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.
Excellence in Equity Spotlight
UC's AACRC Celebrates 30 Years
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
If you are engaged in equity work in A&S—or know someone who is—please let us know! Take a moment to complete the brief form below.