In this interview, Christina Smith, Associate Director for Undergraduate STEM Development at the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning at Brown University, shares her experiences as a scholar and member of Navajo Nation during the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Smith begins by explaining that she first started hearing about COVID-19 during a trip to Oregon in February 2020. She says that it was a slow process to realizing the pandemic would make it to the United States but once it arrived, she focused on transitioning to working from home. She adds that had she known how long the pandemic would last she would have developed hobbies that she could enjoy from home. Toward the end of her interview, she also compares and contrasts her experience with the pandemic on the East Coast to her family’s experiences on the West Coast.
Smith goes on to discuss her reaction to the killing of George Floyd by Minnesota police. She notes that she often stepped back from the conversation but also had moments of being more outspoken and using firmer language to identify and discuss racism. She also explains that while she did not attend any physical protests against police brutality, she consciously supports more Black and indigenous businesses. Furthermore, she details the pros and cons of her use of social media sites as platforms for activism.
Additionally, Smith addresses ongoing conversations and fights for indigenous rights. She talks about the disproportionate cases of COVID-19 affecting the Navajo community as well as the Washington National Football team agreeing to change their name. She shares the emotions she feels with these issues and particularly the fact that the changes come slowly and often are not enough.
In closing her interview, Smith details the ways she thinks the educational system in the United States could be improved to be more inclusive and equitable. She hopes that the pandemic helps people realize that they can teach differently and that it spurs long-term change.