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UAlbany Experts Advisory: Self Identity and U.S. Culture

Issues of personal identity and self-assessment as related to former Spokane NAACP president Rachel Dolezal (top) and Caitlyn Jenner (bottom) have sparked intense debate on social media.

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 16, 2015) – From Caitlyn Jenner to Rachel Dolezal, issues of personal identity and self-assessment have sparked an intense debate on social media and in the mainstream news.

Jenner, the 1976 Olympic men's decathlon champion who was previously known as Bruce Jenner, openly discussed her battle with gender dysphoria since childhood. In June of 2015, Jenner modified her appearance, changed her name to Caitlyn and began to refer to herself using feminine pronouns.

In an interview on NBC's "Today" show, Dolezal, the former president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, confirmed she was born to Caucasian parents but self-identifies as African American. Her concealment of her race, as well as her change of appearance, led to intense criticism and a call to step down from her post last week over the notion that she misrepresented herself to achieve a leadership position within one of the nation's leading advocacy groups.

UAlbany faculty experts are available to discuss a range of issues related to the concepts of self-identification, race relations and gender relations, including the concept of 'whiteness,' gender inclusion, diversity and multiracialism.

UAlbany's diversity experts include:

  • Janell Hobson, associate professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies, has devoted her research, teaching, and service to multiracial and transnational feminist issues in the discipline. Hobson is the author of Venus in the Dark: Blackness and Beauty in Popular Culture (Routledge, 2005) and Body as Evidence: Mediating Race, Globalizing Gender (SUNY Press, 2012). She has also co-edited an anthology, with Ime A. S. Kerlee, titled Are All the Women Still White? Globalizing Women's Studies.
  • Michael K. Hill, associate professor of English, writes on contemporary race relations and "racial formation theory" in the U.S. This includes multiracialism, U.S. demographic change, racial passing. His books include: Whiteness: A Critical Reader (NYU, 1997); Masses, Classes, and the Public Sphere (Verso, 2001); After Whiteness: Unmaking an American Majority (NYU, 2004); and most recently The Other Adam Smith (Stanford University Press, 2015), with coauthor Warren Montag.
  • Courtney D'Allaird, coordinator of UAlbany's Gender & Sexuality Resource Center, is a nationally certified peer educator and trainer for NCBI (National Coalition Building Institute), DASA (Dignity for All Students Act) and Safe Space/Zone development. D’Allaird currently serves on the board of the Northeast LGBT College Conference and as the Northeast Regional Rep for the Consortium of LGBT Higher Education Professionals. Courtney's expertise is cross-curricular stemming from a background in sociology, women’s gender & sexuality studies and business administration.
  • Ibram Kendi, assistant professor of Africana Studies, is an expert on diversity, race and education, activitism, black history and black politics. He is the author of the award-winning book, The Black Campus Movement: Black Students and the Racial Reconstitution of Higher Education, 1965-1972. It is the first national study of the black student activism in the late 1960s and early 1970s that diversified higher education.

For additional topic expertise, visit UAlbany's expansive faculty experts database.

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Educationally and culturally, the University at Albany-SUNY puts "The World Within Reach" for its more than 17,300 students. An internationally recognized research university with 118 undergraduate majors and minors and 138 graduate programs, UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as criminal justice, information science, public administration, social welfare, business and sociology. With a curriculum enhanced by 500 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers. Visit UAlbany's extensive roster of faculty experts, and for a database of images, visit UAlbanyPhotos.