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Overcoming Eurocentrism

Lyssa Palu-ay Dean, Justice, Equity, and Transformation
  • Staff

Lyssa Palu-ay MFA, ‘01, MassArt alumna and Dean of Justice, Equity, and Transformation invites us all to ask hard questions, engage with different perspectives, and imagine what might be.

I earned my MFA in photography from MassArt, but actually started my creative career a little late. My bachelor’s is in political science — as an undergrad, I didn’t even know where the art department was! But I finally gave myself permission to pursue photography and see where it would lead me. It brought me to MassArt, where I found a place to play creatively and ask questions. I felt so supported and welcomed here. Through my work in the Justice, Equity, and Transformation (JET) Office, I want to extend that welcoming feeling that I experienced.


Bringing equity to every corner of MassArt 

With JET, we’re seeding equity through the whole institution. That means we’re making explicit efforts to support and create a sense of belonging for BIPOC students and community members. And bringing awareness to the challenges these students may face while navigating a curriculum that — in some cases — is still very Eurocentric.

We work to support our BIPOC community through programming like artist residencies that bring BIPOC artists, scholars, and writers to campus, but that learning is for everyone. Our aim is to create spaces that are open to multiple perspectives to help our entire community find a new way of looking at things. Once we’ve fostered a place where everyone feels like they belong — even if they don’t always agree with one another — it becomes easier to embrace different perspectives. So as an institution, let’s create a learning space where people are free to engage in ideas and gain a deeper understanding of each other.

That type of change doesn’t happen overnight. Fostering equity is a process that begins with a willingness to ask hard questions and be vulnerable. It’s not: “Okay, we did that one thing and now we check off that box.” We want the community to understand that everyone has a role to play in this work. And it can’t be done in isolation, either…Folks can engage with our work through things like the JET Liaison Program. Our liaisons come together to ask questions or noodle through a policy or practice that they’re wondering about. Together, we’re workshopping ideas and building relationships on a foundation of trust.

As an institution, let’s create a learning space where people are free to engage in ideas and gain a deeper understanding of each other.” Lyssa Palu-ay Dean, Justice, Equity, and Transformation

Learning from one another

We need to acknowledge that (MassArt) has had practices in the past that might have marginalized people. Every field is coming to terms with that right now. In Massachusetts, there are formal, explicit efforts to engage in these types of discussions. This past year, I joined Governor Maura Healey’s Advisory Council for the Advancement of Representation in Education. It was formed in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn affirmative action in college admissions.

The goal (of the Council) is to create partnerships and pathways from K-12, nonprofits, and the business community to higher education. It’s a great opportunity to look at our policies and practices and really think creatively about how we might enact our mission as a public college to create greater access and opportunities for all students. 

MassArt has an amazing 150-year foundation. It’s really about stretching and growing and creating a space where we can imagine other things. 

Students in thinking and observing
Justice, Equity, & Transformation

Learn how JET collaborates with individuals, groups, and departments across campus to pursue cultural change and systemic equity across MassArt.

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