Faculty Fighting Racism: A new learning initiative for faculty

The initiative, created by the Graduate School Diversity Consultation Team, is a first step to provide resources for faculty to understand how to be anti-racist.

<p>A new website launched by The Graduate School Diversity Consultation Team aims to help faculty better support students from marginalized backgrounds and fight racism at the institutional level. </p>

Hailee Schievelbein

A new website launched by The Graduate School Diversity Consultation Team aims to help faculty better support students from marginalized backgrounds and fight racism at the institutional level. 

Katelyn Vue

Faculty Fighting Racism, a new University of Minnesota initiative, was created July 1 as a first step to provide resources for understanding anti-racism and empowering faculty to take action. 

The Graduate School Diversity Consultation Team created the website to give faculty resources to learn how to improve supporting students from marginalized backgrounds and fight racism at the institutional level. The team is a group of five staff members who say they hope faculty continue to share the platform and utilize its resources. 

Yoji Shimizu, the associate dean of graduate education and director of the Graduate School Diversity Office, developed the platform to provide digestible, timely and user-friendly resources after seeing a groundswell of faculty seeking to improve support for students. 

“This is the step of doing your own work by reading, watching, and listening to the voices, knowledge, and experiences of the oppressed so that we may engage in educated conversations in the steps that follow,” the website reads. 

Mylene Culbreath started last year as the associate director of Diversity and Inclusion Consulting with the Graduate School Diversity Office. She also leads the Graduate School Diversity Consultation Team. 

In the last several months, she said she found herself supporting faculty in a new way by creating space for faculty to unpack diversity, equity and inclusion issues. 

The website focuses on combating anti-Black racism, but the team plans to develop resources to cover different marginalized groups and social identities in the future. 

Noro Andriamanalina, a member of the team and director of Academic and Professional Development, said the website is for faculty members to self-reflect and guide their work in breaking down institutional racism. 

“Faculty have to do their own work for self-awareness, self-mindfulness to think about what is their role at the University,” Andriamanalina said. “[Faculty members] are in positions of power to make a difference … and we want resources for faculty to empower them to make a change for the better so students, faculty and staff who are marginalized will be successful.” 

Nearly 4,000 faculty members received an email with information about the platform as well as graduate programs at the University.

The Graduate Diversity Consultation Team is also working on a web portal for faculty members to learn at their own pace about topics such as imposter syndrome, culturally responsive teaching, microaggressions and more. 

“From a faculty perspective, I think the goal of many faculty is they want to understand how to promote this idea of inclusive and welcoming climates,” said Ellen Longmire, a professor at the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics and an associate dean for the College of Science and Engineering. 

“Right now [faculty] need to understand the barriers that Black students and students of color have faced in their lives and are still facing. … This whole idea of faculty fighting racism is really a good start.”  

The website includes sections to “read,” “watch,” “listen” and “do.” Each member of the team contributes different experiences and resources to the platform. 

Char Voight, director of Faculty Initiatives, is also a member of the Graduate Diversity Consultation Team. The initial content and larger portal project both came from conversations with academic programs, departments and faculty about their needs for empowering faculty, Voight said. 

“We really want to make sure that this is not a static site. It will be evolving,” Voight said. “We want to make sure it’s timely, responsive and people keep going back to the site and know that it’s there for them as a resource as they continue to do this work.” 

Cori Bazemore-James is another member of the team and the director of Retention and Success at the Graduate School Diversity Office. She wrote all the content and messaging for the platform. 

The team is still reaching out to faculty, and the members say they hope to expand the platform. 

“Clearly, this was a good first step that was driven by current events,” Voight said, referring particularly to the killing of George Floyd. “But as we’ve said before, this is part of a larger value that we hold at the graduate school. … It’s made me understand too that I can’t really do my job without being part of this team.”