Black Lives Matter sign in front of the Learning Commons.

Marywood is Working Together for Racial Justice and Inclusion

Building on its ongoing efforts to support racial justice and inclusion initiatives, Marywood University recently displayed a Black Lives Matter (BLM) banner from the overlook at the Learning Commons. The banner’s location, in a prominent place central to campus, serves to remind all of Marywood’s commitment to racial healing through education and action, including support of the BLM movement.

Sister Mary Persico, IHM, Ed.D., president of Marywood University, said, “We have a perfect opportunity before us to make a difference in the lives of our students in general, and our Black students in particular, by living the tenets of our mission and core values, as they so aptly pertain to the injustice of racism.”

“The Black Lives Matter banner, prominently displayed on the Learning Commons overlook, is a visual representation of our solidarity with the Black community and of the ongoing work that we have been doing to promote racial healing and to dismantle, through education and action, the notion of a hierarchy of human value,” stated Yerodin Lucas, Ph.D., Director of the Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI) at Marywood University.

That ongoing work includes, most recently, Marywood’s selection earlier this year to host a Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Center. Chosen through a competitive process by The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), Marywood was among a second national cohort of thirteen institutions selected to establish a TRHT campus center. There are now 24 TRHT Campus Centers across the country, including Marywood’s.

Lynn Pasquerella, president of AAC&U, said, “AAC&U is thrilled to partner with these outstanding institutions on our way to establish 150 centers across the country to ensure that higher education is playing a leadership role in promoting racial and social justice.”

In partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s TRHT effort, AAC&U works with higher education institutions across the country to develop self-sustaining, community-integrated TRHT Campus Centers. Organized around the five pillars of the TRHT framework—narrative change, racial healing and relationship building, separation, law, and economy—the Centers seek to prepare the next generation of leaders to confront racism and to dismantle the belief in a hierarchy of human value.

As a result of the destructive ramifications of racism and discrimination in our country, Marywood’s OEI recently hosted a virtual conversation: Talk of the University: A Community Conversation for Dialogue, Understanding, and Healing. The conversation took place over Zoom and was open to all students, faculty, staff, and alumni of Marywood. An interactive conversation, this event enabled participants to share their experiences, what they were feeling in the wake of recent events, reflecting and contributing to the conversation in a supportive and compassionate manner.

In mid-June 2020, a cohort of 18 faculty, staff, and IHM sisters attended the 2020 Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Institute hosted virtually by the AAC&U. The Marywood team joined other TRHT Campus Center institutions at the virtual institute to refine their transformation action plans.

“Through that intense, immersive experience, we gained a great deal of knowledge and insights to help us to continue to move the needle forward,” said Dr. Lucas. “I will be working over the summer with various departments on these initiatives to be ready for the fall semester, in addition to securing and preparing the physical space on campus where the TRHT Center will be housed.”

Additionally, Marywood’s OEI has guided efforts to train more than 60 faculty and staff members through the nationally-recognized Racial Equity Institute (REI), which featured a two-day workshop series on campus, with two different cohorts, which took place in August 2019 and January 2020.

By partnering with many others in the Marywood University community, OEI is working to develop additional plans to facilitate racial healing, including:

  • The Core Action Team – Members of this group are taking a concerted look at the Core Curriculum for ways to embed the contributions of scholars of color and equity and inclusion throughout each discipline.
  • The OEI is currently working to create an African American Students course to run in the spring 2021 semester in the Social Science Department. In addition, Dr. Lucas is developing a comprehensive Africana Studies Program to be presented to the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee for consideration.
  • Marywood is partnering with the Black Scranton project to collaborate on ways to bring awareness and racial healing to our community.
  • The OEI is partnering with Lackawanna College and Wilkes University to speak with their students of color, in particular the Black and LatinX male student populations, to provide a safe space for authentic dialogue and resources to support them.

“Part of the journey to racial healing begins with gaining a better perspective and understanding of how racism is perpetuated in our institutions and our society as a whole, and what role each of us can play in dismantling this system of oppression,” said Dr. Lucas. “Marywood has been doing this important and necessary work for several years, undertaking a number of initiatives to identify issues that exist within the Marywood community around racism and discrimination (curriculum, policies, faculty/student interactions, microaggressions, biases, etc.) and how to bring about solutions at the systemic level.”