St. Thomas campus with dignity flag

St. Thomas Launches Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Campus Center

Kha Yang

The University of St. Thomas launched the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Campus Center on Feb. 2, 2022. The TRHT campus center became effective after the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU) approved the university’s designation as one of many host campuses across the U.S.

Kha Yang, associate vice president for inclusive excellence, said the center will focus on creating positive narrative change, racial healing, relationship-building and breaking down barriers to equal opportunity and treatment.

Alexander Hernandez-Siegel
Alex Hernandez-Siegel

The Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, led by Yang, will oversee the center, which was funded, in part, by a $400,000 grant from the GHR Foundation. The creation of the center was spearheaded by Alex Hernandez-Siegel, director of Student Diversity and Inclusion Services, by convening a group that included Yang to attend an AACU national institute conference to learn about opening a TRHT center at St. Thomas.

The center will comprise many key partners across the university and will serve as a central hub to foster and strengthen racial justice and inclusion programs. It will provide several programming initiatives, including academic partnerships and training with the St. Thomas faculty, racial healing for Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities' initiative, interfaith programs and culture in relation to BIPOC communities, and social justice and campus transformation.

“Our mission as a Catholic institution is to advance the common good and convictions of human dignity and diversity,” Yang said. “Central to the TRHT work at St. Thomas is our continued commitment to intercultural development and equipping our campus with the skills to effectively and emphatically engage across cultures.”

The TRHT designation allows St. Thomas to be part of a larger network of colleges and universities dedicated to achieving racial justice. Some other members include Brown University, Duke, Loyola Marymount, Spelman and Hamline.

While the center at St. Thomas will not occupy a physical space, it will serve as a central coordinator for the university’s collective work in advancing racial equity and justice.

Father Chris Collins, SJ, vice president for mission at St. Thomas, said during the Feb. 15 State of the University address, “We will leverage the center to implement new efforts to reach faculty with training around classroom interactions to help ensure a welcoming and inclusive learning environment."

Another area of focus for the center is examining the intersection of race and religious identity. This will be conducted through a partnership with the Office for Mission. This research will be a part of the center’s overall goal to support underrepresented students on campus.

“The TRHT center is committed to providing students with a positive and holistic experience of inclusion and belonging inside and outside the classroom,” Yang said.

The goal of the center is to create a campus environment where everyone, regardless of the individual’s race, is seen and reflected, Yang said."We each have our own story, and the center aims to provide brave and safe spaces for all to cultivate relationships across cultures." Yang also noted that the center will have a key focus to increase faculty engagement.

“Some specific outcomes for the first year are to engage key partners in aligning our work around racial equity across campus and developing a shared vision to engage more of our community in intercultural assessment and development,” Yang said.

She added that the TRHT designation is long term, and each participating school is expected to submit annual narratives and quarterly reports on TRHT campus center programming to stay compliant.