Newsletter Issue:
Spring 2024

“Precedence, Presence, and Presidents” A recap of the interview with Simonetta Moro and George Smith in New York City on April 20, 2024

“Precedence, Presence, and Presidents." Simonetta Moro and George Smith. Photo by Molly Davis

by Dr. Taliesin Thomas, PhD 2022

This past April, the IDSVA community gathered in New York City to celebrate the largest roster of degree recipients in the institution’s history—thirty total; twenty of whom participated at The Morgan Library commencement ceremony in person. In addition to commencement, the event marked the passing of the sacred presidential torch from IDSVA founder Dr. George Smith to Dr. Simonetta Moro. Moro is IDSVA’s second president and first female president.

In addition to these significant achievements for IDSVA, there was also a robust A Toast to an Ethos of Care symposium organized by the Alumni Association. This portion of the event included presentations, speeches, and artworks by twenty-nine students and alumni, plus comments from faculty and a board member. A special interview was conducted between outgoing president Smith and incoming president Moro. It was an incredible celebratory weekend to honor all of these enormous achievements!

I was given the noble task of leading the conversation between our two esteemed heavyweight presidents, which inspired me to dig through my notes from IDSVA coursework and residencies going back many years (I started my IDSVA education in 2013 and completed my dissertation in 2021). It was a joy to revisit their distinct voices through pages and pages of handwritten notes; indeed I had captured precise comments made by each of them during classes and core topological residencies all around the globe. In my effort to draft a series of questions to ask during the interview, my earliest notes from Spannocchia allowed me to relive the essence of that magical academic experience. What a delightful exercise! Based on those notes, I pulled together a decent structure for the interview script. I also contacted classmates to hear their suggestions about what questions to ask. I hashed out the concepts with my mother, and collaborated closely with Gabriel Reed (who just graduated!) to craft a succinct script. We considered a proper title for the conversation and landed on “Precedence, Presence, and Presidents” to encapsulate the mood. And it was precisely that—a sincere conversation full of precedence, punctuated by attentive presence, and motivated by our collective intention to support our president(s) as we navigate this new era.

One of the queries I posed to George concerned a statement he made during our residency in Italy over a decade ago.  He declared: “We are at the end of the history of wrong ideas,” to which I asked: “What is the 'right idea’ for IDSVA now?” Simonetta offered a straight-forward response: “The right idea is not to have a right idea.” The dialogue expanded from there, and in classic George style we were privy to the interior of his heart-mind through his expanded comments on the matter. When I asked Simonetta about this next chapter of leadership with IDSVA, she indicated her excitement about getting “more out into the world” to promote IDSVA and our work as an institution. She also discussed aspects of the new strategic plan and her desire to collaborate with our entire community to achieve our common goals.

The dialogue flowed for an hour, and then we took a few audience questions. Attendees were given an index card upon arrival to write down a question, and I collected the cards into a bag for random selection. Many questions were posed by the crowd, but the query “What will happen next?” best embodies the sentiment that we were all feeling. It is with clear motivation and determined purpose that we answer that question for ourselves—and the world at large—as we further galvanize the foundation of our great institution. What happens next depends on each of us, and in that spirit, LONG LIVE IDSVA!

Watch the full interview here:

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