May 30, 2023 | By Nick Pfost
An openness to new and differing ideas. An ability and confidence to communicate effectively across difference. Seeing conflict not as ‘bad,’ but as an opportunity for dialogue.
“I use what I’ve learned through The Program on Intergroup Relations in everything I’ve done.” At Michigan, Madison Krumins took these lessons and applied them in and out of the classroom, through IGR courses and facilitating dialogues both on and off campus. Now, as an incoming Fulbright Scholar, the 2022 sociology graduate is preparing to take them with her to Latvia, where she’ll teach English to high school students.
Krumins has long been interested in people and how they connect, something that drew her to sociology in the first place. “I want to work with people. To help people,” she says. She applied to the prestigious Fulbright Scholar program last year, eager for experience abroad that draws upon her IGR training and also aligns with and complements her growing interests in education and law. Teaching and managing a classroom—and understanding and honoring group dynamics in that space—checked those boxes right down the line. “Her thoughtful approach allows her students to shine,” says Donna Rich Kaplowitz, co-director of IGR. “I am certain she will be one of those people who make this world a better place for the rest of us.”
“I want to work with people. To help people." - Madison Krumins
Krumins’ placement in Latvia also has a special, personal significance. The Baltic country is the ancestral home of her grandfather, Verners Krumins. He left with his family in 1944, at age 13, to escape German and Soviet occupations.
Madison was first introduced to IGR through an alternative spring break program advisor, then enrolled for a summer offering of ALA 220, “Foundations of Intergroup Relations,” and subsequently facilitated dialogues within IGR, with U-M Housing, and at Ann Arbor’s Community High School. As a facilitator at U-M, she guided groups of high school and college students through difficult conversations, seeking to create understanding and model the principles of dialogue. Upon graduating, Krumins received the Patricia Gurin Certificate of Merit in Intergroup Relations for her work and contributions.
“There are few other experiences like IGR,” she says, pointing to the program’s signature blending of theory and practice. Krumins credits the program for its role preparing her with the tools and language to translate ideas into words and action. As an American who will soon be teaching outside the U.S., she said she also continues to be mindful of the importance and need for her own cultural humility in connecting with and helping students succeed. That’s another transferable skill she says she honed through involvement with IGR—and one she says, packaged together with the others, gave her a strategic edge in her candidacy for an earlier Michigan in Washington internship with Children’s Law Center.
Krumins looks forward to working and living in Latvia starting later this summer, and she’s excited for the special role educators play in helping challenge students to think outside their own experience. As she prepares for her upcoming assignment, she also looks back at her time at U-M and encourages incoming and future students to get involved with IGR. “Dive in. Listen. Look at different perspectives. Be vulnerable. Take these tools and apply them everywhere.”