Pitzer Spotlights

2007-2008 Spotlight Archives

Josina Morita ’02: A Fresh Activist Voice

Josina Morita

In speaking with Josina Morita ’02, it seems not only possible but necessary to jump on a plane to Chicago and get involved with the Applied Research Center in working toward racial equity as a standard of effective policy making.

Morita graduated from Pitzer College with a dual degree in sociology and a self-designed major titled International Race Relations, which combined sociological methods, Ethnic and Gender Studies as well as travel abroad. A campus activist, she worked in Chiapas, Mexico, with indigenous human rights groups and on campus for the rights of dining hall workers, participating in the 1999 eleven-day hunger strike.

While at Pitzer, Morita was particularly inspired by Professor of Sociology and Chicano Studies José Calderón, Professor of Psychology and Black Studies Halford Fairchild, Professor of Black and Asian Studies Dipa Basu, and Professor of Gender & Feminist Studies and Chicana Studies Maria Soldatenko, three professors who got her involved in hands-on work and helped her look beyond divided lines of race, gender and social class in a global framework. “It was definitely the professors who influenced me the most at Pitzer,” Morita said.

From community involvement at Pitzer, Morita has moved on to senior research associate at the Applied Research Center (ARC) in Chicago, a national public policy organization that advocates and promotes racial justice. ARC promotes a multiracial framework that examines the cumulative impact of policy on communities of color and immigrant communities.

Currently, Morita is working on the Illinois Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity. “It is a tool that looks at key policies that have positive and negative impacts on communities of color and evaluates the legislature on how they voted on policies that would ameliorate or exacerbate the state’s growing racial disparities,” said Morita.

Morita has recently been recognized by the Chicago-based Community Renewal Society as one of their “35 under 35,” a list that highlights the importance of fresh voices in the fight to eliminate racism and poverty by recognizing emerging leaders.

“A lot of people in research end up with papers on shelves and they don't make it into the hands of the people fighting for racial justice on the ground,” said Morita. “I’m working to make our research more applied, strategic, and timely for those who will use it.”

Morita’s passion for her work provides inspiration for others who are interested in using their academic skills to create tangible change in communities on a local and global level. “The larger goal is to create a framework for racial equity, how we can evaluate it and have that become a public standard for good policy making,” Morita said. On February 21, over 250 community leaders will deliver those legislative report cards into the hands of lawmakers who can work to make racial equity a reality.

For her study abroad experiences Morita studied in Pitzer in Botswana and Pitzer Summer Study in Japan.

—Jessica Schwartz ’08