Diversity roundtable to explore race, campus and workplace climate

June 18, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- In a new series of roundtable conversations titled “Toward Racial Equity at Penn State: Social Difference, Social Equity and Social Change,” University leaders aim to engage the Penn State community in dialogue to advance greater equity and inclusion for students, faculty and staff from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.

“At this moment, when so many across the globe are frustrated and speaking out against systemic racism, we want to provide an opportunity for our community to come together, listen and learn together,” said Marcus Whitehurst, vice for provost for Educational Equity. “This is an opportunity to learn more about the challenges and lived experiences of friends and colleagues of color, and to walk away with greater understanding of how each of us can support diversity, equity and inclusion in our communities, at our University and in our nation.”

The first of these conversations – “Race, Our Campus Climate and Workplace” – will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. on June 30 and will be viewable at watch.psu.edu/toward-racial-equity. Co-sponsored by the University’s Division for Development and Alumni Relations, WPSU and the Office of the Vice Provost for Equity, the conversation will feature faculty members, deans and alumni speaking to their experiences on being a person of color navigating a mostly white campus and workplace.

“The Division of Development and Alumni Relations, which includes the Penn State Alumni Association, is proud to co-sponsor this roundtable at a time when our alumni are speaking out unequivocally to denounce hate speech and racism at Penn State and across our nation,” said Rich Bundy, vice president for Development and Alumni Relations. “We are proud of our large and increasingly diverse alumni population and all they have achieved. We know our alumni expect Penn State to continue to be a leader in affecting societal change, and we will amplify their voice toward that end whenever we can.”

The first roundtable conversation will feature panelists including B. Stephen Carpenter, III, dean, College of Arts and Architecture; Danielle Conway, dean and Donald J. Farage Professor of Law at Dickinson Law; Randy Houston, president of the Penn State Alumni Association; and Clarence Lang, Susan Welch Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts and Professor of African American Studies.

“For 150 years, the Penn State Alumni Association has represented the interests of the Penn State alumni community. It gives me great pride to represent our alumni community in this conversation at this pivotal time in the history of our nation and our University,” Houston said.

The conversation will be moderated by Jennifer Hamer, professor of African American studies and senior faculty mentor in the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity. “Penn State and other institutions of higher education struggle to recruit and retain faculty, students and staff of color,” Hamer said.  “In the past year, Penn State successfully recruited a cohort of Black faculty and leaders.  At the same time, a pandemic and protests against racialized police violence have elevated the presence of persistent issues of racial inequities in U.S. institutions, including universities and communities like Penn State and State College. We are at a moment where we have to maintain work and learning environments and address the outstanding issues while also processing this historical moment.  Toward that end, we take up a critical conversation with Penn State’s newest Black leaders, whose very presence may offer opportunities that can make necessary breaks from the past.”

The series will continue with two additional roundtable discussions during the fall semester. A conversation scheduled for Sept. 8, titled “Race, Teaching and Learning in our Current Climate,” will explore the experience of people of color within predominately white classrooms. The series concludes on Nov. 5 with a conversation titled “Race in the Community,” which will focus on the experiences of people of color living within predominately white communities.

Last Updated September 03, 2020