Diversity Spotlight: Micaela Procopio

January 26, 2022 - Liz Schondelmayer

Spotlight Micaela Procopio is a PhD student at Gratz College, earning her degree in Holocaust and Genocide studies. A proud alum of the College of Social Science, Micaela is being honored during Holocaust Remembrance Month for her incredible work advancing our understanding of the Holocaust and our ability to educate future generations about this tragedy. 

Micaela grew up in Leslie, Michigan, about a half an hour away from MSU's campus. Born to two Spartan parents, Micaela was committed to finding a community at MSU. "Both my parents went to MSU, but my dad actually worked for MSU for 30 years so I was a Spartan before I could even walk!" Micaela explained. "I spent many Saturdays at football games or restaurants off campus. My Mom encouraged me to apply to other schools, but MSU had my heart."

While Micaela came to MSU with a passion for history, it wasn't until her junior year that she took a Jewish American history class with Dr. Kirsten Fermaglich and discovered a passion for the subject. 

"I had always had an interest in the Holocaust and so a few of my electives as a History major were classes on the Holocaust but I hadn’t really considered it as a career until I started working with Professor Fermaglich," Micaela explained. 

"I had also had a minor in Museum Studies, because I really believed that there was no point in studying history if you couldn’t share your love of the subject. I saw museums as the perfect balance of teaching history in an engaging and exciting manner. By the time I graduated from MSU, I had changed trajectories and was going to graduate with a Major in History with two minors in Museum Studies and Jewish Studies."

Now a researcher herself at Gratz College in Philadelphia, Micaela studies two specific aspects of Holocaust history: women's reproductive rights and abortion access during the Holocaust, as well as how to teach K-12 students about the genocide. 

Currently, Micaela is in the process of developing a curriculum for a private school in Ann Arbor to teach seventh grade students about the Holocaust. Her goal is to create a substantial, all-encompassing curriculum that includes learning standards from every state and can be implemented across the country.

"Holocaust Education is incredibly important to me because oftentimes in our society we try to combat hatred as a singular issue when that’s not true at all. If I can educate on the Holocaust, I not only combat antisemitism, but I’m combatting racism, xenophobia and other forms of prejudice," explained Micaela.

Micaela noted that the driving inspirations behind her work are scholar, activist and author Dr. Ibram X. Kendi; Holocaust Survivor, author and humanitarian Eli Wiesel; and most importantly, her parents.

"My dad is the person who taught me that my voice is powerful and to always stand up for what you believe in. And my mom, who is an elementary school teacher, taught me what kindness is and how powerful being kind can be," Micaela shared. 

Finally, in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Micaela shares how each of us can honor those lost in the genocide and remember their legacy: by speaking out against hate and sharing the stories of survivors. 

" All the Holocaust Survivors I have had the pleasure to know and work with, stress the importance of speaking up. Don’t underestimate the power you have with your voice," said Micaela. "Then of course, another great way is to share the stories of Holocaust survivors. Keep their memory alive by sharing their story, learning about the Holocaust and not letting it become lost to history."


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