In November, Dr. Kathlene Holmes Campbell launched the Dean’s Forum in the School of Education. The inaugural event was held on Election Day and just a week after the campus-wide anti-racist gathering that represented a kickoff to the university’s commitment to combat racism throughout the St. Thomas community.

Campbell, the dean of the School of Education, created the forum to provide a place for candid conversations on race, equity, inclusion and education, modelling it after Columbia University Teachers College’s Racial Literacy Lecture Series.

“My hope is that we grow a community that is open to discussing challenging topics like race,” she said. “We should encourage these open dialogues so we can start to overcome really complex societal issues.”

Campbell has been leading conversations about and researching equity, diversity and inclusion since she began her career as a kindergarten teacher. As a consultant for the National Urban Alliance, she demonstrated culturally responsive pedagogy in classrooms across the country. One of her goals is to have culturally sustaining activities and assignments as part of all School of Education courses by 2020.

The next Dean’s Forum is Wednesday, Jan. 23 at 5:30 p.m. at Opus Hall. It’s open to the entire St. Thomas community. Dr. Detra Price-Dennis, an award-winning researcher at Columbia University, will be presenting on “The Need for Racial Literacy in the Digital Age,” where she will explore “fostering racial literacy in teacher education programs in ways that leverage equity on social media platforms.” (A brown bag for School of Education staff and faculty will be held the following day.)

“I’ve asked Dr. Price-Dennis to talk about why racial literacy matters,” Campbell said. “When we talk about racial literacy most people will say, ‘What is that?’ Racial literacy is the understanding of race and racism in our society.”

During the first forum, Campbell said the discussion began with how people view the world differently based on their own experiences. Other topics covered included the history of race, the U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights data as it applies to schools, and school suspension rates.

At the end, Campbell left people to examine their roles in education by asking questions such as, “What types of materials are in my environment?”, “What does the curriculum look like?” and “Do students have a chance to see themselves represented in it?”

“It’s important to reflect on inclusive practices if you’re going to become a teacher, an educational leader or work in student affairs,” she said. “I believe faculty or staff also need to think about what their role is in dismantling the inequities that have existed for decades.”

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