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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Social Justice Prize gets coordinator

Monday marked Melisa Chan’s first full day of work as the new Coordinator for the Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize. An environmental lawyer from Hartford, Connecticut, she found the job on the college website and thought it was the perfect fit for her.

“I feel [the job] is an extension of what I have been doing,” Chan said. “I’ve always been interested in environmental policy. This is an extension … of me kind of being able to do good in the world.”

Chan previously practiced at an international law firm before spending four years working for the State of Connecticut. After her marriage to Professor Brian Patrick, Spanish, Chan left her job in environmental law to move to Iowa.

“I’m leaving a profession that I really loved,” Chan lamented, “but I’m arriving to something that presents a lot of exciting opportunities for me and for the College.”

Chan was attracted to Grinnell’s commitment to social justice and its passionate student groups.

“The students are already engaged in social justice,” she said. “That’s what impressed me about the mission of this college. We have a lot of ideas for student involvement.”

One of those ideas allows students to be key players in the process of awarding the Young Innovator prize by making them a part of the selection process.

Chan also looks forward to establishing an informal, open discussion of social justice throughout the year by hosting regular discussions modeled after the language tables that meet in the dining hall once a week.

Chan plans to hire a couple of students to assist in her in the upcoming months as she and the selection committee face the daunting prospect of going through what is expected to be close to 400 nominations for the Young Innovators for Social Justice award.

One of Chan’s duties is to help organize the 11-member award selection committee, consisting of a professor, a faculty member, a trustee, an alumnus and the rest will be social justice experts.

With 375 nominations already submitted, Chan has a lot of work ahead of her, but she also has a lot of support from her colleagues at the College, including President Raynard Kington.

“She impresses me as someone who is very organized and very disciplined and I thought she was a good fit,” Kington said. “She was really interested in taking this on.”

Director of Social Commitment Doug Cutchins described Chan as “someone who is very smart, very hardworking, someone who has a wide range of abilities and talents and someone who is very committed to social justice.”

As the next few months unfold, Cutchins, Kington and the rest of the team are ready to watch Melisa Chan build the Young Innovators of Social Justice Prize into a symbol of the College’s dedication to social justice.

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