Panelists Reflect on Their Paths to Careers in Racial and Social Justice

On May 10, 2021, the Rockefeller Center welcomed three alumni to discuss their career paths and their intersections in racial and social justice.

The event, which was co-sponsored by the Government Department, is the last of a three-event conversation series which seeks to address specific commitments towards students, faculty, and staff as outlined in their Vow to Act. “There’s a lot anyone can learn from our panelists,” moderator Julie Rose, Assistant Professor of Government, noted after introducing speakers Jessica Guthrie ’10, Janos Marton ’04, and Jorge Miranda ’01. Each of the panelists proceeded to provide information on their professional background, how they balance their commitment to racial and social justice with personal goals, and discuss how their time at Dartmouth has shaped their lives after  graduation.

Miranda, a Government major and Education minor who currently serves as Senior Director of High Schools with KIPP, a national network of 255 charter schools (pre-K to 12) that predominantly serve Black and Latino students, explained that “my motivation in education has always been grounded by social justice… I was motivated… by the power of education to really be a great equalizer…  a way of creating opportunities especially for students of color.” However, he found a career fulfilling this motivation in an unexpected place: charter schools. Although he began working in public schools, Miranda found a need to switch gears after finding that “there were so many teachers who seemed to be going through the motions” and realized the importance of finding a workplace that aligns with one’s personal mission and goals. Thinking about your strengths and how you can contribute to a field is an ongoing and ever-changing process, Miranda explained. At the same time, it’s okay to “be selfish” and think about your personal satisfaction; “it doesn’t matter how impactful and important the work; you’re not going to do it for very long if you’re not ultimately happy.”

Meanwhile, Marton’s path to a career in social justice was motivated by his own personal experiences, both of which involved Dartmouth in some way. The first, he explained, was a stop-and-frisk incident in a New York City subway station while returning from a tour of Dartmouth. Noting how common this practice remains, he said “it made me angry and it made me want to do something about it.” The other, said Marton, was when he was in New York when 9/11 happened, describing it as a “galvanizing event to become even more immersed in sort of how systems work, how our country makes decisions like going to war.” In the days following 9/11, he joined a group of Dartmouth students to protest the war.

Today, Marton is the National Director of Dream Corps Justice, having also served as a civil rights lawyer working to combat corruption and NYPD misconduct. “I’m a real believer in just trying to find that right nexus between what you care about and what you’re good at,” he explained, noting that it’s okay to explore a wide variety of jobs and careers to find what feels right. Marton eventually found this “nexus” working on the campaign to close Rikers Island, where he was able to mix his passions for effecting large-scale policy and working with a wide range of individuals. “If you can’t find that dream job straight out of Dartmouth,” he said, it’s important to spend your own time finding ways to be involved in issues that are important to you and act on that same motivation in other ways.

Guthrie, a millennial caregiver advocate and educator who recently began working as Chief Program Officer for Teach For America Dallas-Fort Worth, came to Dartmouth with an interest in education and the “effects of race, class, privilege” on people of color in particular. However, it was her desire to effect real change after graduation that encouraged Guthrie to “throw [her]self into an experience that would allow [her] to understand the realities of what was happening across our education system in this country,” leading her to Teach For America. Today, she describes her work as figuring out how to “develop anti-racist leaders to ensure that we’ve developing anti-racist teachers to create equitable classrooms for all kids.”

With regard to balancing personal and professional goals, Guthrie emphasized the reality of “caregiver fatigue” and “justice fatigue” in striving to balance one’s inspirations and goals with self-care. “I wish I would have slowed down to observe, listen, and ask questions more than just ‘do’ because I thought I knew what I was doing,” said Guthrie, explaining that it wasn’t until her mother was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s six years ago that she began to think more about her own identity. “Get rid of the myth of work/life balance” as two separate commitments, she said. “You are a whole human being… the way you show up in your work life is a key component of who you are as, you know, Jessica.”

Miranda agreed, noting that the careers he and his fellow panelists have chosen are not “easy, simple, straightforward work,” instead often requiring “a lot of energy” that can take away the opportunity to think about other priorities such as family and friends. While it “messes with your head” to shift these priorities for someone whose “identity is so tied to this life’s work,” he explained, it’s important to remember that your goals can change over time as you experience life’s ebbs and flows.

In reflecting on her time at Dartmouth, Guthrie noted that the Rockefeller Center in particular was “game-changing in who I became as a professional,” citing several programs that encouraged her to think about her identity in both the professional and personal world as both a leader and a collaborator. “Rocky events [helped] expand my world view and perspective of what was possible beyond my time as an undergrad.”

-- Written by Shawdi Mehrvarzan’22, Rockefeller Center Student Program Assistant for Public Programs