Saturday, June 23, 2012

In Memorium: Professor Pessar

(I am writing this because she deserves a lot more than this... a blog post on my summer records isnt going to do her justice. But for some unknown reason Yale hasnt announced her passing, despite the reporters from the Yale Daily News writing to me and others it also hasnt printed anything... and here we find ourselves.)

My advisor from the Ethnicity, Race and Migration department at Yale passed last month.

In all of our lives, there were those moments that we look back on because we figured out an important next step in our lives. One of mine came freshman year when I was going to run my first event on Mexico's Drug Wars and I needed funding. I was running this as a solo-project. For various reasons, it was awkward to go through MEChA -- the immigrant activist group that I still work with now, so I ran the project entirely on my own. For me, this event was personal. We were talking about crime, statistics, economics, history... all of these things. But what was fresh in my mind were the victims I knew who had been killed by drug violence that past March. This, and all of the hours I spent those spring evenings trying to come to terms with what had happened, was for them.

Which meant, the support of my professor and, as I did not know as the time, his wife. Professor Pessar reached out to me and helped me fund my first speaker for the series of events I've been putting together to expand the conversation on drug reform, the drug wars, mexico and civil violence on campus. She was always in my corner, rooting me on and reminding me why we do the work that we do. Why we study immigrant populations. And why we cannot end the conversation inside of our classrooms.

She encouraged me to be an activist and keep fighting.

Some of the best afternoons when I was most sure in my research and my time at Yale came from sitting in her office with her and asking her for advice on moving forward. She alternated between being a Mom ("No, Diana... you probably are right and dont want to take 5 classes in addition to everything else... especially not something you dont like because you FEEL like you should take it) and being my professor, who pushed me and encouraged me to keep writing.

I got up for those early morning bureaucratic discussions about whether or not my second major should be allowed to stand on its own, for her and for others who made the ERM experience everything that it was for me. For creating a space for me and other Latinos at Yale to study our history in the United States and abroad. To have a space to explore topics of our own choosing and really dive deeply into them.

Her struggle with cancer lasted many years, but she never let that stop her from working with students and keeping in touch with our work. She will be sorely missed. I didnt just lose my advisor this spring -- I lost someone who guided me through my first years of college, down this crazy unconventional path that has made me the researcher that I am today.

RIP Professor Pessar. You will be sorely missed. 

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