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.

The Cultural Self Project: A Talk with LaDreka Karikari

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.

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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.

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