The Association of American Colleges & Universities has recently announced that UMBC will be one of ten institutions to serve as locations for the first Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation campus centers.
The Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation process is a community-based, multi-year initiative designed to promote positive race relations, erase structural barriers to equal treatment and opportunity and address longstanding racial hierarchies.
For this initiative, the AAC&U has partnered with and received financial support from Newman’s Own Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. From these funds, an initial grant of $30,000 will be given to each of the selected institutions to “engage and empower campus and community stakeholders” and challenge the “biases and misbeliefs” that have led to racial violence and tensions in American society.
In addition to the monetary award each campus center will receive, the AAC&U will also provide strategic direction to the selected institutions.
The AAC&U states that they believe “the work of the first ten TRHT Campus Centers will empower people to live and to prosper in a civil and humane society that promotes full inclusion for everyone.”
A total of 125 applications were received, from which ten colleges and universities were chosen using a competitive process to be the first group of campus centers. The AAC&U’s website reveals that the institutions were selected “based on their proposals’ ability to create positive narratives about race, identify and examine current realities of race relations in their communities, envision communities without entrenched racial hierarchies, and pinpoint levers for change and key individuals to engage.”
Lynn Pasquerella, the president of the AAC&U, stated that she was “eager” to work with the UMBC community. She also remarked that UMBC’s president, Freeman Hrabowski, “has demonstrated a deep and abiding commitment to promoting racial and social justice,” echoing considerations made when selecting institutions to participate in this program.
The program will be launched through the Shriver Center, known to many UMBC students as a hub for service-learning and community engagement. Pasquerella noted that UMBC’s proposal “emphasizes inter-generational work to take advantage of local epistemologies and the lived experience of those in surrounding communities alongside the voices of those in the Youth Action program and student mentors.” She added, “students will also benefit from curriculum development focused on confronting issues of race and difference in the classroom and pedagogies that demonstrate the power of the TRHT approach to reconciliation.”
Following an initial TRHT project meeting in September 2017, the AAC&U will convene the first annual TRHT Institute in January of 2018. During this meeting, the campus centers will develop their own visionary plans for the initiative, as well as provide input for a guidebook supporting the implementation of future TRHT campus centers.
Justin Johnson, a sophomore political science major at UMBC and the Social Justice Chair for the campus’ Black Student Union, expressed his general support and interest regarding the initiative and its implementation details, saying, “I feel a program directed toward helping heal racial tensions at UMBC would be helpful.”