The University of Florida recently announced the second round of Advancing Racial Justice awards, totaling more than $400,000. The seven faculty research projects are focused on analyzing the history of racial tensions at UF, cultivating connections between UF and surrounding marginalized communities, and creating spaces that offer a sense of belonging for Black students, faculty, staff and community members.
In 2020, UF President Kent Fuchs called for a wide-ranging examination of race relations at the university, so UF Research and the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer awarded funds to more than a dozen faculty teams across campus committed to studying race, equity, justice and reconciliation.
“This is a tremendous collaboration between these two UF offices, working to advance scholarship and create change for the better as we move forward together,” said David Norton, vice president for research.
This year’s awarded projects include:
- Racial Justice through Community and Culturally-Responsive Research: Dionne Champion, professor in the Center for Arts in Medicine, will support a series of campus conversations and peer support networks, workshops and trainings around identified needs for community-engagement skills, and a summer apprenticeship program to work with Black youth and young adults to teach skills and build networks. The study aims to connect the UF community with the wider Gainesville population through community-led and arts-based programming.
- UF Project Black: Believe, Listen, Acknowledge, Correct, and Keep Up (B.L.A.C.K.): Charles Ellis, professor of speech, language, and hearing sciences, will interview Black students at UF to understand their college experiences and identify how predominantly white institutions perpetuate bias and racism.
- Heritage as Healing: Critical Museum Studies and the Praxis of Reconciliation: Jacque Micieli-Voutsinas, professor and co-director of the Graduate Program of Museum Studies, will assess how the UF Museum Studies program can partner with local African-American heritage sites, create anti-racist trainings for students, and mentor BIPOC students in the field to challenge dominant Western influences inherent in museums.
- Building Community, Promoting Sense of Belonging and Wellbeing among UF’s Black Students, Staff and Faculty through West African Dance: Patricia Xirau-Probert, Associate Dean of student advocacy and inclusion for the College of Dentistry, will host weekly West African dance classes for Black members of the UF community and assess participants’ experiences in terms of community engagement, sense of belonging, and psychological well-being.
- Challenging Racism at UF: Using History to Create a Welcoming University and a Vibrant Intellectual Atmosphere: Paul Ortiz, professor of history and director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, will conduct life-history interviews with UF alumni, faculty and staff to understand how racism on campus has been addressed in the past to improve present and future student experiences.
- Building a Culture of Allyship: A Social Norms Approach: Joanna Hernandez, professor of journalism, will study the best practices of allyship, work with faculty to support allyship, and implement it as an expectation within the College of Journalism and Communications.
- Black Lives Matter All the Time: A PhotoVoice Study on the Black College Experience at the University of Florida: Lee Purvis, professor of education, will engage and center Black undergraduate students in conversation and allow them to communicate their concerns and visions for the future. A photo exhibit will be held for the students to showcase narrated and captioned pictures of their college experiences that fall under the topics of identity, community, oppression, wellness and resistance, to educate the community on the realities of navigating UF as a Black student.
Several 2020 Advancing Racial Justice awardees recently presented their findings at an Inclusive Excellence Retreat hosted by Chief Diversity Officer Marsha McGriff.
“I’m hoping that the Inclusive Excellence Initiative under Dr. McGriff will keep bringing to light these research findings from the groups that have been funded,” said Sobha Jaishankar, UF Research assistant vice president.