Keeping on Keeping on

July 1, 2022

09/01/2021 – Medford/Somerville, Mass. – Richard M. Lerner, Professor Eliot Pearson Child Study and Human Development, poses for a portrait on September 1, 2021. (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)

The Covid-19 pandemic continues through this writing, the nation is grappling with political polarization and the aftermath of the January 6, 2021 insurrection, continuing racial reckoning is gripping our nation, there is a war against democracy and freedom ongoing in Europe, the reproductive rights of American women have been taken away, and the epidemic of gun violence in the United States is a malevolence so great and so historically unprecedented that the leading cause of death of children in the nation is gun violence.

Against this backdrop, the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development (IARYD) continued to try to be a hybrid organization. In 2021, I “celebrated” the 50th anniversary of my earning my Ph.D. degree. However, nothing in my graduate training or in my half-century-plus of post-Ph.D. experience prepared me to transform IARYD into a productive hybrid, applied developmental science lab, a lab with projects across the nation and around the world. I was also not prepared to be an effective “hybrid” teacher and mentor to Tuft’s remarkable undergraduate students and stellar master’s and doctoral students or a contributing “hybrid” member of my communities at Tufts and in the organizations and disciplinary and multidisciplinary fields in which I work.

Fortunately, I had great help. 

As IARYD has navigated the challenges of becoming a productive and valued hybrid lab, I think it is providential that we have had the opportunity to collaborate with many extraordinary colleagues across the U.S. and internationally. At this writing, we are still not beyond the challenges created by Covid-19 and, even when the pandemic is functionally in our rear-view mirror, we will emerge into a world of historically-unprecedented challenges. As I have noted, the peoples of our planet are faced with the confluence of dramatic climate change, racial and economic inequities, political tribalism and authoritarian demagoguery, war, and threats to democratic institutions and freedom, both in the U.S. and around the globe.

At times, I have wondered if it is foolish, arrogant, or even meaningless to keep trying to maintain and sustain a lab dedicated to the application of development science in the service of promoting positive development, social justice, equity, and freedom for the youth of our nation and world.  Is IARYD, am I, just tilting at windmills?

When these doubts arise, I think about the extraordinary colleagues and students I have been blessed to have in my life. I might be the wrong person or an inadequate one to succeed in the course I have set for IARYD. However, the vision and enormous and singularly impressive talents of these colleagues, and the fact that they continue to want IARYD to be part of their work, keeps me keeping on. I think we will stay the course.