IDEA grants fund campus diversity projects

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February 29, 2016

11:29 PM

The Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity granted six Innovative Diversity Effort Awards to projects that aim to promote themes of equal opportunity, inclusion and diversity at the College of William and Mary.

Applicants submitted their projects in the fall through an online form that focused on the overall budget and purpose of the events. Each grant ranges from $500 to $1,500, depending on need. The Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity awarded the first grants in 2011.

Theatre and Africana studies professor Artisia Green ’00 submitted an application for “Lost in Language and Sound: or, How I found My Way to the Arts,” an event that took place in November. At this event, poet Ntozake Shange visited the College and spent two days working with students.

Shange worked with students on the literature she is currently developing and talked about her previous work. This funding also went toward a series of class participations in which students performed selections of her work and Africana studies and dance professor Leah Glenn performed a dance piece.

“This event facilitated a lot of cross-cultural dialogue,” Green said. “Her work is very much informed by black Hispanics which is further formed by African philosophical ideas. We allowed students to have access to a different set of vocabulary, an understanding of how to read creative writing. It is outside of the Western tradition. For students, the different sets of terminologies have conversations with each other, and they get a different perspective on how to read literature and talk about it.”

Melanie Lichtenstein E.D. ’17 submitted an application for a professional development symposium on the topic of cultural competence training. This symposium is aimed at pre-service teachers who work in diverse schools and communities and will take place March 26.

The schools are a lot more diverse these days than our pre-service educators are being prepared for. So many folks want to go into education, and they have an understanding of education based on their own experiences. — Melanie Lichtenstein E.D. ’17

Doctoral candidates, as well as guests from various outside communities, will speak about how these teachers should address a diverse population. Grant funding will go toward resources that symposium attendees can take home.

“The schools are a lot more diverse these days than our pre-service educators are being prepared for,” Lichtenstein said. “So many folks want to go into education, and they have an understanding of education based on their own experiences. For a lot of William and Mary students that means that they lived in a more affluent area and had more access. In reality, there are millions of types of schools and students out there, and access and opportunity are not necessarily a given for those schools. This is an opportunity to provide strategies and resources for those people to have a better understanding on how to encounter and be culturally respective and responsive to a diverse population in the school system.”

Another symposium, which Brittany McGill J.D. ’17 submitted an application for, focused on topics related to race and law. The Black Law Students Association, with the help of grant funding, held a panel discussion entitled “Systematic Suppression: Mass Incarceration and Voter Disenfranchisement” Feb. 25.

A panel of legal and political professionals travelled across the country to the College to answer questions and facilitate a discussion on these two issues.

“I would say this event promotes the goals of the grant by creating an awareness of these issues that other people might not be aware of,” McGill said. “It creates an environment where it is safe to ask questions and be educated on things they are not aware of in the legal system that affect minorities.”

Arabic studies professors Driss Cherkaoui, May George and Mona Zaki submitted the application for the Middle Eastern Cultural Day, which has not happened at the College before.

“The Middle Eastern Cultural Day is a wonderful opportunity for the Arabic department and the Middle East[ern] studies [department] to promote the courses we offer,” Cherkaoui said. “The Middle East is not a monolithic unit, and students get to meet the faculty who come from various parts of the Arab world.”

Other projects that received funding include “William and Mary Mattachine Research Project: Documenting the LGBTIQ Past in Virginia,” and “In the Absence of Unreliable Ghosts,” a lecture about the colonial archive of Portuguese India and a community of artists known as the Gomantak Maratha Samaj. The lecture will be delivered by Dr. Anjali Arondekar, an author and feminist studies professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Sarah Smith

News Editor Sarah Smith '19 is an undeclared major from Ashburn, VA. She formerly served as Associate News Editor.