Wednesday, February 2, 2011

2011 Serendipity 2. A Weekend at Harvard with SMC Student Activists

The last couple weeks have not been kind to this year's challenges or new things  Between the start of the new semester, Chris and Drisk's departures for a big chunk of the winter, and some unfortunate bouts of illness, I've lost a bit of traction.  But last weekend the momentum started to pick up a bit again with a weekend at Harvard University with ten of Saint Mike's best student activists.
The Saint Mike's team in Harvard Yard (back row: Nic, Anne Marie, Sarah, Josh, me and Alyssa; front row: Alexsis, Rebecca, Kate, Siham and Sam)

The conference we attended was for members of Student Global AIDS Campaign (SGAC) and other global health and social justice advocacy student organizations on a variety of campuses.  There were delegations from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Columbia, Cardozo Law School, the New School, Penn State, University of Florida, U of Indiana, Florida Atlantic, and others that I'm probably forgetting.  So it was a source of pride that our Saint Mike's Chapter was asked to teach a workshop on student activism and share with the other chapters some of the work we've done over the last decade in advocating for global AIDS treatment and greater social justice in issues connected to it.  Alexsis and Kate, both seniors who joined SGAC their first year and spent a big chunk of that year going to New Hampshire to directly speak to presidential candidates on global AIDS issues, presented on behalf of Saint Mike's.  It was pretty exciting to listen to them draw on almost four years of experience of social justice advocacy as they explained how to put an advocacy campaign together. Alexsis also earned the title of most hospitable SGACer ever when she invited the entire SMC group (less Josh and I) to stay at her family's house when the Harvard host students found themselves in a crunch for beds.
Alexsis and Kate take the podium to walk everyone through the nuts and bolts of campaigning for change

Siham, one of our most illustrious SMC and SGAC alumni, also attended the conference, and her family kindly hosted me at their house south of Boston. Because I was battling a stomach malady all weekend I was quite the boring guest, but it was still awesome to see Siham's mom and siblings, who I haven't seen since her graduation.

Siham and her mom celebrating the acquisition of their new record player

One of the important goals of conferences like this is to collectively make some plans for moving forward, and there were plans galore from this one.  If we are able to accomplish half of what we put together, it's going to be a busy spring semester, including some excursions to see politicians in New Hampshire and Washington, DC. As the new Republican-controlled House of Representatives sends out ominous (and in my opinion, incredibly short-sighted) statements about wanting to cut foreign aid, including global AIDS funding, we have our work cut out for us. 

P.S. I just noticed that student activist, friend and fellow blogger Alyssa wrote up her own version of events, which you can check out here. She also had the presence of mind to include a link for anyone who wants to learn more and potentially get involved in this campaign to save the lives that are literally in the balance in the face of these proposed cuts.  Check out the take-a-number campaign here.

In the Works

New Things.  Got an unexpected message from Lisa, the film maker who made The Greatest Silence that we showed for the Dear Hilary campaign in the fall.  She's coming to town again next weekend for a visit, and so I think I may try to think of a fun new thing to do together.  Anyone with a great idea, feel free to send it my way.

Challenge 1 Become a Better Skier/Snowboarder.  Haven't been since Sugarbush a couple weeks ago, and I was all set to go skiing with Alexsis Friday, but we have a faculty meeting so, alas, it's looking like February 11 with Alexsis will be my next ski adventure unless another opportunity emerges.

Challenge 2.  Become a Better Cook.  Once again, I've let things slide, but Josh and I were talking about Jewish/Eastern European foods we've made or are interested in learning on the drive to Harvard, and we may be having a cook-off featuring latkes, kugel, matzo ball soup and whatever else we can think of for my house guests this Saturday night.

Challenge 3. Become a Better Ice Skater. Way, way behind on this one.  I think I need to create an actual skating schedule to get this back on track.

Challenge 4.  Finish a Marathon.  Being ill has thrown me off-track of my training schedule.  I was supposed to do an 11 mile run last weekend and didn't.  I am hoping to make it up this weekend, when I'm scheduled to do a shorter one -- we'll see.

Challenge 5  Become a Better Rock Climber.  Tonight's rock climb with Amanda, Kate and Claire just became a casualty of today's storm.  I'm still hoping to turn Wednesday night Women's Climbing into a regular thing, and do the same thing with a regular outing to the Petra Gym.  Anyone else want to?

Challenge 6. Write a Book with Students.  We've got a big meeting this Saturday afternoon, with a lot of alumni writers coming in from out of town.  Should be great!

Challenges 7-12.  Got to get everything else back on track before I'll even think about the others. Here's hoping February is a bit more productive as months go!


  1. Sounds like a great trip to Harvard!
    And you have made latkes before, at my house, with your sister, for one of my hannukah parties--but I want a report on your Jewish/Eastern European cooking challenge.