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Marc Lamont Hill, Gloria Ladson-Billings and Bettina Love will attend Virtual Conference on Racial Justice in Education and Society 5 December

By Kurt Brobeck

The Competition and Justice Initiative at Vanderbilt Peabody College of Education and Human Development will host its inaugural conference on Saturday, December 5th. Virtual Conference on Racial Justice in Education and Society contains some internationally recognized scholars and leaders who will address a range of questions about racial justice as the issue applies to educational settings and beyond.

Susan R. Wente, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (Vanderbilt University)

Vanderbilt’s inter-institutional approach to research and discovery makes it an enabling environment for an innovative meeting at the crossroads of race and education, politics, sociology and many other disciplines, ”said Susan R. Wente, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. “Vanderbilt is proud to have made possible this inaugural conference and further the university’s commitment to countering racism and its negative effects on students at all levels.”

The conference agenda features a list of scholars, educators, and thought leaders, including plenary speakers by Marc Lamont Hill, who is Steve Charles Professor of Media, Cities, and Solutions at Temple University; Gloria Ladson-Billings, president of the National Academy of Education and professor, emerita, and former Distinguished Professor of the Kellner Family in Urban Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Bettina Love, an award-winning author and Gifted Professor of the Athletic Association at the University of Georgia.

Rich Milner (John Russell / Vanderbilt)
H. Richard Milner IV, Professor of Education Cornelius Vanderbilt (John Russell / Vanderbilt)

The purpose of the conference is to bring together a diverse collection of teachers, community activists, policymakers, parents, families and community members to address perhaps the most important issue of our time: racial justice in and out of education, said H. Richard Milner IV, the conference organizer, the founding director of the FYR, and Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Education. The associate directors of the initiatives are Graham Reside, assistant professor of ethics practice at Vanderbilt Theological Seminary, and Dr. Wonder Drake, professor of medicine at Vanderbilt Medical School.

Milner hopes to foster and contribute to the national dialogue on issues of racism, anti-Black racism and other forms of discrimination that prevent people from reaching their full capacity and chances of life. He sees these challenges as playing in and out of the classroom.

The conference is open to pre-K teachers through grade 12 and higher education, faculty and staff in pre-K through grade 12 and higher education, community activists, athletes, policymakers, parents, families and community members.

The organizers also see the conference as an opportunity for undergraduate and postgraduate students to participate and build on their knowledge and understanding and, they hope, consider their scholarship and career.

A number of smaller meetings and dissolution sessions throughout the daily conference will address practice and implementation questions, focusing on how to build teachers’ anti-racism education programs, the role of racism within sports, justice and recovery police, and teaching in prison settings. Calls include Christine Sleeter, professor, emeritus, at the College of Education at California State University in the Bay Area; and John Singer, Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion and Associate Professor of Sports Management at the College of Education and Human Development at A&M University in Texas.

Several Vanderbilt Peabody professors, including Nicole Joseph, assistant professor of mathematics education; Ana Christina da Silva, professor of education practice; and Teresa Dunleavy, Assistant Professor of Math Education Practice, will also lead sessions addressing culture-responsive STEM teaching, preparing teachers to work with immigrant students and families, and focusing student humanity on teaching math. The sessions will also aim to assist researchers in building research programs on race and racism as part of their academic portfolios.

Camilla P. Benbow, Patricia and Rodes Hart Dean of Human Education and Development (Vanderbilt University)

Educators have increasingly seen that to be effective in their work, they need to address persistent inequalities in our education system, said Camilla P. Benbow, Patricia and Rodes Hart Dean of Human Education and Development. This conference will build on the expertise of our Peabody College faculty as well as that of many others to inspire participants and promote positive change.

While Milner wants a large turnout, he is more concerned about the impact on those who participate. The success of the conference can only be measured by the number of people who have potentially transformed to do more than talk about challenges, but shift them to real solutions to address policies and systems that continue to maintain an unequal status quo , he said.

Although there is a conference fee of $ 125 for non-students, Milner does not want this to stop attendance. Anyone who is interested but is unable to register should email us and we will give them a registration code, he said. With the strong sponsorship he has been able to amass, conference registration is free for undergraduate and graduate students until enrollment closes. Alsoshte also free for Metro-Nashville Public School educators with a valid MNPS email address until conference capacity is reached.

The conference has a broad base of support at Vanderbilt, including co-sponsorships from Vanderbilt Athletics, Peabodys Office of the Dean, the Computational Thinking and Learning Initiative, Vanderbilts Residential Colleges, Cal Turner Program for Moral Leadership in Professions, Department of Philosophy ( Douglas MacDonald Foundation), Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center, Provosts Offices of Faculty Affairs and Inclusive Excellence, Dean of Vanderbilt Students and Peabodys Department of Teaching and Learning.

We want to demonstrate a collective effort at Vanderbilt to address these issues, Milner said. There are also specific higher education sessions to help us improve at Vanderbilt and other higher education institutions. I hope the conference is a good step to break down some walls between units so that we can build tools and mechanisms to improve our community.

External sponsors include Nashville University School; Ensworth School; Louisiana State University College of Humanities and Education; University of South Texas Center for Justice Seeking; SAGE / Corwin Publications; Department of Education Administration at Michigan State University; Washtenaw High School District; Rutgers Graduate School of Education; University of Pittsburgh Center for Urban Education; Teaching jobs at the University of Michigan; College of Education and Allied Professions of the University of West Carolina; department of teaching, learning and culture at Texas A&M University; and Wayne State University College of Education and the Office for Diversity and Inclusion.

After all, Milner sees the conference as a crucial and timely event for the Competition and Justice Initiative. It helps provide a signature space of the types of knowledge building we hope to build over time to support truly dedicated people to improve the human condition, he said. The time is now. We must do better for the sake of our humanity.

To learn more about the conference and to register to attend, visit Website of the Virtual Conference on Justice and Education in Society.

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