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Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Through AACTE’s 2020 Leadership Academy Series

Monika Williams ShealeyEvery year, AACTE typically holds its Leadership Academy as an in-depth, face-to-face, hands-on training for those educators seeking to begin or enhance their roles in academic leadership.  Given the current Covid-19 pandemic, AACTE wanted to bring a portion of that experience to its membership, and thus the 2020 Leadership Academy Series was created. 

With the theme of Leadership During Difficult Times, the Leadership Academy Series explores topics that are more relevant than ever to our members.  The first session of the series, held on October 14, explored how three institutions have risen to the challenge and taken strides to make lasting policy and programmatic changes related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Monika Williams Shealey, senior vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion at Rowan University, was one of three distinguished panelists. She recently took time to answer some additional questions from attendees. Here is what she had to say:

Q.  Dr. Shealey, you recently participated in a statewide forum in New Jersey with fellow DEI educators and leaders. What insights can you provide from the forum regarding how higher education institutions can promote anti-racism through education and create safe spaces for marginalized communities?

What we’ve learned through our work at Rowan, and from our colleagues across the state, is that systemic DEI work begins with the alignment of our efforts with the university’s explicit vision, mission, and strategic action plan. Next, institutions must have the infrastructure to facilitate meaningful and sustainable change. Rowan has created a division that addresses three important areas: compliance focused on Title VI and Title IX, student supports and programming, and facilitating inclusive scholarship, teaching and professional development for faculty and staff. In addition, our primary focus as institutions of higher education is to educate our diverse communities.  At Rowan, we’ve done that through a virtual series this past summer entitled “We Are Not Ok: Injustice, Action and Healing,” which addressed racial injustice, a DEI Certificate

Q.  You recently published a thought leadership article for AACTE on Racial Battle Fatigue (RBF). What is it, and how can white allies help alleviate its impact on our colleagues of color?

Racial Battle Fatigue (RBF) is the social-psychological stress responses associated with being a person of color or minoritized person and the target of repeated racism.  The consequences of racism are racial microaggressions, which are automatic or unconscious subtle, verbal or nonverbal insults directed at people of color or minoritized individuals. The obvious first step is to acknowledge localized and systemic racism and commit to personal responsibility in combating racism starting with your words and actions. In order to identify the insidious and systemic nature of racism, it is critical to educate yourself. There are a number of resources available that examine racism from diverse vantagepoints. Also, in your teaching and research, examine the ways in which you may contribute to deficit narratives that further marginalize minoritized communities. Finally, move beyond allyship, to developing the knowledge and skills to become advocates and accomplices. This requires that you stand in solidarity with minoritized communities and actively engage in anti-racist work.

The first three sessions of the 2020 Leadership Academy Series may have sold out, but three additional Academy sessions will be available as part of the programming for AACTE’s virtual 2021 Annual Meeting. Register now for the premier educator preparation conference in the nation—the AACTE 73rd Annual Meeting, February 24-26. Get the discounted registration rate when you register by December 4.

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Matthew Wales

Vice President, Member Services & Events