Excellence in Equity Spotlight

Because the College of Arts and Sciences holds diversity, equity, and inclusion among our core values, each month our Excellence in Equity Spotlight highlights our ongoing work to create a family in which all are welcome. Check back soon for more Excellence in Equity Spotlights.

UC grad finds passion in telling Black women's stories

Essence magazine senior editor named outstanding young alumna

By Joi Dean

When Brande Victorian changed her UC major to journalism, she found what she says was “the perfect fit.” The 2007 graduate from the College of Arts and Sciences took her skills and ran with them, carving a career in the competitive field of writing that has taken her from medical publishing to an editor’s role at a leading magazine for Black women.

Currently the senior editor of entertainment for Essence magazine, Victorian was honored this month with the Outstanding Young Alumni Award from the A&S Alumni Association. The award is conferred annually on an A&S grad under age 40 with significant achievements in their field, and active involvement with the university.

Prior to becoming a part of the Essence family, Victorian contributed to a variety of different publications, including Clutch Magazine, Vibe Vixen and Madame Noire. She has been profiled by Pose magazine, and featured in Jezebel and on the talk show The Real.

Her passion for writing the stories of Black women’s lives continues in her role at Essence. As a Black woman herself, Victorian shares the story of who inspires her, how she was able to become a journalist despite obstacles, and advice for young Black women starting out in journalism.

Read the full story here >

By Justin Gibson

During his teenage years, N. John Bey (A&S ’02) thought he wanted to become a professional football player. He was the starting quarterback at Colonel White High School in Dayton, Ohio, and he played for Urbana (Ohio) University. While still a college freshman, he transferred to the University of Cincinnati, where he hoped to get a chance to continue playing the sport he loved.

That opportunity never arose. Instead — as so often happens in life — a different path appeared. That path led to law school, private practice, his own law firm and a leadership role in his field. Today, Bey heads up Bey & Associates, a 13-attorney catastrophic injury practice with offices in Atlanta and Cincinnati. He is also parliamentarian at the American Association for Justice, the world’s largest trial bar, which seeks to promote a fair and effective civil justice system. He is on track to become the organization’s third African American president since its founding in 1946. In recognition of his professional accomplishments and his active role in developing others, Bey also received the Linda Bates Parker Legend Award from the University of Cincinnati Alumni Association’s African American Alumni Affiliate at the organization’s 2022 Onyx & Ruby Gala in February.

His experience in football — as a quarterback who led the team — remains deeply ingrained.

“Football taught me about getting knocked down and getting back up,” Bey said. “It taught me about working in a team environment. In football and most team sports, you have to motivate people to do their job. You’re judged on whether or not the whole group does well. We all rise and fall together. I think that helps in business, with family, and in life.” 

Read the full story here >

Interactive experience takes visitors through 100 years of history

By Rebecca Schweitzer

Step back into Black history at the University of Cincinnati with the help of a new tour created by students in the College of Arts and Sciences. The interactive tour guides participants through numerous stops where they learn more about prominent figures, from Jennie Davis Porter, who in 1928 became the first Black woman to earn a doctorate at UC, to Sinna Habteselassie, the first Black woman elected to student body president in 2018.

The tour also includes events that mark university's century-long evolution toward equity. Some are celebratory, such as the creation of the African American Cultural and Resource Center, and some are cautionary.

Created as a group project in visiting assistant professor Anne Delano Steinert’s African American History in Public course, the 'University of Cincinnati’s Black History Walking Tour' is available now through the free app PocketSights. Although the project has a website, it is designed to be followed as a self-guided tour through a mobile device and can be downloaded from PocketSights

The inspiration for the creation of the trail stems from Steinert’s belief that UC has a rich African American history that many are unaware of as they walk through campus. 

“My hope was that using this app would give the UC community a sense of the past and connect a new appreciation of the past to specific places where that history has occurred,” Steinert said.

Read the full story >

Faculty member to be honored at 2022 Onyx & Ruby Gala for influence and inspiration

By Bryn Dippold

Only 15 years before professor of English LaVerne Summerlin joined the University of Cincinnati's faculty, Rosa Parks took her place on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and changed history.

With the country on the cusp of seismic civil rights change, Summerlin joined UC’s faculty in 1970 and since has exerted her own quiet influence on classes, academic programs and campus culture — changing history in her own way.

Summerlin will be honored at UC’s 2022 Onyx & Ruby Gala, which each year recognizes the achievements of Black alumni, faculty and staff for their achievements at UC. She will receive the Tower of Strength Award for shaping students’ personal and professional development.

During the course of her career, Summerlin has received more than 20 educational and teaching awards, including the university-wide Dolly Cohen Award of Teaching Excellence, and the National ACT Continuing Education Award for Oral Communications for the World-of-Work.

Her community activism includes involvement in the Links, Inc. Reading and Writing Program for Inner City Youth, the Adult Basic Education Advisory Committee for Cincinnati Public Schools, and the Great Rivers Girl Scout Council.

Read the full story >

Collaboration encourages high school students to consider careers in journalism.
By Bryn Dippold

A group of young students, educators and local media personalities came together over the summer in a Zoom meeting room. The goal? To encourage area high school students of color to consider a career in journalism.

The virtual workshop, in its third year, was hosted by the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the Greater Cincinnati Association of Black Journalists (GCABJ).

UC College of Arts and Sciences professor and SPJ Vice President Jenny Wohlfarth was part of a team of local journalists that launched the workshop in 2018. Kyle Inskeep, Local 12 news anchor and president of GCABJ, helped lead the effort this year.

Read about full story of the collaboration >

A resource for students, a millennial organization comes of age at UC
By Cedric Ricks, UC News

The University of Cincinnati's African American Cultural and Resource Center (AACRC) has turned 30.

Nestled on the heart of the UC campus, the center opened Sept. 21, 1991, with the mission of assisting students of color, specifically Black students with matriculation through the university toward graduation. 

An identity space, such as the AACRC, helps to create places of belonging for many students. This one also helps to educate students from various backgrounds about the richness and vibrancy of Black culture. Various groups visit the center to learn about the Black experience and what it’s like to be Black in America, specifically on UC’s campus. The center is among the avenues that help build a more supportive climate for students of color as diversity increases at UC.

Please read the complete article about the AACRC Birthday Celebration.

On a sunny Sunday in late June, a statue dedicated to civil rights pioneer and UC alumna Marian Spencer was unveiled at the John G. and Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park in downtown Cincinnati. The ceremony was held on what would have been Spencer’s 101st birthday.

The statue, titled “Hold Hands and Unite,” honors the legacy of Spencer, who dedicated her life to social justice and activism in pursuit of equity and cultural change. Intended to be welcoming and interactive for visitors, the statue features Spencer linking hands with children from the next generation, with the open circle they create offering a place for visitors today.

At the unveiling of the Marian Spencer statue in Smale Park, attended by Dean Valerio Ferme, Dr. Littisha Bates, and sculptor Tom Tsuchiya.

At the unveiling of the Marian Spencer statue in Smale Park, attended by Dean Valerio Ferme, Dr. Littisha Bates, and sculptor Tom Tsuchiya.

The unveiling was also a College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) reunion across generations. Spencer earned her bachelor’s degree in English from A&S in 1942. Her husband, activist and educator Donald Spencer, graduated with a bachelor’s in Chemistry and later a master’s degree in education from UC.

Sculptor Norikazu “Tom” Tsuchiya, who with sculptor Gina Erardi created the statue, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Classics from A&S in 1995. Joining the unveiling ceremony on behalf of A&S today were Dean Valerio Ferme, and Associate Dean for Inclusive Excellence and Community Partnerships Dr. Littisha Bates.

One of Spencer’s first efforts in civil rights activism began nearly 70 years ago, in 1952, when she helped lead the fight to desegregate Cincinnati’s Coney Island water park. She and her husband also served on the front lines helping to desegregate public schools in Cincinnati.

A lifetime member of the NAACP, Spencer served on the Executive Board, and became the first female president of the Cincinnati branch. Spencer served on UC’s Board of Trustees from 1975 to 1980, and in 1983 she became the first Black woman to be elected to Cincinnati City Council, and served as vice mayor.

Spencer received many awards and accolades for her tireless work for civil rights, among them an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from UC in 2006. In December of 2017, UC named what was then its newest residence hall in her honor, Marian Spencer Hall.

A&S CARES team explores Inclusive Excellence 

A little over a year ago, A&S Dean Valerio Ferme asked departments across the college to form committees to evaluate how each team defined Inclusive Excellence, and report back to leadership on their findings.

The CARES team convened a committee headed by LaDreka Karikari, Associate Director, Undergraduate Affairs for A&S.

Over the course of the year, under Karikari’s “coaching” style of leadership, the team embarked on a Cultural Self Project which brought the team’s voices together to explore and share their unique identities and life experiences in a safe place of acceptance.

Says Senior Academic Advisor and team member Raven Flanigan: "LaDreka is so passionate about the work we did. She enncouraged participation, kept us focused and moved us forward."

Here, Karikari talks about the Cultural Self Project: How the team has evolved its definition of Inclusive Excellence and brought the concept to life through the exercise, and what’s next for the work.

LaDreka Karikari, head of the A&S CARES Inclusive Excellence Committee and Associate Director, Undergraduate Affairs

LaDreka Karikari, head of the A&S CARES Inclusive Excellence Committee and Associate Director, Undergraduate Affairs

Q: It's been almost exactly one year since the Committee submitted its Inclusive Excellence Report to College leadership. Would you say the CARES team has evolved over the past year?

Karikari: Absolutely! This past year, as our country has dealt with a cultural uprising and pandemic, our CARES team has embraced the concept that diversity is about more than race. The Inclusive Excellence team was focused on encouraging our team to share their unique upbringing, strengths, and motivation for the work we do at UC A&S. We worked together on our team culture and engagement.

Q: What do you think the CARES team got out of the Cultural Self Project series?

Karikari: By providing an opportunity for our CARES team to participate in the Cultural Self Project throughout the past year, we provided a safe place for staff to share their viewpoints on topics ranging from Age and Generational Influences to Religion and Spirituality. Through this platform, we learned about each other's backgrounds and ultimately provided an avenue for us to work stronger together.

Q: Who all participated in the development of the Cultural Self Project? 

Karikari: In creating the Cultural Self Project through the Inclusive Excellence Team, we wanted to ensure that we represented each department under the CARES team. I was elected to the position of chair. The members of the team were: Anne Bowling (Marketing & Communication), Liz Daniel (Exploratory Advising), Raven Flanigan (Exploratory Advising), Jeannette Mautner (Processing),  Jamisha Miniefield  (Declared Advising), Pam Rogers (Retention), and Leanna Thomas (Declared Advising).

Q: In what ways would you say the development of the Cultural Self Project reflected your values as a team?

Karikari: Our CARES team was committed to providing support and working in partnership with our key stakeholders. Through our Cultural Self Project, our Inclusive Excellence Team was grounded in principles of cultural humility. We wanted to provide a supportive environment for staff to share and recognize each person's unique cultural experiences. The Cultural Self Project was only able to succeed through each of our CARES team members' partnership and openness. As a team, our key stakeholders are the students and families that we serve. This project was instrumental in our team beginning to identify our lifelong commitment to a deliberate reflection of our values and biases.

Q: What most surprised you about team engagement with the project? Were there outcomes that you didn't expect?

Karikari: We were surprised about the responses to our questions from team members. It was inspiring to experience team members' willingness to share their upbringing or connection to a particular topic with the larger group.

Q: Why is this work important?

Karikari: The Cultural Self Project work was critical to continue establishing a commitment to participate in self-assessment and self-critique. To understand that each person (stakeholder/teammate) brings something different to the conversation and sees each person's value.

Q: How would you describe your leadership style?

Karikari: I have a coaching leadership style, where I believe that my role is to provide and set up colleagues to achieve their fullest potential. I always find myself challenging the team to think about something from a broader perspective and use the line, "let's consider this." When we began our first meeting considering our goals and opportunities through the Inclusive Excellence team, I challenged the team to think about what is next from our group away from cultural competency and consider what that would like for our team. 

Q: What's next for the committee, and the ongoing work of cultivating a culture of true inclusive excellence?

Karikari: We are currently assessing this year's work through an After Action Review and Executive Summary. We will provide this report to our leadership team through the CARES team. Moving forward, our department is planning to partner with a group more vested in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to continue working in this area for our team.

New center engages in work to end harm caused by racial injustice through research and dialogue

Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation logo

A center to provide space for racial healing and address social injustice through research and community dialogue opens this summer at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Arts and Sciences (A&S).

The Center for Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) at UC will join a nationwide network of 22 similar centers at higher education institutions partnering with the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) . Since 2018, the AAC&U has established  centers across the country, from the University of California, Irvine to Duke University to The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina.

Read the full article about THRT

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