International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life

ENACT's 3rd Cohort and the First Virtual Institute

ENACT Expands to all 50 States with First Virtual Institute

January, 2022

In June 2021, ENACT welcomed 29 new ENACT Faculty Fellows to the third multi-day ENACT Institute – with a twist. Instead of gathering in person for five days of living and working on the Brandeis University campus, this was a virtual, Zoom-based institute. Participants joined from four United States time zones – new Faculty Fellow Daniel Wall, of Ilisagvik College in Alaska, logged in from Utqiagvik, the northernmost town in the United States, in the Alaska Time Zone!

To make this online format effective, ENACT Academic Program Director and Ethics Center Director Melissa Stimell and Assistant Director David Weinstein designed a more condensed, three-day experience.

“Our primary focus was to provide an experience to our newest Fellows that enabled them to access the content and advice and wisdom of our staff, experienced fellows, and our guest presenters,” said Weinstein. “Just as importantly, after more than a year of pandemic-enforced distancing and separation we wanted our Fellows to have the chance to learn from and get to know each other, as all of our previous cohorts have been able to do during five days living and working on the Brandeis campus.”

The redesigned Institute included breakout group opportunities for smaller discussion throughout each day. Every session featured participation by experienced ENACT Faculty Fellows – and many were led by those fellows. Weinstein also facilitated several “coffee hours” before the formal programming began each day, as well as end-of-day social hours.

As with the prior, in-person Institutes, Fellows heard from guest experts, including Arline Isaacson, Chair of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, who discussed her experience advocating in Massachusetts for same-sex marriage, and Heller School scientist Cynthia Tschampl – the teaching assistant for the very first ENACT course at Brandeis 12 years ago – who spoke about messaging, and shared her advocacy experience in public health.

“The ENACT virtual Institute was highly interactive and promoted interdisciplinary collaborations across the country,” said new Faculty Fellow Dr. Adelle Dora Monteblanco, professor of sociology at Middle Tennessee State University. “I missed being at Brandeis, but I benefited from learning from a variety of perspectives: students, policy makers, and educators across the country. The skills I gained from the ENACT Institute will be a tremendous and direct asset to Middle Tennessee State University’s new social justice minor. I aim to train the problem-solvers of tomorrow, so I am quite thankful for the opportunity to learn from and contribute to a growing national community of scholars ready to engage students in state-level legislative change.”

“Attending the ENACT Institute challenged my thoughts regarding policy and social teaching, especially related to healthcare,” said new Faculty Fellow Dr. Tamara Bland, Professor in Nursing and Acting Executive Director of the Nursing Program at Dominican University in Illinois. “The Institute was a truly special opportunity to connect and engage in thought-provoking dialogue with colleagues across the nation who share similar aspirations to educate students about the importance of working as a change agent for policy and working with others to create change.”

Ultimately, despite the need to meet virtually, ENACT’s newest Faculty Fellows did build a sense of community, and further gatherings with ENACT Faculty Fellows are being planned. Meanwhile, ENACT will continue to support its network through tools ENACT began using pre-pandemic online meetings, one-on-one and small group conversations, and our innovative online platform (see sidebar, page 4).

Said Stimell, “In a time of immense upheaval and significant challenges to democracy and dialogue, it was inspiring to gather with educators from across the United States who share ENACT’s commitment to engaging young people around the country in civic activism built on knowledge, cooperation, justice and integrity.”