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.
Spectrum News: University efforts more inclusion, diversity, honors first Black graduates
Littisha Bates reflects on UC's progress toward a more inclusive campus for all
By Angela Koenig
Now that minorities make up 24 percent of the University of Cincinnati student body, a Spectrum News article attests to how UC pays tribute to minority students of the past, while providing current and future students a modern, more diverse and inclusive, academic experience.
The article focuses on a new memorial that recognizes the university's first Black graduates, including Alice May Easton, who was the first Black woman to graduate from UC.
“She (Easton) was around at a time when girls and women, especially Black women, were not seen as being academically competent,” says Littisha Bates, UC’s associate dean for inclusive excellence and community partnership.
Bates said there’s still more work to do and she plans to be a part of it.
“If you see yourself as an advocate, if you see yourself as someone wanting to contribute to diversity, equity and inclusion, belonging and social justice, then you need to think about what can I do in my sphere of influence to be the change that I want to see,” said Bates.
Holly McGee strives to inspire the next generation of Black intellectualism
By Ryan Smith
It is the busiest month of the year for University of Cincinnati associate professor of Africana studies Holly McGee. Throughout February, McGee finds herself in the heart of lectures, reading circles, and many other social and educational events centered around Black History Month.
Since her arrival at UC’s College of Arts and Sciences, McGee has taught a rich curriculum of undergraduate African American history courses. In addition to teaching, McGee is a published author with publications ranging from social perceptions and interpretations of race and gender in America and South Africa, to local Arkansas history, centered upon the state in which she grew up.
As a girl in Arkansas, McGee was inspired to focus her education on what would become her life’s work. “I grew up having conversations in my church, in my home, about Black excellence,” said McGee. “These were dinner conversations for me growing up on a regular basis and that really did influence my decision when I went back to graduate school.”
McGee says she made the decision to attend two historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) because she felt that her abilities and potential were not being recognized in traditional college settings.
McGee received her first undergraduate degree in English from Dillard University, the first of two historically black colleges or universities from which she received a degree. Just two years later, McGee received her master’s in Applied Social Science from Florida A&M University.
UC's first inclusive calendar encourages cultural awareness
By Erinn Sweet
As part of its ongoing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, the University of Cincinnati's College of Arts and Sciences launched its first Inclusive Calendar in March, and work is underway on an update for the academic year 2022-23.
The calendar captures holidays, holy days and remembrances from around the world, from Hispanic Heritage Month to Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and more.
"The goal of this calendar is to encourage cultural awareness through the Arts and Sciences community and beyond," said Littisha Bates, associate dean for inclusive excellence and community partnerships. "It's important that we as a college reflect our values, and the inclusive calendar is just one way of doing that."
In addition to the calendar, the college has dedicated a portion of its website to its equity and inclusion initiatives. The site includes an equity dashboard, which provides transparency around demographic breakdowns among faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students. Site features also include an equity spotlight showcasing college initiatives and activists, a bias reporting tool, centers and resources, and more.
Report designed to inform local policy on health care, housing, transportation
By Bryn Dippold
The University of Cincinnati research collaborative, the Cincinnati Project, reached out to a group of sociology students in 2020 with an idea to create an assessment of the needs of the Cincinnati transgender community. The intent was for local governments and organizations to use the report to identify points of weakness and strength of health care, housing and transportation.
Stef Murawsky, a PhD student in sociology in UC's College of Arts and Sciences, was immediately on board. Murawsky, whose research and dissertation are focused on trans health care, had interviewed roughly 30 people at the time in the Cincinnati area about their health care experiences before the Cincinnati Project even reached out to them.
“It was a very obvious ‘yes’ to the project,” Murawsky says. “But then there was a desperate need for other people.”
Murawsky and Aalap Bommaraju recruited Juliana Madzia and Zoe Muzyczka to the project. All A&S doctoral students and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, the group was quick to join the effort. Madzia, who is working toward a dual MD and sociology PhD, wants to go into trans healthcare doing gender-affirming procedures as a plastic surgeon. “It’s a community that I care a lot about, and I see that there a lot of unmet needs here in Cincinnati,” Madzia says.
According to a 2015 report from the U.S. Transgender Survey on the state of Ohio, 32% of 941 respondents who saw a health care provider in the past year reported having at least one negative experience related to being transgender. These experiences included being refused treatment, verbally harassed or physically or sexually assaulted, or having to teach the provider about transgender people in order to get appropriate care.
Young researchers find opportunity, community, collaboration
By Anne Bowling
Brittany Rice had always been drawn to the sciences. Earning her degree in biological sciences from the University of Cincinnati exposed her to a full range of study during her undergraduate career, including chemistry, physics, sociology, mathematics and psychology.
“It’s a well-rounded major, and you can go many directions with it,” Rice says. But one direction she still wanted to go in was research — an area that for Rice felt out of reach. “Being first generation and low-income, I did not believe I was cut out for research,” she says. “I was unsure if I had the tools and knowledge to work in a research lab.”
Enter associate professor of chemistry Ryan White. Inspired to open doors for students like Rice, White launched the Pathway to Undergraduate Research for First Generation College Students during the 2021-22 academic year, welcoming an inaugural cohort of eight students, including Rice.
“The main goal here is integrating first-gen students in our research culture at UC early, to help build a community of researchers who support each other,” White says. “The key here is interaction with other students and faculty, both of which help improve retention and the overall college experience.”
In addition to day-to-day challenges associated with acclimating to college study and culture, first generation college students face additional barriers—among them can be lack of support from family and peers, college preparedness, racial disparity and financial stability.
Grad students' research rewarded with competitive fellowships
By Joseph Frye
At the University of Cincinnati’s College of Art and Sciences (A&S), students are often given the opportunity to complete in-depth research tailored to their individual interests. For two graduate students in the history department, this research included challenging the notion that the only research with impact is done by those in white lab coats.
Maurice Adkins and Katherine Ranum have spent their graduate school years bringing to light stories of marginalized people, helping to fill gaps within U.S. historical studies. As a result, many institutions are taking notice of Adkins and Ranum, rewarding them with fellowships that allow them to continue their efforts to make historical research more inclusive.
Adkins, a recent graduate from the history department’s doctorate program, spent seven years traveling between Cincinnati and North Carolina, scouring archives and hunting down public records to complete his dissertation, which explores Black leadership at historically Black col- leges and Universities (HBCUs) in North Carolina from 1863-1931.
This quickly became laborious, Adkins says, due to the underfunding that many HBCUs have faced historically, resulting in poorer record keeping than that of other universities.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.