A Conversation with Ify Mora, A04
Photo by Justin Allardyce Knight
Ify Mora remembers
it all began with a “random
email” from the University College
of Public Service and Citizenship (UCCPS),
inviting her to apply to the UCCPS Scholars
Program. Undergraduates with a yen for social
and community change are urged to consider
taking up projects that match their interests. “It
just seemed like an innovative, new opportunity,” she
recalls. “I was like, why not?” Mora
has now been a UCCPS scholar for three years.
As one of eight children in a close-knit
family from Columbus, Ohio, she found that
children’s issues were close to her
heart. Below, she talks with Tufts Magazine
about how one step led to another.
My experience at the University College
and, of course, my four years being at
Tufts has been a lot of steps. I went abroad
my junior year of high school, to Venezuela.
While I was there, I volunteered at an
abandoned children’s shelter. When
I got that email from the University College,
I learned that part of your essay had to
be about proposed projects. That got me
thinking: This is my chance to follow through
with my interest in children. My focus
would be abandoned children in the United
States. It was Molly Mead, the Lincoln
Filene Professor, who brought my attention
to the foster care system. So I took a
step back. I spent all of spring semester
researching, and then dedicated my summer
to organizing the Forum on Foster Care.
The forum was really interesting and an
amazing learning experience for me. It
was cool because it was my first time really
organizing something big. As with any event
you organize, I didn’t know how it
was going to go. I started the whole thing
out with a PowerPoint presentation that
went along with that song by Michael Jackson, “Have
You Seen My Childhood?” Afterward,
my friend read an amazing poem that he
wrote for the event, which touched a lot
of people. And then Ellen Pinderhughes
(associate professor in child development)
came up and spoke. She really made that
event because more than any of the other
speakers, she presented the view very clearly.
During my college year abroad in Madrid
(my junior year), I began to branch out
and look into many issues facing children
in Spain. I soon realized that children’s
issues in and of themselves are a societal
issue. I used to see them not as mutually
exclusive but as separate areas of concern.
Yet, society’s issues are children’s
issues. You can’t differentiate them.
Every issue ends up being a children’s
issue because of how it affects a child.
When I came back, my biggest feeling was
that a number of people don’t think
bottom up. They tend to think top down.
How is our economy affected by what’s
going on instead of how are people affected
by what’s going on, or how are children
affected by what’s going on?
I remember having this conversation with
Cynthia Staples, director of the Scholars
Program. I was like, you know what? I can’t
do just a day. A day is like, come and
go. I can’t even do two events. I
feel like this could be a week. I remember
just stopping and thinking—not a
bad idea [laughter]! And Cynthia’s
sitting there, like, wow! The idea of the
week is to put certain issues in the limelight
and say, hey, people, think about this!
The next step was finding people who were
going to work with me on it, for I knew
there was absolutely no way I could pull
this off on my own. It ended up that a
lot of the people who worked on it this
year were seniors and I knew them; they
were really dedicated. And I think they
liked the idea that they knew we were going
to do this and sustain it. A lot of projects
that are done on campus are great for that
one time. But when it comes to sustainability,
it’s so much harder.
Our secondary goal was interdisciplinary
cooperation. So we partnered with LCS (Leonard
Carmichael Society) and incorporated Kid’s
Day into the week. We met with faculty
in the child development department. They
were giving out the Abbey Award for Excellence
in Children’s Media. So we worked
in conjunction with Professor Julie Dobrow
and Parker Perez, A04, who coordinated
that event. Thursday’s event, dedicated
to the experiences of children in the Middle
East, was held in conjunction with the
Institute for Global Leadership’s
Inquiry Program and the Seeds of Peace
organization. Our thought was that bringing
events together brings everything under
one scope so people connect things better.
When you connect things together and then
you connect them to our vision, it just
When I came here for April Open House,
I remember a particular professor—I
remember exactly what he said. He said
Tufts is a place of opportunity. If you
are a student who’s motivated and
willing, then you’ll learn so much
about yourself. I was really excited because
that’s what I am—I’m
an opportunist. I knew this was just for
me! I think that these projects—they
didn’t surprise me. It didn’t
surprise me that I was able to do what
I wanted to do. More than anything Tufts
has motivated me and assured me that I’m
going in the right direction. Whatever
comes out of this is meant to be.
I could talk to you for hours about my
family. But I think what I got more than
anything from my parents is that we always
push ourselves to think bigger. In the
sense that OK, you did this. Now you’ve
got to outdo yourself, and continue to
outdo yourself. My parents like to challenge
us and really evaluate our effectiveness.
Something needs to be changed? Change it.
Don’t just sit there. It’s
not, ‘I could have done this better.
No, do it better.