MICA’s Internal Work in 2021

MICA President Samuel Hoi shares his appreciation of new energy and possibilities in 2021.

Date: January 25, 2021
To: MICA Community
From: Samuel Hoi, President
Re: MICA’s Internal Work in 2021

Dear MICA faculty, staff, students, and trustees,

Classes begin today for our Spring Semester just as the nation sees and feels the work of a new administration. I hope you share my appreciation of new energy and possibilities in 2021.

The beginning of a new year prompts deep reflection on the past year—with the lessons it offered—and new resolve for positive actions going forward. Here, I share with you my thoughts about MICA’s internal dynamics in 2020. As we move into 2021, with the anticipation of a better future, I hope my thinking resonates and I invite you to join me in shaping that future together.

Lessons from 2020

In 2020, the MICA community unequivocally called for institutional change. The pandemic amplified campus members’ frustration and anger with organizational shortcomings and their impact on individual lives. Intense institutional critique and demands poured forth over the summer and into the fall as the concerns expanded from dissatisfaction with services and pandemic responses to include the call for fundamental reforms to address racial injustice, other forms of inequity, and grievance procedures at MICA. 

The rearticulation of the College’s aspirational Mission, Vision, and Tenets in 2017, as well as our campuswide commitment to DEIG in 2018, set up aspirational mandates and promises against which students, staff, and faculty measure their daily reality. In retrospect, it is clear that the ensuing efforts by the administration in the workplace and faculty in the classroom were not happening at a pace and depth that met the expectations of the campus community and the needs of our times. 

The College leadership acknowledged its responsibilities and outlined measures to address critical issues through a series of campus memos. The desired outcomes are clear from the demands of campus constituencies: For MICA and its campus members to be at our best, the College has to become an educational environment and workplace where all students, faculty, and staff feel a genuine sense of belonging, empowerment, comradery, and ownership of each other’s—and of MICA’s—wellbeing and success.

Our Work Ahead in 2021

There are essential ingredients that we need to establish as foundations for this change at MICA. We must support and put into practice the following:

  • Administrative ownership of empathetic leadership and mobilization of community expertise

    • Human-centered approach to administration that is characterized by compassionate empathy, thinking and acting with people’s needs as a priority

    • Institutional decision making that integrates the collective expertise, creativity, and lived experience of all members of the MICA community

  • A common campus definition and corresponding implementation of shared governance 

    • Empowerment of faculty, student, and staff voices in a system of checks and balances for informed strategies and actions

    • Alignment of mission-driven priorities and outcomes, as well as shared responsibility and accountability, based on a culture of transparency and collaboration

  • An anti-racist, safe, and inclusive campus that dismantles our own white supremacy

    • Protection of all community members and accountability for offenders

    • An environment where people thrive in their authentic identities

  • Faculty ownership of an inclusive pedagogy and curriculum guided by DEIG goals

    • Decentering of Whiteness and Western/Eurocentric content in the curriculum 

    • Commitment to and competency in inclusive teaching and learning

There is much work ahead. It is encouraging that we have ongoing efforts already in many of these areas. A number of collaborative groups with multiple campus constituencies have been working together to guide the development of priorities and actions.

Metamorphosis as Community Commitment & Institutional Strategy

As I reflected on MICA’s past year and our work to accelerate institutional change and improvement, I became convinced that MICA is in the midst of undergoing a profound transformation, one that I would venture to characterize as a metamorphosis.

More than superficial or incremental change, metamorphosis—as in the case of a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis—involves change that results in the organism becoming something different in form, behavior, and performance. It is inherently radical and it is not pain-free, as our experience over the past several months has shown.

In MICA’s case, I view it as a process—catalyzed by external and internal forces—of structural, operational, and cultural transformation from a dated and less functionally effective organization into a contemporary organization that is capable of achieving our mission and vision. 

MICA’s metamorphosis is a process of becoming. The outcomes shared above depend on the campus community’s collective will and commitment to see the transformation through with intentionality, determination, and a balance of urgency and patience. 

This path is fundamental to MICA’s future success. All campus community components need to evolve in coordination, in order for our sum to be bigger than the parts. None of us can demand radical change without being willing to radically change ourselves. This transformation necessitates attitudinal and behavioral shifts of multiple parties that will take time and perhaps stages to coalesce into a sustained culture and practice, shedding old ways we can no longer afford to maintain.

Therefore, I invite faculty, staff, students, and trustees to recognize together the mandate and power of MICA’s metamorphosis that is in progress. Let us call forth our collective commitment for its success by envisioning and working together and by all being a part of the change forward. Let us embrace this metamorphosis as a foundational strategy for rethinking and remaking MICA.

Conclusion & Next Steps

As noted, this metamorphosis is not an easy journey but it can lead to a fully manifested and brilliant state of being. This is the future I see for MICA. 

To evolve together, I will plan with various campus constituency groups a series of spaces and dialogues to discuss this topic and follow-up actions. Between now and the end of February, campus members can also expect a number of reader-friendly communications that transparently share information and progress in support of our transformative efforts (from HR relaunch to shared governance).

MICA’s mission and vision relate strongly to Baltimore and the rest of the world. In order to be our best in meeting our aspirations for external impact, we have to put our house in order. Let us as a campus community seize this moment to address decisively a number of significant and long-standing internal issues, dating back for decades and persisting into current time. We will take care to infuse our internal work with the awareness of and coordination with the larger context in which MICA functions.

Please let me know if you agree with my proposal of metamorphosis as an overarching framework for our work together to make MICA better and stronger, and if you feel that the task is within the capacity of this community.

Please share your thoughts here

While it was an incredibly difficult year, 2020 bore a gift in expediting MICA’s transformation that is critical to the College’s long-term relevance and success. I look forward to undertaking this important work in 2021 with you—for our students, for our mission and vision, and for one another.