WALLA WALLA, Wash.-- For a month this spring Tina Montiel, psychology professor, journal editor, activist and mother, served as the first Visiting Professor of Global Studies at Whitman, putting a human face on the “home-grown liberation movements” that have swept through parts of Europe, Asia, Latin America and South Africa in the past 25 years.

 

 Montiel, a psychology professor at Ateneo University, Manila, Philippines, is a leading scholar in the peace psychology community who also serves as associate editor of the flagship journal “Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology.” What made her so well suited to serve as the first O’Donnell Professor of Global Studies were her very real experiences as an activist in the Philippines. Montiel participated in People Power I and People Power II, nonviolent democratic transitions in the Philippines that occurred in 1986 and 2001, respectively. Her personal history includes living through a time of martial law in the context of her experiences as a woman-activist, mother of a small boy and wife of a political detainee during the Marcos Dictatorship.

 The Ashton J. and Virginia Graham O’Donnell Visiting Professorship in Global Studies Endowment, now at $2.2 million, was established in 2002 by the 1943 Whitman alums to give current and future students the chance to experience the opportunities they enjoyed in their careers. Ashton’s career after Whitman allowed them extensive travel, business dealings with domestic and international clientele, and diplomatic responsibilities with the U.S. Department of State. The O’Donnell Professorship now supports visiting professors who have expertise in international affairs from the standpoint of practitioners in a variety of fields including diplomacy, human rights, nongovernmental organizations, engineering, the environment and the arts. “We have become increasingly aware of the growing needs for professionals capable of understanding the rapid and disturbing changes in the world,” said the O’Donnells in 2002, adding that they believe Whitman students need to prepare to think and act when called upon to participate in the world’s constant changes. “Global Studies should provide input and insight to facilitate their participation.”

 During her time on campus in April, Montiel team-taught a Peace Psychology seminar course with colleague and long-time friend Deborah Winter, Whitman professor of psychology. Students responded positively to this unique learning opportunity. “Tina brought a different perspective to our class and opened our eyes to a different point of view,” said sophomore Rachel Walker. “The course wouldn’t have been the same without her; she is funny, kind and gentle spirited.”

 In addition to teaching classes, Montiel delivered a public lecture in Maxey Auditorium about her experiences with violence in the Philippines. She blended narratives of large-scale violent acts of the government with the personal details of how her own family was affected. Montiel shared with an attentive audience everything from original photos and recorded television clips to slides of drawing made by her then-four-year-old son depicting guns and violence. In her presentation, the visiting professor matched the personal with the historical, helping the audience see these events through a multitude of lenses.

 With her combination of life events, Montiel brought a distinctive experience to Whitman. “Tina provided an opportunity to bridge the gap between abstract understanding and experiential learning, which is precisely what the O’Donnells sought to achieve with this professorship,” said Winter of her colleague, who provided much more than lectures and classroom insight. Montiel also met one-on-one with each of her students, advising students interested in peace psychology to spend a year or two living in a culture containing structural violence before considering graduate school. She helped students think about how to get practical experience that would inform classroom work. While on campus, Montiel immersed herself in the Whitman community, teaching not just psychology classes but also Tai Chi, as well as the correct way to cook chicken adobo, the Filipino national dish.

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By Devan Schwartz ‘06