2015-16 Diversity Transformation Award (Excerpted Grant Proposal)

Purpose of the Project

As part of the postcolonial and critical race theory series in early 2015 , Dr. Charles Mills: John Evans Professor of Moral and Intellectual Philosophy, Northwestern University spoke on January 23, 2015 in the University Libraries’ Standish Room. Then Interim Provost Timothy Mulcahy introduced Dr. Mills and just before doing so, Dr. Mulcahy invited us to connect Dr. Mill’s paper and talk with the urgency and necessity of dialogue based upon what was occurring in Ferguson, Missouri. Dr. Mulcahy’s invitation reminded us that the academy exists within a larger context of historical inequities and systemic oppression, and that the ultimate role of critical conversations is that of societal transformation.

As such, in this speaker and workshop series, we hope to extend the very successful efforts of the previous series organized by Lisa Fuller and Torrey Shanks. We hope to further campus critical conversations by focusing upon applied pedagogical insights from practitioners of critical race theory, gender studies, postcolonial studies, multicultural education, indigenous studies, counseling psychology, women’s studies and other transformative pedagogies. We plan to feature diverse efforts of our own faculty who have deeply considered and practiced teaching methods that instruct for critical, transformative thinking on systemic “diversity deficits” within institutions and oppressive practices in relationship to each of their areas of study or disciplines. The series would offer critical beginning steps for faculty approaching an innovation of diversity goals and objectives within instructional or overall curriculum design. Presenters will offer examples, methods, analysis of efficacy, and recommendations for transformative praxis. We propose that by inviting a dialogic process on pedagogy, this will interrupt the hegemonic fear and isolation when thinking “outside the box.”

2. Contributions to Diversity and Inclusion

Building on the previous postcolonial and critical race series in 2014-15, we seek to provide opportunities to examine current and potential transformative pedagogical strategies to address such questions as:

What is transformative pedagogy?
Can we teach alternatives to the creation of categories that replicate erasure?
Does our pedagogy support or challenge historic inequities and ongoing oppression (race, gender, social class, sexuality etc)?
Can pedagogy be utilized to transform narratives of dominance and subordination?
Should systemic inequity be the focus of transformative pedagogy through an interrogation of the ongoing devastation and loss of life brought about by colonialism and racism?
Are we willing to embark on how to deconstruct our own “diversity deficits” and together build a dialogue that supports transformative models?
How is transformative pedagogy encouraged on our campus?
What is done to support this effort at UAlbany? What are the obstacles?
What efforts need to be heard and shared?

Faculty who focus on interdisciplinary work and intersectional analysis and teaching of these themes have been invited though more may want to participate.

We argue that often an unstated message given to instructors/educators/scholars within the academy is that of compliance and conformity. Anecdotally, we have heard such comments as “To bring up race or sex, particularly in my discipline, is immediate ‘suicide’ for a non-tenured professor” and “It’s just not safe. I just don’t know how to bring up race in the classroom.” Additionally we know that often, subtle communications among colleagues dis-invest junior scholars from engaging difficult conversations of equity or more specifically, racism, within their teaching and curricula. This workshop series is therefore designed to create value for “diversity work” that faculty engage in, as well as contribute to the retention of students and faculty, while creating a higher value for this work within overall curriculum goals.
3. Expected Impact of the Project and Proposed Evaluation

The unique contribution of our project is that it links and extends conversations that have occurred on the campus but also offers space for sustained dialogue and practice to emerge within our community on both practical and theoretical levels. In addition, inviting collaboration with ITLAL to grow excellence in teaching that addresses and supports critical thinking and practice on diversity extends many individual teaching efforts and maximizes the benefit of expertise within our community while potentially influencing overarching curricular change towards inclusivity.

Beyond the impact of support to student and faculty learning on how to implement diversity more consciously and sensitively, this project may impact how ITLAL begins to develop outreach to faculty in supporting diversity as part of excellence in teaching. Partnership with the Institute for Teaching and Learning on this project will allow the Institute to draw upon faculty innovations and teaching efforts and extend further support to creating excellence in teaching perspectives that may grow diversity. We would like U Albany to be among those that have incorporated cultural diversity into its ethics of excellence and teaching. As such we imagine ITLAL as being a critical partner in providing opportunities for instruction on how to facilitate dialogue within the classroom and do it in such a way that critical conversations can generate understanding and leadership in our students as they become more mindful of the structural inequities that may be reinforced or embedded in institutions of higher learning or within professions students will enter.

The success of the project will be evaluated in part through short surveys administered at the close of both of the seminar and lecture and responses will be summarized in the final report, alongside counts of participants and their departments. Faculty will be invited to share recommendations on what is needed to sustain the efforts on our campus.

Co-Authors of Proposal

Deborah LaFond                &                Alex Pieterse
University Libraries                            School of Education
College of Arts and Sciences             Division of Counseling Psychology

Email:dlafond@albany.edu               Email:apieterse@albany.edu
Phone: 442-3599                                  Phone: 437-4423


The following Faculty Collaborators and Presenters (University at Albany) have been developing a collaborative transformation network to engage the campus in this work.

Rajani Bhatia, Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS)
Deborah Chapin, Educational Psychology and Counseling
Billie Franchini, Institute for Teaching, Learning & Academic Leadership
Alex Kumi-Yeboah, School of Education, ETAP
Lisa Fuller, Philosophy
Torrey Shanks, Political Science
Robert Gluck, Music and Theater, Africana Studies
Alexander Gyamfi, Africana Studies
Deborah LaFond, University Libraries, WGSS
Mary Ellen Mallia, Economics, Office of Sustainability
Karin Reinhold, Mathematics and Statistics
Nancy Newman, Music and Theater, WGSS
Alex Pieterse, Division of Counseling Psychology
Hazel Prelow, Psychology
Lawrence Schell, Anthropology
Wilma Waithe, Public Health
Ekow King, Office of Intercultural Student Engagement
Julie Cuccio-Slichko, Educational Psychology and Counseling, ITS

Please see all Diversity Transformation Projects and Events supported by the University at Albany, Office of Diversity and Inclusion along with individual and collective labor, and several co-Sponsors listed on each individual event flier and event programs.



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