Students, faculty and staff members, and community leaders grapple with structural racism
On Saturday, I had the kind of powerful, in-the-moment experience that makes me so grateful to be a dean at Carolina. Early last year, Deborah Stroman, PhD, CLU, a Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprisefaculty member I admire greatly, asked if we in the Gillings School would support a special course, SPHG 690: Leading for Racial Equity. The principle was to bring students, staff and faculty members, and community leaders together to focus on real problems of racial equity and to hone their leadership skills in this domain.
As Debby wrote:
The course promotes a commitment from participants to applied leadership in their respective fields, and that leadership in the 21st century will be more effective if grounded in an understanding of racism and privilege, historic and current structures that sustain racial inequity, and resources. (We stopped taking inquiries for the waiting list at 60 students.) On September 27 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the student groups will creatively articulate the effects of structural racism, and propose potential actions that could lead to racial equity. They will explore four systems: criminal justice, education, for-profit business, and health care.
I heard two of the four group presentations. I was impressed, and like others in the room, was gripped by powerful emotions as we experienced the consequences of racism in our country. The groups used video, their own words and voices, and the words of others to make racism a felt experience. All of this was made more persuasive, because the groups were diverse and comprised of people from different schools, some were students; others were staff and people from the community. Bringing the community into the classroom was an important part of the experience. Afterwards, many group members told me that this was one of the most important, life-changing experiences of their education at Carolina. Their enthusiasm, passion and personal transformations were authentic evidence of the impact of this course. Kudos to everyone who participated and especially to the faculty facilitators, Dr. Stroman, Dr. Geni Eng, health behavior professor at Gillings, Bay Love (Kenan-Flagler Business School), Tye Hunter (School of Law) and student assistant, Jani Radhakrishnan (health behavior master’s student). I’m so grateful that we, in the Gillings School, had the opportunity to participate in making SPHG 690 a reality.
Happy Tuesday. Barbara