Maisie Gholson, Assistant Professor in Educational Studies, earned Rackham Faculty Allies and Student Ally Diversity Grants that will support the Race and Social Justice Institute.
The Institute focuses on treating diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice as intellectual work. “We hypothesize that the persistence of minoritized students’ dissatisfaction and sense of alienation is not a function of solely interpersonal dynamics, but a set of intellectual dynamics in which their academic interests may be marginalized and undervalued,” said Gholson. The Race and Social Justice Institute seeks to bridge this opening with three days of intense academic sessions.
The most recent Race and Social Justice Institute was held in August of 2019. The first presenter was Dr. Jarvis Givens, Assistant Professor of Harvard University, who described the history of resistance of Black teachers during the Reconstruction Era. The Institute closed with by Dr. Chezare Warren, Associate Professor at Michigan State University, who described the importance of Afrofuturism in imagining educational liberation. The intervening days included activities that complemented Institute lectures, such as a two-hour collective experience in which participants were trained in Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed to explore re-representations of power through performance. Five SOE faculty members also led sessions about the history of racial and ethnic groups across time, cross-cultural simulations as teaching tools, and the effects of racial residential segregation on educational opportunity.
“Now, with a cohort of students who have experienced the first Institute and the commitment to shape future learning experiences, we are hopeful and open to the possibilities that the 2020 Race and Social Justice Institute will bring,” said Gholson.
monét cooper, JPEE doctoral student, was named as the student ally that will help coordinate the 2020 Institute. “She has immediately become a school-wide leader and has done substantial work in her previous career as a teacher in promoting equity and social justice,” said Gholson. Cooper will lead student volunteers and work with a faculty ally in the design, planning, and coordination of the Institute.
Rita Chin, Associate Dean for Academic Programs, stated that her office appreciated finding out about the ways in which diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) were elevated in this program. “We were especially interested to learn about your proposed activities and how you expect them to improve the climate, retention, and academic and professional development of your current students. The purpose of our grants is to give programs the ability to try new approaches to achieve their DEI goals. In the long term, we expect that you and your program leadership will institutionalize the most successful activities and find ways to make them sustainable,” she said.
Chin added that supporting DEI work remains at the core of Rackham’s mission, even under the financial stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are very pleased to be able to fund your proposal and anticipate that your activities will have a major impact on your graduate students this year and in the years to come,” she said.
“In the midst of the public health and economic crises, as well as historic protests on police brutality and anti-Black racism, the world feels ripe for new futures and transformative change. However, the world that we want does not exist and has never existed. I see the Race and Social Justice Institute as a space where we can show up and participate locally in charting something new--something we have never seen and something we have perhaps never experienced. The Institute is a space where we can begin the hard work of learning how to talk, laugh, argue, and cry our way to a new future. I do not want students to be falsely led to believe that within the Institute there is some easy set of answers for educational justice. Nor is it a space where justice shows up because we have arrived. The Institute, however, is a deliberately designed space where we can learn to fight to keep justice at the core of our curriculum, our words, our interactions, our teaching and learning, so we not only theorize and research educational justice but begin to live it together,” said Gholson.