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Racial justice grant program to support diversity in education

Nine programs will boost racial justice issues through course material

A new grant opportunity at The Ohio State University backs projects that will engage students in learning opportunities that address racial disparities and injustices. 

The university’s Affordable Learning Exchange is backing nine faculty or program directors with micro-grants to increase exposure to diverse voices in course material. ALX works with faculty and staff to adopt free and openly licensed course materials to reduce instructional costs for students.

“A social justice mission is already baked into that work and so in reaction to the murder of George Floyd we wanted to use the strength of the ALX program to figure out what we could do to take meaningful action,” said Ashley Miller, associate director of Affordability and Access, Office of Distance Education and eLearning. “We’ve been doing some problem-solving around the issue of how we are talking to our students about racial justice issues and issues specifically facing Black Americans today.”

Nine programs will receive $500 each for this pilot project. If results are successful, it could be expanded.

Some of the criteria for the project include adding a racial justice component in the syllabus for one course and creating resources for students, including a reading list that cites Black authors. None of these additions to course material can add an expense to students taking the class.

Lecturer Jasmine Roberts was awarded one of the grants for her class on writing for strategic communications. Students will be required to write a feature article on a marginalized group, particularly one of which they are not a member. She intends to incorporate her own original work on digital activism and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Roberts said she hopes to introduce her class to underrepresented scholars.

“We have to consider the cultural lens that these scholars are coming from,” she said. “Traditionally speaking, we have scholarship that is coming from predominantly white western institutions or scholars and we’re not having as much of that rich work that’s coming from scholars of color.”

Roberts said the grants and their implementation will lead to a more well-rounded student experience.

“I think it’s important because that’s a part of anti-racism work. It’s interrogating who gets to be at the center and who, as a result, gets to be marginalized,” she said. “Research shows that having that diversity mindset, having a diverse team, having a diverse education, actually fares organizations well. It has a tremendously positive impact.”

The nine projects receiving grants are distributed in classes and programs across the university. Classes in biology, political science and astronomy are part of the initial round of funding. Ohio State’s Agricultural Technical Institute and the Mansfield and Newark regional campuses are represented as well.

Miller said the diversity of subjects and the impact beyond the Columbus campus is important to recognizing the university’s land-grant mission to educate the citizens of Ohio.

“It’s the same reason that it’s important for us to invest in sound pedagogical practices, or why we invest in having really positive teacher-student relationships and positive experiences in the classroom,” she said. “That’s because we’re producing our next leaders and we’re all part of this community. There is no time like the present to try to insert this conversation into more places in our lives and in our teaching.”

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