‘Conceptualizing, Implementing and Sustaining Inclusive Spaces’ Workshop and Speaker Series

Composite image with five headshots of the featured presenters: Rachel Breidster, a woman with short pink hair and green sweater; Carol Tonge Mack, a woman with shoulder-length curled black hair, white blazer and white top; Aja Martinez, a woman wearing a green V-neck wrap dress and long brown hair; Kristi Clemens, a woman with half shaved head and curly brown hair swept to the left, wearing a bright blue top; Brian Arao, man with short beard wearing brown and teal rectangle-rimmed glasses.
Clockwise from top left: Rachel Breidster, Carol Tonge Mack, Aja Martinez, Kristi Clemens and Brian Arao. (Images provided)

By Erin Frick

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb. 13, 2023) — The University at Albany’s Writing and Critical Inquiry (WCI) Program, with support from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, is poised to kick off the “Conceptualizing, Implementing and Sustaining Inclusive Spaces” workshop and speaker series, which will run through the Spring 2024 semester. Programming will include presentations by nationally renowned guest speakers who have played a pioneering role in the development of inclusivity-centered pedagogy and written works, as well as two professionally facilitated workshops for UAlbany faculty and staff. Events are open to UAlbany students, faculty and staff, as well as the broader community. 

“I am really excited to begin the first of what we hope will be an annual tradition of celebrating inclusion,” said Stephanie Hassan Richardson, director of the WCI program. “Our speakers represent a diverse group of intellectuals who we believe will contribute to UAlbany's tradition of elevating marginalized perspectives.”

The series is made possible thanks to support from a 2023-24 Diversity Transformation Award granted to WCI's Antiracism and Intersectional Justice Committee in December 2023. Their goal is to provide opportunities for UAlbany community members to build the skills needed to create inclusive spaces in the classroom, across campus and beyond. The program was conceived in response to WCI’s Spring 2023 workshop on intersectional antiracism which engaged students, faculty and staff. The series also aims to build on conversations kindled during UAlbany’s free speech symposium held in Fall 2023. 

“We hope that we have strong attendance by faculty, staff and students,” said Hassan Richardson. “One thing we know about inclusion is that it requires everyone to show up to the table. So, we're hoping our UAlbany community will take advantage of this unique opportunity.”


Explore the series:


Keynote talk: 'Creating Brave Spaces for Challenging Dialogues'

Presented by Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens

Friday, Feb. 23, 3-4 p.m.  

Location: Livestreamed to LC 4 and via Zoom 

Open to all

RSVP appreciated: Register for the keynote talk

Bravery has always been essential in group-based learning about diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice and belonging (DEIJB). As attacks on DEIJB efforts and minoritized communities escalate in frequency and intensity, the need for brave spaces is more urgent today than ever. Join Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens — the co-creators of the brave space framework — for an intimate conversation about its origins, evolution and future. The presenters will be livestreamed to LC 4, or participants can join at home via Zoom. 


Workshop for UAlbany faculty and staff: 'Psychological Safety: Building the Foundation for Transparent Communication on Complex Topics' 

Facilitated by Rachel Breidster 

Monday, Feb. 26, 3-4 p.m. 

Location: HU 109 (in person only)  

Open to UAlbany faculty/staff (capped at 50 participants)

RSVP required: Register for the Feb. 26 workshop

This workshop will engage participants in an exploration of the role that psychological safety plays in building engaged, trusting, collaborative, transparent and productive work environments. Specifically, this workshop will engage with the thesis that psychological safety is a necessary condition for meaningful discussion and action regarding diversity, equity and inclusion.

Those who attend both this workshop and Breidster's April 1 workshop are eligible to win a free, 1-hour coaching session with the facilitator.


Public Lecture: '10 Commandments for Student Success'  

Presented by Carol Tonge Mack, author of Being Bernadette: From Polite Silence to Finding the Black Girl Magic Within 

Monday, March 11, 3 - 4:00 p.m. 

Location: LC 4 (in-person only)  

Open to all

RSVP appreciated: Register for the public lecture 

Carol Tonge Mack, assistant dean of retention in the College of Arts and Science at the University of Cincinnati, will visit several WCI classes to discuss her memoir, Being Bernadette, and field student questions. Mack will conclude her visit to UAlbany with a public lecture aimed at empowering students. Her talk will offer strategies for students to support their journey towards personal and academic success. 


Workshop for UAlbany faculty and staff: 'Rejecting Perfectionism: Adopting a Growth Mindset to Foster Inclusion' 

Facilitated by Rachel Breidster 

Monday, April 1, 3-4 p.m. 

Location: HU 109 (in-person only)  

Open to UAlbany faculty/staff (capped at 50 participants)

RSVP required: Register for the April 1 workshop

This workshop will guide participants in uncovering and unpacking the role that a culture of perfectionism plays in stifling growth and transparent conversation about inclusivity for both students and faculty. It will specifically address the parallels that exist between faculty concerns about potentially mishandling sensitive situations involving diversity, and students striving to correct problems in academic settings that preclude inclusivity. After laying this foundation, participants will explore how adopting a growth mindset, particularly in the classroom, can improve their ability to create an inclusive learning space on multiple levels. 

Those who attend both this workshop and Breidster's Feb. 26 workshop are eligible to win a free, 1-hour coaching session with the facilitator.


Finale talk: 'Counterstory and Critical Race Theory' 

Presented by Aja Y. Martinez, author of the multi-award-winning book Counterstory: The Rhetoric and Writing of Critical Race Theory 

Friday, April 12, 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. 

Location: Livestreamed to LC 4 and via Zoom 

Open to all

RSVP appreciated: Register for the finale talk 

Martinez will discuss how and why the work she began in her seminal 2014 essay “A Plea for a Critical Race Theory Counterstory,” has evolved. She will discuss how a simple question became a complex, interdisciplinary project, co-researched and co-written with historian and Indigenous studies scholar Robert O. Smith. Drawing on mixed methods, ranging from archival, to ethnographic, to literary and rhetorical analysis, Martinez and Smith reframe the histories of CRT’s origins in legal studies while making provocative claims concerning CRT’s storytelling pedagogy, methodology and theory. Martinez will be livestreamed to LC 4, or participants can join at home via Zoom. 


To learn more:

For more information about the events in this series, contact Allison Craig.

View presenter bios and discover the Writing and Critical Inquiry Program’s Antiracism and Intersectional Justice Committee.

Members of WCI's Antiracism and Intersectional Justice Committee include Rumi Coller-Takahashi, Allison V. Craig, Susan G. Cumings, Sarah Giragosian, Moriah Hampton, Stephanie Hassan Richardson, Courtney B. Ryan, Stefan Vogel and Graysen Wolfe.

This series is made possible thanks to generous support from the following sponsors: Office of Diversity and Inclusion; New York State Writers Institute; Learning Commons and HHMI-STEM; Gender and Sexuality Resource Center; Intercultural Student Engagement; Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies; Center for the Advancement of Teaching, Learning and Online Education.