The Social Justice League

The Social Justice League

Rollins faculty devote their lives to making a difference in the classroom—and the world.

By Kristen Manieri
Photos by Judy Watson Tracy

Eren Tatari. Photo by Judy Watson Tracy.

Assistant Professor of Political Science

CAUSE American-Muslim relations

THE ISSUE “There are 1.5 billion Muslims in this world. That’s one out of four people,” Eren Tatari says. “The Muslim population in the U.S. is an increasing community. It’s imperative for our students to know what Islam is and who Muslims are. They cannot be global citizens without understanding this huge part of our planet.”

HER IMPACT Through her affiliation with the Orlando Turkish Cultural Center and the Islamic Society of Central Florida, as well as through academia, Tatari gives numerous lectures on Islam. “The talks tend to be about 30 minutes with an hour and a half of questions. People are just dying to ask a Muslim questions.”

OVERARCHING MISSION “I am interested in building bridges between communities,” Tatari says. “If we are going to solve problems in the U.S., war is not the solution. What will solve them is educating individuals in the Middle East and citizens in the U.S., asking them to sit in the same room and have a human interaction. They don’t need to even talk about politics; they can talk about the weather. But they need to humanize each other and realize they have the same fears and concerns. When you put faces on the ‘other,’ it changes your attitude and what you can say and do about those people.”

AN ADVOCATE FOR MINORITY RIGHTS Tatari said that although the U.S. was built on a foundation of respecting rights and accommodating differences, it’s also important for people to know and understand those rights. “You have to know that you have rights and then respectfully and legally demand them,” she says. “We have a saying in Turkey: ‘It’s the crying baby that gets the milk.’ ” To that end, Tatari works with Muslim women in her community, mostly immigrants, to help them understand their rights. “They have language barriers, are not citizens, are afraid of the system, and do not know about the rights they do have, so they continue to remain marginalized. I also hope to serve as a role model, so minority women can see that if you want to achieve something, you can.”

BRINGING THE CAUSE TO CAMPUS Tatari teaches courses on Middle East politics, Muslims in the West, and Islam, all of which are intended to educate students about Muslims here and abroad. She’s also engaged in research with students about the political integration of Muslims in Orlando. “I am always trying to correct the misconceptions.”

HER OUTLOOK “You can be different and still love and respect others. Muslims, African-Americans, Hispanics… No one is going anywhere. These communities are growing each day. So we have to learn to appreciate the beauty of this colorful mosaic. Diversity is fascinating.”

Mary Conway Dato-on. Photo by Judy Watson Tracy.

Associate Professor of
International Business

CAUSE Social entrepreneurship and
fair trade

ORGANIZATION Mary Conway Dato-on has had ties to Ten Thousand Villages since 2004 and now serves on the Winter Park board as vice president and chair of its marketing and outreach committee. She also worked with M.B.A. student Colin Myers to help organize Ten Thousand Village’s inaugural croquet tournament in March 2012. This event raised funds for the organization’s learning tours, which provide staff and volunteers the opportunity to travel internationally to meet the producers of items sold in U.S. stores. “My biggest contribution has been to apply marketing strategy to our advertising and outreach efforts, and to help the store see better results from the money we are now spending. I’m certainly not a one-woman show; I work very closely with the board and the store managers.”

WHAT DRIVES HER Conway Dato-on believes connecting consumers and producers is an important element of fair trade. “If you understand where your products are coming from, you are more likely to buy in a way that is more fair to the producer.”

HOW SHE GOT STARTED Conway Dato-on has been studying and publishing on global equity and gender for years, always coming at it from a business and cultural point of view. “My background is from the liberal arts and international relations side. I always had an interest in global women’s issues, and as I went over to the business side, I became interested in educating women worldwide about ways to earn income and sustain their families. Ten Thousand Villages really aligns with that.”

HER PASSION FOR HELPING WOMEN RUNS DEEP “I am a die-hard ’70s feminist. Since my teenage years, I have been looking at global women’s issues and feminist theories. As my career progressed, the expression of that interest has taken several forms, including social entrepreneurship.”

BRINGING THE CAUSE TO CAMPUS Conway Dato-on has been part of the team driving the efforts to make Rollins a Fair Trade University and Winter Park a Fair Trade Town, which the latter became earlier this year. “It is an education, and all good education takes time. But we really can and should educate consumers to make better buying decisions.”

OTHER INITIATIVES Conway Dato-on is part of a team of people in the Rollins community focused on bringing the Social Entrepreneurship and Sustainability initiative to campus. “I’m proud of my role in getting this from being a task force to now really having an office with a home and cross-campus footprint. There are many of us doing very similar work and trying to achieve the same objectives. When we come together, we can become more cross-disciplinary in our approach.”

IN THE CLASSROOM As part of her Global Consulting Projects course, students work with global nonprofits. “I was just in Mexico City working with a foundation that runs senior residences, and they wanted to know if they should open a skilled nursing facility.” Her class created a report to guide the organization’s efforts, and she is currently writing a case for the foundation to be published in 2013.

HER MOTIVATION “The results of my efforts. I see students become more engaged when they notice their efforts make a difference to a nonprofit. I observe consumers become excited when they know their purchases make a difference in the lives of artisan producers. And I am further energized when I meet and work with others who share my passion for social entrepreneurship. The work I do with Ten Thousand Villages and the Social Entrepreneurship and Sustainability initiative is among the most exciting parts of my job.”

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