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Social Justice Mini-Grants

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President's Mini-Grants for Social Justice Awardees

The Agnes Scott College Office of the President is pleased to announce the awardees of the President's Mini-Grants for Social Justice. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, these grants are designed to fund existing and new faculty and staff projects that "support inclusive humanities education and diverse learning environments — spaces where the ideas that enrich our understanding of a complex world are created and elevated” on campus (in and out of the classroom).

Projects that have been awarded include the “Psychology and Racial Justice Leadership Program,” “Decolonizing the Curriculum, One Syllabus at a Time: Pedagogy as Social Justice,” “R.E.S.T. Area for Athletes (Race & Ethnicity in Sports Training) Pilot Program & Virtual Conference,” and more. Congratulations to the awardees, and a special thanks to all applicants who submitted a proposal for this special initiative. Read more about the 11 funded projects below.

Submitted by Kat Greer, Digital Systems and Acquisitions Librarian

This mini-grant will support the McCain Library in expanding the Shuronda Gardner Smith Multicultural Resource Collection. This collection, currently housed in McCain Library’s Main Reading Room, was inherited from the Gay Johnson McDougall Center for Global Diversity and Inclusion in 2019. The purpose of this collection is to provide a prominent, intentional library of resources in this important area of interest to students (and others in our community), situated in a popular study location. The Smith Collection is a logical location for both multicultural and diversity-focused works.

Using grant funds, McCain Library will acquire books dealing with economic, political, and social rights and opportunities. Other books to acquire would be creative expressions by marginalized authors on themes related to racial, sexual, religious or economic diversity.

Submitted by Regine O. Jackson (Kathy Ashe ’68 and Lawrence Ashe Associate Professor/Chair of Sociology) and Tracey E.W. Laird (Harry L., Corinne Bryant, and Cottie Beverly Slade Professor of Music)

The recent crises in the U.S. related to public health and systemic racism have exposed longstanding inadequacies and fractures in institutions, systems and practices. These include an approach to education that distorts truth by relying on false assumptions about the hierarchy of human value. To “decolonize the curriculum” is to identify these assumptions and, subsequently, alter the foundation of education. It is to equip our students with full knowledge of the past and grapple with how and why the stories we tell about our shared history get framed in ways that reproduce power inequities. It is to prepare our students to build a future in which the lives of all people may be fully realized.

Replacing older readings with more contemporary and varied voices is a monumental undertaking. A mini-grant will fund a workshop series for teachers who wish to take a deeper dive in a collaborative, interdisciplinary space. The “Pedagogy as Social Justice” workshops will be structured to walk teachers through a process, focused on a specific course syllabus, of review and revision using a decolonizing lens.

The collaborative atmosphere of the workshop will feed shared concrete goals of many teachers today while building participants’ capacity to recognize and address implicit biases in the production of knowledge. These workshops will also foster a broader professional learning community in the spirit of the liberal arts. Ultimately, the aim is to frame social justice pedagogy as a professional development program, designed to engage local high school educators and Agnes Scott faculty. The end product will be a digital library of high-quality teaching resources (readings, recorded presentations, participant reflections, course syllabi and classroom activities) to be made available through the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and the Gay Johnson McDougall Center for Global Diversity and Inclusion.

Submitted by Maryam Jernigan-Noesi, Assistant Professor of Psychology

Psychologists have historically contributed to the exploration of some of the most pressing social issues within the United States. The pervasive history of racism represents a complex and systemic social problem that psychologists continue to work to understand on individual, interpersonal, institutional and cultural levels. Historically, much of the research, practice and advocacy to eradicate racism using a psychological framework, has been propelled by psychologists of Color. Yet, the field is not exempt from its own systemic racial inequities.

The Psychology and Racial Justice Leadership Program will serve to enhance the preparation, mentoring of, and opportunities for professional training and skills designed to increase the pipeline of Black and Latinx psychology majors and recent graduates of Agnes Scott. As such, the program works to address racial inequities on multiple levels. Participants will be better prepared to pursue, or continue, competitive graduate education towards a terminal degree in psychology and related career advancement. The program will also specifically recruit psychology majors and a small number of recent graduates invested in advancing and advocating for racial equity within the profession, thus supporting the next generation of racial justice leaders and advocates.

Submitted by Markesha Henderson, Director of Athletics

In light of recent events that have challenged race relations in the U.S., discussion about race and ethnicity can be exasperating and taxing on those who experience oppression. Likewise, allies often struggle with how to support communities of color and underrepresented populations. Navigating the road to equality can often be complicated, and athletes have been among those on the forefront of calling for social change.

A mini-grant will support the Department of Athletics in developing a training program known as R.E.S.T. Area for Athletes (Race & Ethnicity in Sports Training). The purpose is to create safe spaces for coaches, administrators and student-athletes to develop the skills necessary to address racial inequalities. The R.E.S.T. Area for Athletes program aims to address racial disparities in three key ways: (1) creating opportunities for dialogue on race within a team environment, (2) using sports as a platform to create antiracist climates on college campuses, and (3) advocating for the dismantlement of systematic racism in college sports.

The Department of Athletics — in collaboration with the Center for Global Diversity and Inclusion and Center for Leadership and Service and the Wellness Center — will develop the R.E.S.T. Area for Athletes program for student-athletes and staff who will ultimately host a virtual conference for their peers in the USA South Conference. After program outcomes are assessed, the R.E.S.T. Area program will be presented to the USA South Conference and the NCAA Office of Diversity and Inclusion for consideration for regional and national implementation. An aspirational goal is to grow this into a national conference where student-athletes and staff around the country can be equipped to have open dialogue that leads to social change in race relations in the United States.

Submitted by Lauran Whitworth, Assistant Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality, and Kelly Ball, Assistant Dean of Graduate and

With professional success in mind, this project supports humanities majors planning to pursue social justice-oriented careers in the nonprofit sector. For humanities majors seeking to dedicate their life’s work to social justice, a focus on professional success may seem anathema, as they envision solving complex social problems outside of, or against, the professional sphere. Yet, the skills of the humanities — being able to clarify vision, communicate with diverse audiences, resolve conflict, and lead others to achieve a common goal — are all necessary skills for both social justice and professional success.

This project will provide a framework for students, faculty and staff to connect the humanities to professional success in social justice work, and will include a speaker series for the Agnes Scott community, a faculty-led discussion group for students, and a professional development workshop for faculty and staff supporting humanities majors.

Submitted by JLP Prince, Director of Community, Civic and Global Engagement

The Community and Civic Engagement program at Agnes Scott College's Center for Leadership and Service will partner with MAYE Corps, a youth-led, energy equity organization, for a voter engagement campaign in the lead up to the 2020 election.

The goal of the program is to target and educate voters on how they can use their voice to see that elected officials are representing their interests in energy equity, and to ultimately bring an end to energy inequity in Metro Atlanta. Grant funding will support Agnes Scott students working as phone bankers, as well as energy equity stickers — designed by a MAYE Corps member or an Agnes Scott student — for residents that give their pledge to vote.

Submitted by James Stamant, Visiting Assistant Professor of English

This grant will help support James Stamant in further developing a course on literature and political violence, as well as his research and work on an anthology that would collect readings on political violence.

The course, titled “Literature and Political Violence,” is cross-listed with Human Rights and examines the texts of American writers who have commented on the use of political violence during the history of the United States, beginning just prior to the American Revolutionary War and ending in the present. Students read a varied assortment of writings that range from letters and pamphlets to poetry and novels and theory. Although there is a wealth of content to draw upon, there is currently no good anthology of works on this topic. Funds from the grant will be used by professor Stamant on books that contain possible readings to strengthen the course and potentially be incorporated as part of his anthropology.

Submitted by Robin Morris, Associate Professor of History

Associate Professor of History Robin Morris is utilizing this grant as part of the course HIS 399: History in the Community, which will focus on the history of Agnes Scott College. The course will operate in line with the goals of the Truth, Reconciliation, and Healing work though the Agnes Scott Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Students will examine the history of Agnes Scott College and its history of diversity, inclusion and exclusion. When examining Agnes Scott’s history, students will realize that it was never an all-white college. Students will consider Agnes Scott’s history of offering white women education even as it was a place of employment for many people of color. This course will recognize the work of people of color as a valuable part of the college’s history.

With the help of a mini-grant, students will research the history of the college, learn directly from outside experts, and build a digital community archive to save stories that have not been preserved yet in Agnes Scott's archives.

Submitted by Bobby Meyer-Lee, Professor of English

A mini-grant will be utilized by English professor Bobby Meyer-Lee to develop an English course entitled “Medieval Literature and Racial Others.” The course will extend the conversation of race and social justice from the present far back into the past, in order better to understand — through analyses of similarities and differences, continuities and discontinuities — both past and present.

Drawing on the great outpouring of research that has appeared over the last decade or so on the topic of race and medieval literature, the course will provide students with a conceptual framework for thinking about the category of race and how it extends backward into times and places very different from the United States of today. In this way, it will connect the past with the present and illuminate how the latter bears on the former. The principal resource funded by the grant is books, which will constitute reading assignments and ancillary materials for the course.

Submitted by Mona Tajali, Assistant Professor of International Relations and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Representative democracies rely on free and fair elections to ensure that the public’s interests are represented in political decision-making bodies. However, despite claims to neutrality and fairness, electoral processes in many representative democracies, including in the United States, are flawed with institutional structures that aim to limit equal access of all sections of the society to representative bodies, particularly along the lines of race and gender. Instances of such deeply institutionalized obstacles include voter-suppression, racial redistricting, violence and harassment of marginalized candidates, among others.

The year-long project on “Just Elections: The Theory and Practice of Electoral Justice in the United States and Beyond” will facilitate a campus-wide discussion on the institutionalized obstacles that hinder fair elections and equal political participation of all citizens, alongside highlighting some of the ways that these obstacles can be addressed. Organized by Political Science and Human Rights faculty at Agnes Scott, this project will take advantage of the historical timing of the 2020 Presidential elections (coinciding with the centennial of women’s voting rights and 55 years since the 1965 Voting Rights Act), to encourage students to apply theories of ‘Just Elections’ to the electoral procedures of their communities and those that they learn about from distant lands. The grant will help fund various events and programming, including seminars/webinars, film screenings and guest speakers. Students will be encouraged to reflect on why the road to a truly representative democracy has been a long and continuous one across most parts of the globe.

Submitted by Jing Paul, Assistant Professor of Chinese

A common understanding of foreign language education is to improve students’ proficiency in language skills (listening, speaking, reading & writing) in connection to culture. Learning is thus reduced to learn the language skills and cultural elements to prepare for possible future real-world applications. The issue is that possessing relevant linguistic skills does not automatically transform students to become globally and culturally competent citizens. Specifically, a proficiency-based language classroom is insufficient to address the current political climate of our nation, such as immigration, diversity, inclusion, multiculturalism and globalism. The “Social Justice in Foreign Language Education: A Critical Pedagogy Approach” project will employ critical pedagogy to support and advance the study of a foreign language (Chinese) in a context that promotes social justice.

The project's two primary goals are to raise students’ awareness of social justice in foreign language communication and to incorporate specific elements of social justice in verbal and written communication in Chinese. With the support of grant funding, students will achieve these results through engagement in virtual communication and collaboration with more experienced Agnes Scott students, alumnae, and members of the local and global community, as well as the creation of digital projects on social justice content.