Skip to main content

A Commitment to Equity and Inclusion with the Racial Equity Institute

June 20, 2019 | Sophia Ramos, IAH Communications Specialist

Owl image for blog page on IAH website

Last year, you might remember when the staff at the Institute for the Arts and Humanities (IAH) completed a racial equity and inclusion workshop offered by the Greensboro-based organization, Racial Equity Institute (REI).

Our team found that racial equity education was imperative to leadership development. For this reason, the IAH made a goal to host the REI Phase I Workshop on campus. The IAH invited individuals that worked at UNC-Chapel Hill, local nonprofits and other specialties to meet in Hyde Hall to complete the two-day training on May 13-14, 2019.


IAH’s commitment to equity and inclusion with REI

The Institute’s work is guided by three principles: community, collaboration, and inquiry. Rooted in each principle is the importance of equity and inclusion. It’s more than just a statement, but rather is a component that’s intentionally woven throughout the Institute’s initiatives. We know there is something to be lost when there are only the same voices in the room. We strive to serve our mission of empowering all faculty to achieve their full potential. And if people do not feel included or aren’t treated equitably, they cannot reach their full potential or become leaders. Simply put, equity and inclusion are aspects inherently derived from the arts and humanities. Humanistic disciplines acknowledge, engage, and encourage richness in diversity.

These strongly held values led to IAH’s creation of a grant and working group in support of faculty of color and indigenous faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill. This initiative provides additional professional support and holds space for faculty of traditionally marginalized and underrepresented groups. The development of this initiative was spurred from conversations with IAH Director Mark Katz, Associate Director Jennifer Ho, Professor Kia Caldwell (ALP Fellow ’13, Faculty Fellow ’19) and Michele Berger (ALP Fellow ’09, Faculty Fellow ’12) when strategizing new ways to better serve our university’s diverse faculty. With support from a private donor and matching funds from the College of Arts and Sciences and Provost’s Office, the initiative has been able to provide material resources to these faculty members for two years and counting.

To Associate Director Jennifer Ho, the IAH’s support of underrepresented groups is entirely in keeping with the Institute’s mission. “The IAH is an ideal home for this work,” she said. “I think the Institute is working to incubate and initiate continued support for a very underserved population.”

So, when the IAH staff completed the REI workshop off-site, the team saw its curriculum as an extension of the IAH’s commitment to serving all faculty. One year later, the IAH was able to host the REI training in Hyde Hall to UNC faculty members, staff, and local community members. Accessibility to this workshop was a top priority. REI completes workshops across the state, making selecting a date and paying the registration fee difficult for some nine-to-five employees. Typically, REI charges $275 per person to attend its comprehensive workshop. But with IAH as a host, participants were able to register for a nominal fee of $40 to cover food costs associated with the two, full days of learning. The IAH quickly registered all 40 seats that were available.

REI believes that often organizations are working in very intentional, civil ways. However, they can also operate from multiple understandings that rely on personal feelings or popular opinion. This can create complications in trying to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities and producing equitable outcomes. The curriculum moves away from personal bigotry and bias, but rather looks into historical and cultural factors over hundreds of years that helps participants better understand racism in its institutional and structural forms. The REI approach to sharing this information was not pointed — it does not encourage hate of any race nor elicit guilt or shame from any participants.

The two-day workshop was led by REI facilitators in the University Room at Hyde Hall. They allowed people to share their own experiences, ask questions, and research for themselves the data that was presented. When not seated in a circle around the room’s perimeter, smaller breakout groups built a collaborative, intimate atmosphere for participants. Outside of the University Room, additional spaces for food and conviviality were available. Breakfast, lunch, and breaks were incorporated for people to gather and build relationships. By the end of the second day, everyone knew each other by name and learned a little more about their story.

At the IAH, we affirm the dignity of all people and believe that everyone who talks with our staff, participates in our programs, or attends our public events is welcome, respected, and valued in their full humanity. Partnering with REI to host phase one of the racial equity workshop is critical to the IAH’s service to faculty and our community. Providing additional education on racial equity and inclusion reaffirms IAH’s values and those of this university.

For more information about the workshops through REI, please visit the organization’s website here.

This story references a blog post last May. You can read the full story here.