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Linda Silka


From Our President

Linda Silka, Senior Fellow, Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions; Professor Emerita, School of Economics, University of Maine

I hope that all of you have had a rewarding summer. The SPSSI conference in San Juan was wonderful. What an exciting location for our conference.?Such excellent presentations and events. For those of you whose busy schedules did not allow you to attend, I would love to share some of what took place and what we learned. 

Imagine a conference with participants from Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Colombia, Egypt, Germany, Ghana, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Islamic Republic of Israel, Jamaica, Korea, Republic of Myanmar, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Poland, Puerto Rico, Russian Federation, South Africa, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States. Imagine a conference with nearly every type of presentation. Some of the events even involved dancing in the outdoors around the pool and near the ocean. Can you imagine! Think of your teachers, think of your students dancing to enthralling bomba music with a background of singing coqui frogs. 

But, of course, the conference wasn’t just dancing.? The theme of the conference was “Reenergizing Ourselves and Our Communities: Connections across Borders and Barriers.” The three program chairs—Dr. Lugo-Hernández, Dr. Malavé-Rivera, and Dr. Melchiori--together with the SPSSI Council, the SPSSI Policy Committee, the SPSSI Graduate Student Committee, the SPSSI Early Career Scholars Committee, the SPSSI Internationalization Committee, and the SPSSI Diversity Committee, developed outstanding themes and sought out submissions that captured the deep ongoing work on these themes being pursued by creative scholars. 

As we all know, conferences can be stodgy. Not this SPSSI Conference! We hosted problem solving sessions, engaged discussions, interactive symposia, and many other types of working sessions. Consider just a few of the many exciting topics brought to the forefront: “Rethinking Natural: Body, Identity, Land, Environment,” “Addressing Injustice on Campus: Enacting Systemic Change through Student Leadership,” “Beyond the Gender Binary: Personal Narratives, Decision-Making and Methodology,” “Blue Collars and Ivory Towers: Overcoming Cross-Class Communication,” “Critical Connections: Reenergizing Transformative Research toward Liberatory Praxis,” “Top-down Versus Bottom-up Responses to Community Challenges,” “Latin American and Caribbean Gender identity,” and “Bad Bunny and Bodacious Bodies: Pop-Culture’s Influence on Women’s Sexualization.” 

So many topics. So many ways we need to come together to understand and tackle these topics. My presidential address: “Problems We Can Only Solve Together” was intended to reflect on this theme that we need to work together to understand problems and to solve them. We can’t solve problems alone, but we can solve problems together! 

And at the conference we had an opportunity to act in an immediate fashion by drawing on all that we have collectively learned and studied. In particular, during the conference it became public that the Supreme Court had overturned the Roe v. Wade decision. We stopped everything at the conference. Over 100 conference attendees came together and we worked for several hours to identify what we could do: how our research could be useful, how our policy making can make a difference, how as students, as faculty, as policy makers—in other words, how at different points in our careers—we can make a difference. This meeting was not only important. It was uplifting. We analyzed what might be done. We identified all that we might be able to do. We considered how we can engage others. And we started taking steps! 

In sum, when we look across the entire conference, then, what might be the result of the conference? Perhaps most importantly, we each learned that we can take steps individually?and?collectively that will make a difference. So, how do we keep this going beyond the conference? Please reach out to others: learn from them and help them learn from you. Let’s visit each other and learn together. I would love to “come” to your location (either physically or by zoom) and meet and learn together. Let me know about what you are doing. Let’s share problem solving together! Let’s learn together! 

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