LAWRENCE — Thirty-nine University of Kansas faculty and staff from the Lawrence and Edwards campuses completed the inaugural Social Justice Fellows Program this spring.
The program launched after the November 2015 town hall on race, respect, responsibility and free speech. The KU Office of Multicultural Affairs received numerous requests for education and training surrounding cultural competency, inclusion and social justice issues.
“We had a lot of people asking what they can do to become more engaged in creating a more inclusive environment,” said OMA Director Precious Porras. “We had been formulating a fellows program, modeled after KU’s Staff Fellows, for a few years, and this seemed like a perfect time to implement the idea.”
The OMA Social Justice Fellows Program provided intensive direction to faculty and staff to expand their understanding and application of social justice education — especially as it relates to a higher education setting — and understanding current events and topics in context. The program was structured like an academic course with scholarly readings, discussions and short reflections. The rigorous experience required fellows to conduct a critical examination of themselves and their role in systems of oppression with the goal of developing skills to advocate and create systemic change. The readings complemented self-exploration and created a baseline of social justice knowledge.
“We are working to educate faculty and staff on campus, and this new initiative allows us to build an army of allies who are also committed to creating a more inclusive campus,” Porras said. “I like to quote Annice Fisher, a Harvard University doctoral student and White House intern on educational excellence. She said, ‘Social Justice is not a single act but a way of life. It is the conscious decision to challenge oneself and others to refrain from participating in systems of oppression that help to maintain inequity and the status quo.’”
The program coordinators will organize quarterly follow-up meetings with this cohort of fellows, as well as offer additional readings and optional reflections to continue the fellows’ development. The OMA also will call upon fellows to assist with the demand for training throughout the institution.
The fellows work in several offices and units at KU and said they found the program challenging, informative and motivational.
“The program gave me a dedicated space to do my own self-work while addressing vital issues of systemic oppression alongside colleagues from across campus,” said Amanda Wright, 2016 fellow and program coordinator in the Center for Civic and Social Responsibility. “It helped me recognize and address my own problematic behaviors while also developing tools to advocate for greater equity in our university, especially for our marginalized students. Being a social justice fellow means that I am fully and wholly accountable to not just talking about change but proactively working to create it.”
The OMA is taking requests for membership in the spring 2017 cohort. Faculty and staff who are interested in participating should email the OMA at firstname.lastname@example.org. Given the current interest in the program, OMA leadership is also exploring the possibility of a fall cohort.
Faculty and staff who completed this year’s Social Justice Fellows Program:
- Tami Albin, associate librarian, KU Libraries, Center for Faculty Initiatives and Engagement
- Kathleen Ames-Stratton, manager of learning and development, Human Resource Management
- James Anguiano, university police captain, Public Safety Office
- Subini Annamma, assistant professor, School of Education, Department of Special Education
- Sean Barker, program coordinator, KU Libraries
- Kim Bates, interpreter coordinator, Academic Achievement and Access Center
- Darren Canady, associate professor, Department of English
- Marsha Carrasco Cooper, assistant director, Student Involvement and Leadership Center
- Michael Chavez, senior recruitment coordinator, School of Engineering
- Abby Coffin, director, Undergraduate Advising Center
- Sarah Crawford-Parker, assistant vice provost for First-Year Experience
- Vanessa Delgado, coordinator for the Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, Student Involvement and Leadership Center
- LaTisha Davis, retention specialist, Achievement and Assessment Institute, Center for Educational Opportunity Programs
- Joseph Erba, assistant professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communications
- Kate Gerken, program coordinator, Office of Study Abroad Internships and Exchange Students
- Alicia Green, career adviser, School of Business
- Heidi Hulse, assistant director, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Student Academic Services Office
- Jill Hummels, communications manager, Office of the Provost
- Alex Johnson, academic adviser, Undergraduate Advising Center
- Al Jones, complex director, KU Student Housing
- Josh Jones, Title IX investigator and interim director, Institutional Opportunity and Access
- Kevin Walter Joseph, director of student affairs assessment, Student Affairs
- Kevin Liu, associate director, Confucius Institute
- Amy Long, associate director Greek life programs, Student Involvement and Leadership Center
- Jenny McKee, program manager, Watkins Health Services
- Jenny Mehmedovic, executive assistant to the vice provost for faculty development, Office of the Provost
- Brian Moss, reference services manager, KU Libraries
- JJ O'Toole-Curran, director, KU Union Programs
- Shannon Kreiser Portillo, associate professor, School of Public Affairs and Administration
- Ellen Cordero Raimond, learning communities program coordinator, Office of First-Year Experience
- AJ Rain, HSES majors advising specialist, School of Education
- Amanda Schwegler, assistant director, Center for Civic and Social Responsibility
- Kristin Scott, associate director, Academic Achievement and Access Center
- Jeff Severin, director, Center for Sustainability
- Mattie Stevens, senior academic adviser pre-law, Undergraduate Advising Center
- Chris Stoppel, executive associate to the vice provost for administration and finance, Office of the Provost
- Melody Stratton, outreach coordinator, Office of Study Abroad
- Celka Straughn, Andrew W. Mellon director of academic programs, Spencer Museum of Art
- Amanda Wright, program coordinator for student engagement, Center for Civic and Social Responsibility.