As a primarily residential program that brings influential people to campus, the COVID-19 pandemic upended many of our plans. But bringing our fellows to campus already has built-in challenges, some of which worked in our program's favor over the past two years.
When we said farewell to Zia Haider Rahman, our winter 2020 fellow, we were already looking at a hollowed-out spring term.
Our two anticipated fellows had both indicated their need to postpone coming to campus: one, because of civil unrest in their African nation; and the other, on account of the desire to stay home to help a daughter deliver her first child. We hope to welcome these two individuals to campus in the not-so-distant future.
Phil Klay '05 gamely agreed to participate in a virtual residency. The four conversations were each electrifying in their own way:
Klay is slated to return for an in-person residency in winter 2023.
While he is not officially a Montgomery Fellow, Trevor Noah joined us virtually for an event that we held in partnership with the Hopkins Center for the Arts. On the night of the event, more than 1,800 viewers—well over half of them students—watched and commented in an active live chat as staff and students asked Noah questions about his work and life. It gave us all a sense of what was possible with online presentations… and left us recognizing that the Montgomery Fellows Program thrived best when our community could hear and speak to our fellows in person.
These residencies were postponed to Winter 2022.
We were hoping to welcome the return of Hoda Barakat to campus for a term-long residency. Barakat will be coming back to campus in spring 2023.
It was clear early in the pandemic that our tentative plans for summer 2021 would, more likely than not, need to be shelved.
We had originally scheduled our partnership with the Departments of Anthropology and Classics for this term. We all waited nervously to see if we would be allowed to resume in-person residencies. While some of our favorite aspects of having fellows on campus had to been reimagined (e.g., dinners at the Montgomery House and meals with students and faculty), we were fortunate to bring to campus four fellows, each for a two-week residency, and a fifth fellow for a virtual lecture.
We had scheduled three craftspeople to come, with the hope of bringing all of them together—at the start of the term and again at the end—so that we could celebrate collectively the creativity on campus that was unleashed when they were in our midst. We were fortunate that all three agreed to wait a year to come. Even then, the Omicron wave nearly pulled these three residencies under, and we worked to adjust the schedule of their residencies to account for the heightened restrictions at the start of winter 2022. But overall, their joining us was a rousing success.
After having seven fellows on campus within the space of two terms, we decided to give ourselves breathing room. Some of our hoped-for programming had to be postponed because of scheduling issues, but we are delighted to welcome back Édouard Louis as our spring 2022 fellow,* and we acknowledge the presence on campus this term of Atifefe Jahjaga, former president of Kosovo and our summer 2016 fellow.
[*Édouard Louis wrote to us on April 21, 2022, to tell us that, because of an emergency in his family, we will need to reschedule his return.]
The pandemic isn't finished with us. But neither are we in the Montgomery Fellows Program finished with creating new opportunities for our community members to engage with exceptional people at the exceptional place we call Dartmouth.
Steve Swayne, Director
Montgomery Fellows Program