. It has been a challenging Dr. Xiao Recio-Blanco's Presentationprocess to create effective laws regarding small-scale fisheries due to a general lack of understanding of small-scale fisheries, inadequate organization, a focus on industrial fisheries for additional profit, and policymakers overlooking small-scale fisheries in their agendas. Dr. Recio-Blanco suggested solutions to unregulated small-scale fisheries, among them adopting additional guidelines for small-scale fisheries to follow, using legal language in laws that affect small-scale fisheries, ensuring the writer of these laws understands how small-scale fisheries operate, and encasing the discussion of small-scale fisheries using a human rights lens. With his suggestions, countries can ensure effective and sustainable small-scale fishing for decades to come.

    Lastly, Dr. Yoshitaka Ota began his presentation by discussing the current ocean crisis, which is the result of climate change, development, pollution, and overfishing. He explained that, under current conditions, we will soon run out of fish to harvest from the ocean altogether. Scientific evidence shows that current fish stocks are at a biologically unsustainable level, and the biomass of predatory fish in the world’s oceans has declined by two-thirds over the last 300 years, indicating that there is not enough fish to sustain its population or human communities. Without human efforts to address climate change, the warmer ocean waters will drive fish closer to the poles, underscoring the need for sustainable fishing practices. Additionally, the current fishing practices violate human rights. Greedy fishermen practice wage slavery to catch more fish, hiring large numbers of workers and compensating them at low wages. Also, heedless businessmen approve chemical dumping, and runoff into the water contaminates fish that can then make the consumer ill.

    By viewing sustainable fishing regulations through a human rights lens, countries would also be able to achieve or to contribute to other sustainability goals such as eliminating poverty and ending world hunger. Dr. Ota explained that the loss of fishing jobs to ensure sustainable fish supplies means that countries must guarantee new jobs for these fishermen. To summarize the current plight of small-scale fisheries, a conservation scientist quipped, “Fishermen need the ocean, but the ocean does not need fishermen.”

    To view the recording of the panel, please visit the UCI’s webpage on the event.

  • IGU Hosts Panel on COVID-19’s Impact on Migrant Workers

    Co-authored by Muge Gore and Courtney Gosse

    On March 31, the Institute for Global Understanding (IGU) held a panel event, co-sponsored by the School of Social Work and the Department of Professional Counseling, titled COVID-19 Impact on Migrant Workers Globally and Locally: Vaccine Access Equity? Moderated by Dr. Sanjana Ragudaran, Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work, this event brought together a community of four social workers to discuss issues related to COVID-19 and its effect on migrant workers. For years, migrant workers have suffered from a lack of accessible resources — and now they also face difficulty in accessing a COVID-19 vaccine.

    The event’s first panelist, Dr. Marciana Popescu, is an Associate Professor at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service. Dr. Popescu began her presentation with an eye-opening statement on her exercise of her privilege when, earlier that same day, she received her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Most people do not share this privilege due to the complex emergencies occurring, especially within the forced migrant population. Forced migrants are dealing with elevated levels of insecurities — whether these are food insecurity, police brutality, job loss, or domestic violence. Dr. Popescu also touched on child abuse and domestic violence cases, which have dropped during the pandemic. This statistic does not reflect a reduction in domestic violence; however, it merely means that people are failing to report issues behind closed doors with limited opportunities to leave their homes. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has divided migrant communities. Over 80 million have been forcibly displaced.

    What happens when people do not have proper shelter? Why do most people assume that running water and soap are universally available? New Jersey Assemblywoman Joann Downey (LD-11) asked these important questions regarding the state government’s role in ensuring its citizens have access to basic necessities. New Jersey has experienced its own challenges since the pandemic began. The digital divide has caused many people to have lost the will to want help. Food insecurity, housing insecurity, and tech insecurity affect the forced migrants who are here in our own backyard. Moreover, children in schools have suffered from these insecurities, including a lack of working technology or a stable WiFi connection at home, rising levels of domestic violence, fewer school meals, and an overall learning loss with less instructional time and possibly no in-person instruction at school.

    Dr. Omolola Taiwo, Executive Director at the New Jersey Department of Health, and her organization are pushing the barriers of accessibility to communities. Her office ensures that everyone in the community can obtain resources made all the more essential during the pandemic. Not only should individual needs be met but also those of entire families. Access to the vaccine has shown a common thread of stigma carried out in these communities. Dr. Taiwo mentioned that something as simple as clean clothing is largely inaccessible. Overall, we must ensure that policies and practices, like telehealth, are sustainable for all communities to thrive.

    Ms. Beatriz Oesterheld, the Executive Director of the Community Affairs & Resource Center in Asbury Park, proved that working within a community can benefit individuals’ lives. Her organization has worked within the Latino community to provide information sessions, like workshops on the vaccine, in hopes of bringing awareness to the public. In her experience with the pandemic, she has seen that Latino and other minority communities do not have reliable access to phones or to the Internet and, therefore, cannot search for accurate information regarding the vaccine. Her organization then created a registration system that brings families in by appointment. This system has not only assisted communities in accessing the vaccine but has also provided a sense of security and trust in the vaccine, which helps to save people’s lives and ensures that the assistance does not affect individuals’ immigration status.

    As we navigate the new normal of the pandemic every day, opportunities such as this panel address the many ways that social workers have been addressing the human rights issues impacting forced migrants. It is important for individuals to continue to educate one another about the virus, along with providing proper access to the vaccine. Many of us have the power at our fingertips, so we must continue to work tirelessly to support our communities. Taking into consideration that some individuals struggle to obtain what others take for granted, we should be able to apply the extensive research available and develop new ways to continuously resolve the issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    To view the recording of the discussion, enter the following passcode: Z?TpESp3

  • IGU 2021 Biennial Symposium Features Panel on New Directions in Human Rights and the Environment

    By Madison Hanrahan

    On Friday, March 26, the Institute for Global Understanding (IGU) hosted a panel titled “New Directions in Human Rights and the Environment” during its biennial symposium. This panel, hosted by IGU Director Professor Randall Abate, included a variety of speakers who contributed their voices to shed light on the human rights dimensions of environmental changes. Moderated by Professor James. R. May of Widener University, Delaware Law School, the panel was an intriguing and insightful presentation of human rights issues around the world that have been critically impacted by environmental challenges such as having access to clean drinking water, maintaining cultural traditions, and confronting gender-based issues. The panel addressed the following overarching question: Do human rights include the right to a healthy environment?

    Dr. Joshua Gellers, a LEED Green Associate and Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of North Florida, discussed rights-based approaches to environmental protection. He reported on the status of rights to the environment and rights to nature, including their utility in the courts and in practical application. Incorporating environmental rights when considering new environmental legislation will result in smaller ecological footprints, greater environmental performance, better access to improved water and sanitation services, and reduced carbon emissions. Dr. Gellers highlighted the issue that there is no precedent of judges validating the rights of nature, which is a barrier to implementation of protections for these rights. He stated, “We do not have a discussion from an empirical standpoint about the actual concrete impacts once judges have actually validated the rights of nature in their jurisprudence.”

    Dr. Marijana Mladenov then presented her research on recent jurisprudence of the European Convention on Human Rights. Dr. Mladenov is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law for Commerce and Judiciary at the University Business Academy in Novi Sad, Serbia. She focused her presentation on access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Dr. Mladenov contended that access to these resources is a human right under the General Comment 15 (2002) of the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights as the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has developed case law and established the minimum standards relating to the right to safe drinking water and sanitation using two interpretation techniques: the “living instrument” doctrine and the “practical and effective” doctrine. Dr. Mladenov cited Articles 3 and 8 of the ECtHR as the linchpin for determining which countries are obligated to provide safe drinking water and sanitation to their entire populations. Article 8 states that everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life and correspondence, and that there should be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right. Article 3 states that no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

    Dr. Mladenov condensed her argument into three categories: lack of access to water and proper sanitation in detention, water as a public good, and discrimination. Dr. Mladenov noted that one in three people worldwide do not have access to clean drinking water, while two out of five people do not have a basic hand washing facility with soap and water. To close her presentation, she lamented the importance of ensuring equal access to safe drinking water with an explanation as to the significance of safe drinking water during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since potable water for hygiene and an adequate and safe sanitation system are the basis of prevention, it is of great importance that Human Rights instruments establish precise standards regarding access to safe water and sanitation.

    Dr. Maria Antonia Tigre, the Director of Latin America for the Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment, followed with her presentation on the COVID-19 pandemic in Latin America. She focused her lecture on the proposed right to a healthy environment by referencing the 2019 United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 73/333, which called for the adoption of a political declaration to strengthen international environmental law, reinforcing the protection of the environment. There used to be no precedent for upholding human rights in the context of environmental changes, but the case Indigenous Communities Members of the Lhaka Honhat Association v. Argentina revolutionized this idea on February 6, 2020. The case emerged as Argentina engaged in illegal logging activities near Indigenous groups without first consulting these groups. Lhaka Honhat won the case, and, as a result, the Argentinian court required Argentina to guarantee public services as a restitution measure to ensure the rights to a healthy environment, food, water, and protected cultural identity; for the state to develop an emergency plan addressing water and food shortages and to develop an action plan with a schedule of the implementation of adequate resources; and for the state to conduct a study on the measures needed to protect the water sources and control the deforestation with experts on Indigenous viewpoints and with the court’s approval. This groundbreaking case has set a precedent for other cases to expand on a right to water during the pandemic in regard to other states developing similar jurisprudence around the right to clean water and sanitation. As Dr. Tigre noted, “The ruling marks a significant milestone in the struggle of the Indigenous Peoples for the recognition of their rights.” The aforementioned case thus illustrates the importance of a right to a healthy environment, particularly for underrepresented communities. The right to a healthy environment is also highly relevant for the current pandemic. Dr. Tigre said, “History could repeat itself and there could be another virus coming from … the Amazon rainforest. Because of this disregard for nature that we are constantly experiencing … it was always important, but I think COVID-19 really highlighted how important it is that we protect resources.”

    Lastly, Dr. Lina Muñoz-Avila, a Colombian lawyer who is a legal advisor for the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of Colombia and a consultant to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), presented on the role of women environmental defenders in Latin America. She discussed the dangers that women environmental defenders face in Latin America, particularly in Colombia and in Brazil, as their advocacy challenges their respective countries’ power structures based on class privileges and gender discrimination. Between 2009 and 2014, 404 women defenders were threatened or killed in Latin America, with the highest death rates of environmental defenders in the mining and energy sectors. Climate change and human rights are especially important to women because women are more likely than men to be poor, earn lower incomes, and be employed in informal jobs with low protection mechanisms in terms of maternity, disability, or illness. With regard to the unique contributions that women offer their environments, Dr. Muñoz-Avila explained, “Women represent an orientation towards quality of life, care, generosity, and motherhood that environmental management precisely requires in these aspects in the relationship with human nature.” As a result, women’s voices in human rights and the environment are significant to the conversation of climate change and its disproportionate impact on marginalized populations. Dr. Muñoz-Avila offered six ways that people can help protect women environmental defenders: define environmental defender; strengthen the judiciary’s capabilities; invest in active authorities to combat impunity, including defenders in the construction of provisions, policies, and regulations that establish their protection measures for making the dangers visible; integrate different approaches such as gender and ethics; and ratify and implement the Escazú Agreement. The presentation emphasized environmental defenders’ importance in the protection of the sustainability of ecosystems and their resources.

    “In rule of law systems that lack the express right to a healthy environment, like those countries within the European system, environmental rights and the idea of the linkage between human rights and a healthy environment is still there, and you can find it lurking in all sorts of other rights that are recognized expressly in the rights to life.” Distinguished Professor James R. May of Widener University Delaware Law School