St. Olaf Magazine | Summer 2020

St. Olaf Establishes the George Floyd Fellowship for Social Change

“As our communities stand together asking for justice, we must ask ourselves what we are doing to be part of the change. We need a social awakening. We need to stop passively apologizing and feeling sorry, and instead take action.” — María Pabón, Director of the Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion

St. Olaf College has committed $100,000 to establish the George Floyd Fellowship for Social Change, established in honor of George Floyd, whose murder in Minneapolis set off national and international waves of protests, education, self-reflection, calls for action, and systemic change.

Art by Elissa Temme ’19

Managed by the Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion, the George Floyd Fellowship directly supports the advancement of Black American students. Students participating in the fellowship will work toward improving the collective experience of marginalized communities, with a focus on the advancement of social justice and equity. The program provides fellows with leadership development opportunities, mentoring, and stipends supporting internships or research projects, costs associated with travel to conferences, and educational materials.

“We are part of one of the strongest movements this country has seen. We owe it to our students and communities not only to acknowledge the racism that infects our schools, neighborhoods, and other institutions but also actively to work to be part of the movement and change. We know Oles can and Oles will!” says María Pabón, director of the Taylor Center.

Since the George Floyd Fellowship endowment was announced, St. Olaf alumni and parents have added their gifts and support to the college’s initial investment, including an additional $100,000 gift that has been added since the endowment was announced. These additional funds will ensure that there will be at least two student recipients of the inaugural George Floyd Fellowship.

Meanwhile, members of the St. Olaf community have come together to advocate for change and social justice, protest, donate, serve, pray, and answer calls to action. Noting that “to be socially distanced doesn’t mean our hearts are apart and our prayers are masked,” a Community Reflections web page was created where Oles can share their voices during this time of introspection and action. These messages (below) are the start of a chorus intended for all Oles — students, alumni, faculty, and staff — who are invited to join in the refrain by sharing their reflections.

“As people who believe in justice and in love, we are called to do whatever we can from wherever we are — to advocate for change, and to care for ourselves and each other. Change must happen not just outside ourselves, but also within.” — Katie Fick, Associate College Pastor

“I have hope in the belief that young people hold the key to creating the change that we need in the world. We have to do better. We must do better. But you have to try. Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up. Stand up for justice. Stand up for equality. Stand up for fair treatment. Stand up for what is right.” — Hassel Morrison, Vice President for Student Life

“We live in a time of great conflict, confusion, and contradiction, and I believe that the story of this historic moment must be told. And it must be told by you: the artist, scientist, the humanitarian, the poet, but more important, you as an Ole. It’s what we do at St. Olaf.” — Bruce King, Assistant to the President for Institutional Diversity

 “To hope is to believe that where we are today is not where we’re stuck forever. There are protesters demanding change, and there are neighbors helping neighbors. We have hope that with a lot of hard work and deep listening, we can heed the words of President Obama, that we can — and must — be better.” — Matthew Marohl, College Pastor

 “To the folks who have been doing the work of protesting, donating, volunteering, or any of the other myriad ways that are necessary to effect change, please keep going.” — Iman Jafri, Associate Chaplain for Muslim Life