Points of Pride

ISI Fellows present their work at Winter Session 2015

Posted on Thu, Jan 29, 2015

by Marianne McCarthy

Fellows from the Institute for Social Innovation (ISI) pursue consulting work and research projects that bring about innovation and change for individuals, organizations, and communities. Several ISI fellows gathered at winter session to share and present updates on their work in areas of education, leadership, politics, incarceration, healthcare, and social change. 

Silvina Bamrungpong and Drew Foley (HOD '12)

During the past year, Drs. Drew Foley and Silvina Bamrungpong have shared their research on Learning in Motion – Designing Connected Learning Spaces through conference presentations and workshops for innovative thinkers in the fields of education and business. 

In October, Drs. Foley and Bamrungpong conducted a workshop at the Innovative Pedagogy and eLearning Conference at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. The workshop focused on two central concepts: 1) Learning is in motion and 2) Learning spaces are connected.  They collaborated with educators and researchers with affiliations ranging from the London School of Economics to universities in Africa, Australia, South America, and Asia.

In 2015, they plan to publish a book that focuses on application of their research.

Steve Schein (HOD ‘14)

Dr. Steve Schein presented details from his ongoing research and new book, A New Psychology for Sustainability Leadership: The Hidden Power of Worldviews. The book is based on his dissertation research on the deeper psychological motivations of sustainability leaders and how these motivations may influence their capacity to lead transformational change.

Zieva Konvisser (HOD ’06)

Dr. Zieva Dauber Konvisser presented an update on her research project on the implications and impact of wrongful conviction on innocent individuals and the findings from interviews with 21 innocent women in the United States. This study provides the wrongfully convicted women an opportunity to give voice to their lived experiences and the strategies that helped them cope with their situations and move forward.

Dr. Konvisser also reported on the numerous publishing and promotional activities related to the 2014 release of her book, Living Beyond Terrorism: Israeli Stories of Hope and Healing (Gefen Publishing), which is based on interviews that were conducted as part of her doctoral and post-doctoral research studies.

Her latest collaborative project on exonerees in the innocence movement involves Wayne State University Criminal Justice Professor Marvin Zalman and looks at the effects of this work on the innocence movement and the lives of participants.

Susan Mazer (HOD ‘11)
In the two years since her graduation, Dr. Susan Mazer has entered a different dialogue within healthcare and within the academic music community.  Her presentation provided an overview of both what has been achieved and what is in process regarding improving the patient experience and quality of caring.

Linda Honold (HOD ’99)
To ensure a healthy vibrant democracy our political structures must engage citizens, be fair and transparent. Dr. Linda Honold’s case studies of state redistricting campaigns are critical because if the process does not fairly represent us our democracy is at risk.

She is conducting five studies of reform efforts in California, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, and states limited to legislative reform efforts. Data derived from interviews with activists and other primary players will be analyzed to discern activities and events contributing to the outcome of the effort revealing commonalities and differences. These lessons learned might then be used to inform plans for other ballot initiatives that advocates in other states engage in.

Susan Stillman (ELC '07)
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the ability to use emotions, combined with cognition, to make optimal decisions. Emotions affect how and what we learn. Scholar/practitioners have demonstrated how critical it is for all students and the adults who care for them to learn the skills of EQ, or Social Emotional Learning as it is called in education. Emotional literacy, consequential thinking, emotional navigation, optimism, and empathy, are a few of the skills that comprise SEL.

Dr. Susan Stillman shared the iterative process used to develop the free online course, Introduction to Social Emotional Learning. She also discussed how participants in the ISI session can become involved in the project to share iSEL with thousands of educators worldwide. 

Stephen White (MP '13)

Stephen White's current research centers on a social innovation in the film issue space: the emergence of an online convener platform called FilmRaise.  The website was created to allow the audience to watch a social issue documentary film and choose a charity to donate to for free.  He hopes to explore whether measures that are used to evaluate and promote people’s subjective well-being or happiness, can be used to shape content and measure impact for media makers trying to bring about positive social change. 

To learn more about the work of these and other ISI fellows, view the current list of fellows and their research topics.

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ISI Fellows pictured above from left to right (first row) Susan Stillman, Linda Honold, Anita Chambers, Zieva Konvisser, (second row) Drew Foley, Silvina Bamrunpong, Pamela Kennebrew (guest), (third row) Steve Schein, and Tracey Long.

Tags: Media psychology, organizational change, women's issues, graduate fellows, research, fellow program

A Life of Activism and Advocacy: Supporting Exiles and Survivors of Sexual Violence

Posted on Tue, Nov 26, 2013

By Marianne McCarthy

Indira K. Skoric, PhD

Few people can say they were on the front lines of societal change, especially if it dealt with a cultural taboo.  Yet, humanitarian Indira K. Skoric (HOS ’12) proudly witnessed the alteration of a long-standing sentiment about women subjected to sexual violence during the Yugoslav Wars and a system that tolerated such abuses.  A victim of sexual violence herself, she has consistently advocated for those subjected to systematic rape and torture during the war. It took over a decade, and the work of countless other advocates, but finally women survivors were legally labeled “civilian victims of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

Indira was living and studying in Belgrade during the Yugoslav National Movement when she first became involved with feminist groups. In 1991, she helped establish the Belgrade Women in Black, an antimilitarist peace movement protesting the war in Serbia and all forms of hatred, discrimination, and violence.  According to the group’s website, it has organized more than 500 protests throughout the former Yugoslavia since its founding.Belgrade Women in Black

After the war started, Indira joined the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies as an information officer.

“I wanted to do something tangible for people who were survivors and victims of the war,” she said.

Many of these victims were the unacknowledged sufferers of sexual violence. Years later, Indira would write in her dissertation that post war reports estimated that 10,000 to 60,000 women had been submitted to sexual violence during the war, although the European Commission settled on a figure 20,000.

While one part of her felt devoted to working with people who were minorities like herself or those who were working on gender issues, another wanted to escape the violence and the intense political climate of ethnical and territorial conflict.

In 1994, Indira found her way out of Yugoslavia after winning a fellowship at the New School for Social Research in New York. She continued her activism with the American Friends Service Committee and a New York branch of Women in Black. But pressure was building from the war in Kosovo, and she received threats to her life. Many of her Women in Black colleagues had been forced into hiding. Eventually, she was granted political asylum and was able to complete her master’s degree in International Relations, writing her thesis on “Understanding War Rapes.” It was a topic she would continue to explore during her time at Fielding.

In the meantime, Indira focused on survivors of sexual violence and refugees of the former Yugoslavia. She consulted on the documentary film, Calling the Ghosts. The Emmy-award winning documentary reveals the torture and humiliation of women in concentration camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Directed by Mandy Jacobson in 1996, it also won the Human Rights Watch Int'l Film Fest and Nestor Almendros Award for best documentary.

Indira also co-founded the Reconciliation and Culture Cooperative Network (RACOON, Inc.), an organization she would eventually direct until 2011, raising over $1.5 million to assist in community-building programs for an estimated 250,000 Western Balkan refugees and exiles in the New York and tri-state area.

Indira Skoric and staff of Reconciliation and Culture Cooperative Network (RACOON, Inc.)

“We were mostly political activists,” said Indira, “but early on, we realized that these refugee populations not only needed a conflict resolution program, but they also needed someone to help them navigate complexities in the system and advocate for them.”

Indira describes how things became especially difficult for immigrants after 9/11. “People couldn’t get social security numbers, and so they would end up in the category of aliens, or illegals,” even if they were awaiting a “legal” status.

Her organization began working on issues such as advocating for health care and ensuring her constituents could get the care they needed in their native language. In 2004, RACOON, Inc. received the Union Square Award for grassroots activism that strengthens local communities.

Reconciliation and Culture Cooperative Network (RACOON, Inc.)“The organization that started as a conflict transformation group, thinking how do we reconcile in exile, ended up providing advocacy and networking,” said Indira. “As part of the leadership, I was pushed in a place that I needed to learn how to navigate, not only practically but also strategically. Fielding provided that place for my own learning and growth, to be able to lead this small organization.”

Intrigued by women, like herself, who used their experiences to “transform their lives and even emancipate themselves from the horror that haunts them,” her Human and Organizational Systems research focused on the life stories of nine women survivors of and advocates against sexual violence. In a way, it was her way to seek greater understanding of her own growth.

Then, in 2007, the Law on the Protection of Civilian Victims of War in Bosnia and Herzegovina was amended to include victims of rape. By essentially garnering women who had been raped during the war status of civilian war victims, they became eligible for disability, health care, and professional rehabilitation. It was a “huge” moment for Indira.

According to her dissertation committee chair, Richard Appelbaum, "Indira's life and work bear witness to Fielding's concern with social justice—with putting theory into practice. Her dissertation was a powerful exploration into the lives of women who were severely traumatized, yet who used their pain and sorrow to devote their energies to helping other women similarly afflicted.”

A recipient of multiple Fielding scholarships, Indira’s research contributes to the literature on “emancipatory learning by revealing how these women created the conditions for their own survival, and adds to the literature of feminist studies.” Indira has organized and presented at numerous international seminars, conferences and United Nations meetings. During her doctoral studies, she was a fellow in Fielding’s Institute for Social Innovation and was named Revson Fellow by Columbia University. Her article “Advocacy and Survivors of Sexual Violence” is set for publication in Canadian Oral History in the spring of 2014.

In addition to being assistant professor at Kingsborough Community College, Indira currently sits on the board of the Women’s Refugee Commission, a research and advocacy group that accomplishes life-changing improvements for vulnerable displaced populations. 


Tags: change agent, social justice, diversity, women's issues, graduate fellows, violence, human rights, scholar activist