Best-selling author, scholar, teacher and psychologist Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D., visited Wayne State University earlier this month for a candid conversation about race relations and racial identity in higher education. Tatum, who is president emerita of Spelman College in Atlanta, wrote the critically acclaimed book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race. She joined the campus community for a book signing and open dialogue, moderated by Marquita Chamblee, associate provost for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer; and Andrew Feig, associate professor of chemistry.
More than 150 faculty members gathered in the Bernath Auditorium for the event, which also was livestreamed with captioning. The event was hosted jointly by the Office for Teaching and Learning, WSU WIDER, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and University Libraries.
“It was an honor to host Dr. Tatum. She’s a true thought leader and a trailblazer when it comes to creating an inclusive campus,” said Sara Kacin, director of the Office for Teaching and Learning. “Her perspective contributed invaluably to our campus’s ongoing discussion and I think attendees were energized and motivated.”
The campus community was so engaged, in fact, that Tatum’s visit sparked events both before and after the conversation.
Prior to Tatum’s visit, more than 70 members of the WSU community participated in a book club centered around Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race. The book club was facilitated by Feig; Chamblee; Leonard Savala, director of the Office of Multicultural Student Engagement; Donyale Padgett, associate professor of diversity, culture and communication; and Leah Robinson, director of academic support for the School of Medicine’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
Following her visit, a group reconvened to continue the conversation. Chamblee and Feig moderated the follow-up discussion.
“Our campus faces a number of challenges related to diversity, equity and inclusion. Great strides have been made with respect to graduation rates and the race-related achievement gap, but in many STEM majors, we still see a significant decline in diversity between the foundational and upper division courses,” said Feig. “Helping to ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed is central to our mission as a university. Events like Dr. Tatum’s visit remind us that we must all work together to address these issues and provide us with some concrete paths forward toward establishing the culture of inclusion we desire.”