Claire Healy

Panelists Selected for 2021 Signature Black Heritage Month Event 

The Commonwealth Honors College has selected UMass Amherst College of Education's Professor Jamila Lyiscott and Professor Juana Valdés (studio arts) as the panelists for its 2021 Black Heritage Month event, which will be moderated by Professor Judyie Al-Bilali (theater). This year’s lecture, “The Arts as a Praxis of Liberation: Embodying Change and Transformation in a Time of Racial Justice,” will be hosted on February 15, 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Registration is required. Register Now!

Dr. Olivia Aguilar

Olivia Aguilar has been selected as the speaker for the 2021 Daffodil Lecture this spring. Aguilar is a tenured associate professor of environmental studies at Mount Holyoke College, where she is also the Leslie and Sarah Miller Director of the Miller Worley Center for the Environment


Dean Mari Castañeda co-hosted the inaugural Honors College Dinner and Discussion with Professor Joseph Krupczynski, a professor in the Department of Architecture, and director of the office of Civic Engagement and Service Learning (CESL) at UMass.

Photo taken by Lemkin of voter registration in 1965

“At one point I thought, what can I do that’s constructive that will actually help people? And I thought maybe I can use these photos to show voter suppression in 1965,” photographer Jim Lemkin explained in his talk at the Honors College this past Wednesday, September 23. The presentation and discussion, titled “Does My Voice Count? Voter Suppression Then and Now,” detailed Lemkin’s work in 1965 and 2020 to help register disenfranchised black voters in Mississippi, and to document voting and voter suppression through photography.

The Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan

Below is a brief explanation of my understanding of the response of both countries, from talking with my friends abroad, for those interested in learning about the situation in each country.

View through a window at a Cafe in Vedado, Cuba

Ever since leaving Havana a few weeks ago, I’ve stayed in constant contact with my friends abroad in Cuba and Jordan about their parallel experiences as each of us entered our countries’ own forms of lockdown. I’ve been able, as a result, to follow how we’ve each been impacted in different ways. This blog is a short account of what that experience has been like. Part 1 is my reflections, and the second part will detail the situation in each country, as I understand it from talking with friends there. 

View out a window in Old Havana

One of the parts of studying abroad that I enjoyed the most was being exposed to new literature, music, and art. I was constantly learning about artists or authors that I had never heard of beforelegends and heroes in Cuban or Jordanian history and culture that had never been a part of my education before. Literature, music, and art say so much about a country or history, and in this I found a wonderful way of learning about my host countries. 


As doctors across the country prepare to counter the coronavirus, some UMass Medical students are choosing to graduate early in order to contribute to that fight. One such student is Commonwealth Honors College's Kendra Lastowka, who was featured on April 1, alongside fellow UMass student Taylor Shortsleeve on NBC's Today show.

Today reporter Al Roker interviewed the two students on their decision to graduate early. 

The author in front of the University of Havana main stairs, which students have a tradition of walking up when they start university and walking down when they graduate

This past week my program in Cuba was canceled, and in less than 5 days I was on a plane back to the States with a mask my housemate had given me. While it’s disorientating being back so abruptly, the confusion of my switch in location and plans has been overshadowed in every way by the bombardment of news about our pandemic. Now I’m focusing on continuing the education I started, playing my small role in this chaos, and reflecting on what I gained from my two months in Cuba.


Havana has struck me in its mannerisms as having the same bustle of every other city—people lining streets and buses to get to work, neighbors stopping to chat and sit on doorsteps and sidewalks—with notable differences stemming from different everyday realities.