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Summer 2004

“More than anything Tufts has motivated me and assured me that I’m going in the right direction.”

Photo by Justin Allardyce Knight
A Conversation with Ify Mora, A04

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 makes sense.

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.