Antiracism & Intersectional Justice Committee

About the Committee

The Writing & Critical Inquiry (WCI) Program's Antiracism and Intersectional Justice Committee seeks to center the voices of individuals who have been marginalized in pedagogical, curricular, institutional and systemic contexts to reconfigure power relations and cultivate an equitable learning, work and community environment at UAlbany. 

The committee’s key goals include: 

  • Sustained inquiry into antiracist and intersectional texts and pedagogical practices 
  • Amplifying voices of historically marginalized populations by raising funds to bring in BIPOC and LGBTQI educators to train WCI faculty in antiracism and intersectional pedagogy 
  • Inviting WCI students to participate in our shared inquiry and to share their experiential knowledge 
  • Hiring and participating in the retention of more faculty of color within WCI 

The committee’s work deepens and amplifies WCI’s mission to help students think critically about the world around them.  

By emphasizing both reflection and tangible action, the committee puts the diversity and inclusion goals outlined in UAlbany’s Strategic Plan into practice. 

 

Partner with Us 

The Antiracism & Intersectional Justice Committee partners with student organizations, University departments and units, off-campus organizations and other groups to host events and workshops.  

Please contact Allison V. Craig ([email protected]) to share opportunities to work together. 

 

Upcoming Events 

Events are posted here as they are announced. Please visit the University’s Events Calendar for more upcoming events on campus. 
 

"Conceptualizing, Implementing & Sustaining Inclusive Spaces" Workshop & Speaker Series

The "Conceptualizing, Implementing & Sustaining Inclusive Spaces" workshop and speaker series will run through the Spring 2024 semester, with events open to UAlbany students, faculty and staff, as well as the broader community.  

The series will 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.
 

Keynote Talk: "Creating Brave Spaces for Challenging Dialogues"

Presented by Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens

When: 3 to 4 p.m. Friday, February 23, 2024

Where: LC 4 or Zoom  

Who: Open to all

RSVP appreciated: Register for the keynote.

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.  
 

Brian Arao, President and Co-Founder, Brave Space Leadership

Smiling man with bald head and short salt and pepper beard, wearing rectangular glasses with brown and teal rims.

Brian Arao, EdD (he/him/his) is an innovative and passionate educator who excels at helping others grow more fully into their potential. Arao pursued this calling for more than 23 years in the field of student affairs in higher education, most recently as the associate dean of students and chief of staff at UC Santa Cruz (UCSC). Now, as president and co-founder of Brave Space Leadership, he consults privately as a diversity and equity strategist, educator, and coach for colleges, universities, and both nonprofit and for-profit organizations. 

Arao brings a demonstrated track record of leveraging research and data to create and execute strategies for advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice and belonging. For example, in collaboration with Kristi L. Clemens, he co-created and continues to grow the renowned Brave Space framework for promoting courageous participation in social justice-focused dialogues (see Chapter 8 of The Art of Effective Facilitation); coordinated a comprehensive and equity-focused examination of student conduct practice at UC Santa Cruz, including a self-study, external review process, and execution of an extensive set of recommendations for program improvement; led the implementation team for Trans-Inclusive Housing at UCSC and worked as the liaison for trans students’ housing-related concerns; enhanced religious and spiritual life at UCSC, including serving as the liaison for the University Interfaith Council and establishing the campus’s prayer and meditation room; provided direction to culturally themed housing communities and intergroup dialogue courses at UC Berkeley; revamped and relaunched the LGBTQIA+ Allies training program at the University of San Francisco; and attended and later interned for the Social Justice Training Institute. As part of his longtime involvement in ACPA College Student Educators International, Arao served on its first equity and inclusion advisory committee; co-led the team that developed the association’s bias incident response protocol; chaired the Commission for Social Justice Education; designed and facilitated activities to help elected leaders reshape leadership structures, programs, and member services using the association’s Strategic Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization.

Arao is a professional certified diversity coach with the CoachDiversity Institute. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from UC Santa Cruz, a master’s in higher education and student affairs administration from the University of Vermont, and a doctorate in international and multicultural education with an emphasis in human rights education from the University of San Francisco. He lives in California with his husband, Jimmy, and their dogs Paloma and Rio. In his spare time, he enjoys plant-based cooking, powerlifting, yoga, singing with the Sacramento Gay Men’s Chorus, and participating in a wide range of geek fandoms.
 

Faculty & Staff Workshop: “Psychological Safety: Building the Foundation for Transparent Communication on Complex Topics”

Facilitated by Rachel Breidster  

When: 3 to 4 p.m. Monday, February 26, 2024

Where: HU 109 (in person only)  

Who: Open to UAlbany faculty and staff (capped at 50 participants)

RSVP required: Register for the February 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. Note: Those who attend both workshops in this series are eligible to win a free, one-hour coaching session with the facilitator.
 

Smiling woman with short pink hair and bright pink lipstick, wearing a green mock turtleneck sweater.

Rachel Breidster is a highly enthusiastic and wildly curious learning and organizational development professional with over 20 years of experience providing customized services and solutions in the private, non-profit, educational, and government sectors.

Influenced by her education in sociology, professional history working with families facing housing instability, and personal experience as a serial relationship-builder, Breidster’s work focuses heavily on helping organizations to critically examine their norms and procedures, create psychological safety, and build an engaged, inclusive, and high-performing culture.

Breidster has experience in a wide variety of subject matter areas including leadership development, DEIB, workplace relational skills, communication skills, change management, innovative performance, strategic growth, supervisory skills, public health, public policy, and presentation skills.

Regardless of subject matter, participants working with Breidster can expect a high-trust, highly-engaging experience, full of evidence-based practices, immediately actionable content, experiential learning, and a lasting impact.

Breidster leverages her experiences as a lifelong learner, 20+ year veteran trainer, and 7+ year director of learning and development departments, to inform her unique insight into both the needs of the organization as well as the needs of the learner. The result is the development of bespoke, balanced solutions that build value and impact for everyone.

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  

When: 3 to 4 p.m. Monday, March 11, 2024

Where: LC 4 (in-person only)  

Who: Open to all

RSVP appreciated: Register for the March 11 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.  
 

Woman with shoulder length curled black hair, wearing red lipstick, long dangly earrings with white round beads, a white blazer and white top with a black bow at the collar.

Carol Tonge Mack is the Founder & CEO of Tonge Mack Enterprises, LLC: Empowering Next Dimension Leaders. The organization has three primary goals: provide women and girls with the empowering tools necessary to elevate and amplify their voices, particularly, but not exclusively in education; assist companies and organizations with innovative, unconventional, leadership skills to unleash their highest potential; and help students and parents navigate higher education from recruitment to graduation. 

Mack is a well-respected educator and powerhouse behind her brand: END POLITE SILENCE™. She has been working for over twenty years in higher education with professional skills ranging from executive strategic planning, project implementation and execution, to crisis management with emotional intelligence at the core. Among her colleagues, she is known as a fierce promoter and supporter of staff development with expertise in building trust and strengthening teams, which are crucial components to the success of every organization. For almost a decade, she has been the faculty “go-to” expert for academic misconduct and students’ overall success.

Faculty & Staff Workshop: “Rejecting Perfectionism: Adopting a Growth Mindset to Foster Inclusion”

Facilitated by Rachel Breidster  

When: 3 to 4 p.m. Monday, April 1, 2024

Where: HU 109 (in-person only)  

Who: Open to UAlbany faculty and 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. Note: Those who attend both workshops in this series are eligible to win a free, one-hour coaching session with the facilitator.
 

Smiling woman with short pink hair and bright pink lipstick, wearing a green mock turtleneck sweater.

Rachel Breidster is a highly enthusiastic and wildly curious learning and organizational development professional with over 20 years of experience providing customized services and solutions in the private, non-profit, educational, and government sectors.

Influenced by her education in sociology, professional history working with families facing housing instability, and personal experience as a serial relationship-builder, Breidster’s work focuses heavily on helping organizations to critically examine their norms and procedures, create psychological safety, and build an engaged, inclusive, and high-performing culture.

Breidster has experience in a wide variety of subject matter areas including leadership development, DEIB, workplace relational skills, communication skills, change management, innovative performance, strategic growth, supervisory skills, public health, public policy, and presentation skills.

Regardless of subject matter, participants working with Breidster can expect a high-trust, highly-engaging experience, full of evidence-based practices, immediately actionable content, experiential learning, and a lasting impact.

Breidster leverages her experiences as a lifelong learner, 20+ year veteran trainer, and 7+ year director of learning and development departments, to inform her unique insight into both the needs of the organization as well as the needs of the learner. The result is the development of bespoke, balanced solutions that build value and impact for everyone.

Finale Talk: “Counterstory and Critical Race Theory”

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

When: 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Friday, April 12, 2024 

Where: LC 4 and Zoom

Who: 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. 
 

Portrait of a woman with long brown hair worn down, wearing a deep green V-neck wrap dress with puffed sleeves.

Aja Y. Martinez (she/her) is an associate professor of English at the University of North Texas and author of the multi-award-winning book Counterstory: The Rhetoric and Writing of Critical Race Theory. Her scholarship engages with both public and academic audiences in a series of new projects that include several critical academic journal essays and book chapters, a CRT theoretical introductory chapter for a Routledge collection, a special College English double issue on CRT, CRT symposia in three academic journals, and four book-length projects.

Two of the book projects, co-researched and -written with historian and Indigenous studies scholar Robert O. Smith, are under contract with New York University Press and University of California Press—kicking off Cal UP’s new series on CRT. Within these projects Martinez and Smith draw on mixed methods, ranging from archival, to ethnographic, to literary and rhetorical analysis. These books reframe the histories of CRT’s origins in legal studies while making provocative claims concerning CRT’s storytelling pedagogy, methodology, and theory. Additionally, Martinez is coeditor and cofounder, with Michele Eodice and Sandra Tarabochia (University of Oklahoma), of the transdisciplinary, digital open-access, and multimodal journal Writers: Craft and Context. Last, Martinez is coeditor, with Stacey Waite (University of Nebraska) of the University of Pittsburgh Press’s series Composition, Literacy, and Culture.  

Intersectional Antihomophobia & Antiracism Workshop (April 2023)

The Antiracism and Intersectional Justice Committee hosted In Our Own Voices on campus for a three-hour intersectional workshop on antihomophobia and antiracism on April 19, 2023. 

In Our Own Voices (IOOV) has served Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) People of Color (POC) in the Capital Region community for 25 years. 

In Our Own Voices Chief Operating Officer Phillip Burse ’04 speaks during a intersectional workshop on antihomophobia and antiracism.

Fifty UAlbany students, faculty and staff members attended the event, which started with a workshop on working with Queer/Trans People of Color (QTPOC) in supportive, antiracist and antihomophobic ways. 

The session was led by IOOV Chief Operating Officer Phillip Burse '04, who is a recipient of the University’s Harvey Milk Alumnus Award.

Mixed groups of participants continued their discussions while eating lunch together. After the meal, Burse led a discussion session exclusively for students, especially those who identify as QTPOC.

The students-only conversation focused on sharing experiences, building community and making specific suggestions for improving the campus climate. 

Students note-takers shared anonymized feedback from that conversation with the Antiracism and Intersectional Justice Committee. Additionally, all participants were encouraged to leave written comments. The Committee is considering both sources of feedback as we plan our next steps. 

This event was supported by several campus partners, including: