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Donahue Scholar Gives Insight into Ally Behavior, Advocating for Social Justice

November 21, 2016

Distinguished Donahue Scholar, Asian American Studies expert and Director of the Transnational Community and Cultural Studies graduate program at the University of Massachusetts - Boston, Karen L. Suyemoto, Ph.D. addressed ways to foster allies to advocate for social justice as part of the annual Donahue lecture given each fall.

Suyemoto, a UMass-Boston Psychology and Asian Studies Professor, spoke to the Lasell community in de Witt Hall on Nov. 21, along with a panel of academics who have worked with Suyemoto over the years on developing allies.

The panel, which included Roxanne Donovan of Kennesaw State University, Lizabeth Roemer of UMass - Boston, and PhD candidate Alissa Hochman, presented their ally development model based on their research and how each of them have come to terms with experiences of oppression and understanding their own unique aspects of privilege.

Addressing issues of racism, Suyemoto said that those who are members of a privileged group must "continue to see what is invisible" to them in order to become allies for oppressed groups.

"If I am privileged, then I don't see the privileges," said Suyemoto, who was honored in 2013 by the White House as one of fifteen Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women as a "Champion of Change."

Following the panel discussion, members of the audience broke into affinity group discussions to address the benefits and challenges of becoming allies to other groups.

Later in the Spring Semester, Suyemoto is scheduled to return to campus for two days to conduct a faculty workshop on Transformative Education across Curriculum then on a second day to meet with faculty and students to discuss social justice projects to empower students as activists.

Suyemoto received her B.S. in Clinical Psychology and English from Tufts University in 1987 and her Ph.D. in 1994 from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. After completing her internship and postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco (Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine), she held Assistant Professor positions at Saint Mary's College of Maryland (1995-1998) and Northeastern University (1998-2000) before moving to her current position.