A Strong Voice for Dreamers: “Our Home is Here”
In June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Dreamers and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. For Trinity senior Ewaoluwa Ogundana – and Dreamers across the country – this reprieve was welcome news, yet she believes, “Our home is here and it’s time we finally passed legislation that confirms that truth.”
In an essay published by The Hechinger Report, which covers education issues nationally, Ogundana wrote: “While grateful for DACA, I’ve always known this temporary status was just a minute reflection of the things I could do if I had the full privileges of U.S citizenship. What I really aspire to do is fully participate in the country that’s been my home for the majority of my life. I want to plan out my life and my future with more certainty than in two-year increments; and to travel back to Nigeria to see my family again after 17 long years without fear of not being able to return to my home, America.”
Ogundana, who is president of the Student Government, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and will graduate in December. She came to this country when she was just four. In her essay, she wrote, “My childhood was rough. I grew up being bullied in school because of my African accent and name, and then when I went home, I had to deal with the stress of my parents constantly working to make ends meet through their menial jobs.”
She graduated from high school as class valedictorian, yet she still faced obstacles: DACA recipients are barred from receiving federal financial aid. “Fortunately, thanks to organizations like TheDream.US, the nation’s largest college access and success program for immigrant youth, thousands of Dreamers like me can now attend and afford college.”
With the future of the DACA program still uncertain, Ogundana wrote, “A permanent legislative fix for Dreamers – a popular and overdue idea that would provide certainty to our lives as well as to our families, campuses and workplaces across America – should finally be passed.”
Aalayah Eastmond: “We Demand to Live in Peace”
Trinity sophomore Aalayah Eastmond spoke powerfully on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August at the March on Washington 2020. The event drew thousands to Washington, D.C., and was watched virtually across the country and around the world. The march had a fresh urgency, after months of protests following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
“I am one of the millions of young Black women who make up the backbone of the American progressive movement,” she said. “Like too many of us, my journey of activism started by a senseless act of gun violence, when a fellow student opened fire in my classroom in Parkland, Florida. That day, I was born again with a voice that cannot, and will not, be muzzled.”
“Gun violence is pervasive and extends well beyond high profile mass shootings,” she said in a strong and passionate voice. “Gun violence extends beyond the path of a bullet and creates multi-generational cycles of poverty as well as social and economic injustices. In many ways, gun violence is the last domino to fall at the end of a long line of racism, trauma and indifference. But this is not inevitable. Community-based intervention programs throughout the country have proven that holistic, culturally sensitive, embedded teams can stop violence before it starts. We demand funding for these programs.”
She closed her speech with a clarion call for justice: “We demand to live in peace. We demand to live in spaces where the best of Black culture can thrive, where Black men are more likely to have a mortgage and a picket fence than a record, where Black women are business executives and vice presidents.”
Following the tragedy at Parkland, Eastmond has become a pivotal figure in the youth movement to end gun violence. She testified about gun violence before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees and she serves on the executive leadership council of Team ENOUGH, a youth organization supported by Brady, a nonprofit that advocates for gun control. She’s the co-founder and core organizer of Concerned Citizens of D.C. and has organized and spoken at many Black Lives Matter protests.
In January 2020, Eastmond was honored at the National Action Network’s annual Martin Luther King Day, Jr., event. She was presented with the MLK Day Youth Award and stood next to another honoree, former President Bill Clinton.
William and Joanne Conway Honored at Winter Graduation
Trinity conferred honorary doctors of letters to William and Joanne Conway at Winter Graduation in January in recognition of their commitment to increasing the number of well-qualified nurses in the Washington area and for their generous philanthropy in nursing. Trinity Trustee Linda Talley, vice president of nursing and chief nursing officer at Children’s National Hospital, joined President Pat McGuire in presenting the honorary degrees.
The Conways, through their Bedford Falls Foundation, established the Joanne and William Conway Scholarship Program at Trinity in 2013 for high-achieving, low-income students from D.C. and Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties to study nursing. The program supports 100 Conway Nursing Scholars each year.
“The Trinity community is deeply grateful to Joanne and William Conway who generously support aspiring nurses,” said President McGuire. “The Conways keenly understand that for lowincome students in this area, nursing is a path to both economic stability and a rewarding career in the growing health care field. Their extraordinary commitment to improving the economic status of low-income families through higher education is exemplary. The Conway Scholarship Program has been transformational for Trinity.”
“You are fortunate, you are unique and, most importantly, you can make a difference,” William Conway told the graduates in his remarks. He is a co-founder and co-executive chairman of The Carlyle Group, a global investment firm.
“You have a college degree from Trinity,” he said. “Hopefully, you have learned that the value of your education is not only the knowledge you have gained, or even the ability to get a job, but also how to learn, how to listen, how to live.” “You are unique,” he told the graduates. “You are different than everyone else. No one else has your emotions, your drive, your compassion, your history, your genes, your sense of humor, your good qualities and your not so good qualities, and your special place and time in the universe.”
He challenged the graduates to make the world a better place: “You can make a difference. The opportunities can be small or large, and they can happen frequently. And, usually they don’t require you to be a superhero. What are you – Trinity graduates – with your good fortune, uniqueness and ability to make a difference, what are you going to do? We’re counting on you.”
Dean Sita Ramamurti Receives Washington Academy of Sciences Award
Dr. Sita Ramamurti, dean of Trinity’s College of Arts and Sciences and professor of mathematics, was presented with the Leo Schubert Award for Teaching Science in College in September. The Washington Academy of Sciences, established in 1898, recognizes the distinctive achievements of scientists and leaders in the greater Washington area.
Ramamurti was recognized by the Academy for her years of dedication, passion and creativity in teaching mathematics for college students. In her more than 25 years of teaching collegiate mathematics, she has passionately engaged her students in active learning by integrating content-specific technology, and designing and teaching quantitative literacy, reasoning, and interdisciplinary seminar courses. She also has a strong interest in reform and policy initiatives in K-12 education and, as dean, she is leading Trinity’s dual enrollment and early college programs with the D.C. Public Schools. As a research scholar her areas of focus are mathematical modeling and dynamical systems. Ramamurti joined the Trinity faculty in 1996 and was appointed dean in 2017.
At the virtual awards ceremony, she said that as a teacher, “I was always looking for ideas and recommendations from the mathematics community to improve my own pedagogy and to improve the undergraduate math curriculum at Trinity. I wanted my students to see mathematics as this beautiful language with its intrinsic logic and abstractness. I would go to great lengths to lead initiatives such as guiding the college algebra reform and championing my colleagues to join me in creating a Trinity faculty group to connect learning to critical civic issues.”
In her remarks, Ramamurti said, “I am deeply humbled to accept this award. To be included in this group of distinguished 2020 awardees is an absolute honor.” She thanked Trinity for “providing me many opportunities to serve the community to the best of my ability. I am grateful to every single faculty and staff member who has helped me shine in my various professional roles.”
Trinity Partners with Children’s National for Covid-19 Testing
In March Children’s National Hospital’s leadership saw an urgent need for Covid-19 testing for children and reached out to President Pat McGuire about using Trinity’s campus for the initiative. She immediately said, “Yes, of course.” The logistics were coordinated and within days the site, a large campus parking lot, was ready for safe drive-through and walk-up testing. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser toured the site on the first day it opened.
“We experience our mission at Trinity with the extra dimension of our Catholic commitment to social justice,” said President McGuire. “Pope Francis said, ‘I see the Church as a field hospital’ bringing care and healing for the wounds of the community. It never occurred to me that one day there would be so grave a public health crisis that Trinity would realize that message literally, but we do so today with certainty that through living our mission faithfully, we can find the grace and strength we need to rise through this period of so much sickness and sorrow. Children’s National is a wonderful educational partner for Trinity in our nursing and allied health programs, so we are pleased to support their critical work to help and heal Washington-area children.”
Trinity also donated a ventilator, N95 masks and other critical supplies to Children’s National.
The testing on campus concluded at the end of June, when Children’s determined there was greater testing capacity for children. During the 15 weeks the site was open, more than 2,300 children were tested and the data is being analyzed by researchers at Children’s. One study, published in August in Pediatrics: The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, identified significant racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities of Covid-19 among children.
Dr. Kurt Newman, president and CEO of Children’s National, said, “We are so grateful to everyone who contributed time, support, space and energy to this effort. Understanding how Covid-19 is impacting our pediatric population has been critical to learning more about this disease. Children’s National could not have met the needs of the community without Trinity’s tremendous support.”
Dr. Deborah Harris-O’Brien Elected President of Psi Chi International
Dr. Deborah Harris-O’Brien, associate professor of psychology, was elected president of Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology. She began her tenure in July 2020 and will serve as president for one year. Psi Chi was founded in 1929 with a mission to encourage excellence in scholarship and advance the science of psychology. Today, there are more than 1,150 Psi Chi chapters at colleges and universities in the U.S. and around the world.
Harris O’Brien has a long-term commitment to advancing the mission of Psi Chi, both at Trinity and within the international organization. Since 1998, she served as the faculty advisor of Trinity’s Psi Chi Chapter, which has won the Model Chapter Award several times. She completed two terms as vice president of the Psi Chi international organization and was the Psi Chi liaison to the American Psychological Association’s Board of Educational Affairs for four years.
Harris-O’Brien earned her doctorate in developmental and clinical child psychology and has worked in private practice with children, teens and families. She has conducted research on deaf children and taught psychology in sign language.
Having spent her entire academic career teaching underserved students, and as a first-generation college student herself, HarrisO’Brien’s passion is widening student access to opportunities in psychology and increasing the diversity of the field.