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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Professors rewarded for diversity and social justice efforts with grant money


Joshua Cerretti, Western instructor of history, received a grant for teaching about the history of colonization in Bellingham through a one-mile tour of downtown. Cerretti is one of seven faculty members to have received an Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Grant. // Photo by Ian Koppe
Joshua Cerretti, Western instructor of history, received a grant for teaching about the history of colonization in Bellingham through a one-mile tour of downtown. Cerretti is one of seven faculty members to have received an Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Grant. // Photo by Ian Koppe

Western recently awarded seven faculty members with the grants allocated by the President’s Taskforce on Equity, Inclusion and Diversity. The grant program, in its first year, is designed to further the recipients’ teaching and research related to diversity issues.

Faculty Senate Diversity and Social Justice Grants were awarded to professors that have worked to embrace and engage in issues related to equity, social justice and diversity.

Trula Nicholas, associate professor in the department of health and community studies at Western, led Western’s Faculty Senate in choosing the recipients for the grants that submitted their proposals on Nov. 1, 2015.  

Nicholas was a part of a group of seven Faculty Senate members that reviewed the applications. The applicants were selected based on their proposals ability to demonstrate how their teaching or research will engage and expand the discussion of social justice and diversity ideas.

Grants were tailored to particular projects and applicants.

One grant is for summer teaching, worth about $6,000. The other is a research grant, the value of which depends on the faculty member’s current salary and tenure status, Nicholas said.

The awarded faculty’s tenure played a significant role in determining how much the recipient will receive. The recipients with tenure will also be required to take a two-course release during two different quarters in the upcoming academic year, Nicholas said. Similar to a leave, the two-course release will allow the recipients to focus more on their grant-awarded teaching and research.

Creating a Legacy

Although the awards are meant to affect Western directly, the university’s Faculty Senate hopes that the impact will extend further than Western alone.

As part of the grant, the awardees are required to share their research and teaching experience through a public talk or performance within the next year.

“The recipients of these grants are required to join the faculty learning lab and that’s going to be a full-year of us coming together and learning together from each other,” Nicholas said. “You don’t get the money, go away, do the work in private and say ‘here’s my results.’ You are engaged with actively making a difference in how you approach, whether it’s teaching, research or even service, so that western can be better at inclusion,” Nicholas said.

The grants are now included within the university’s permanent budget and Nicholas hopes that the grants will reach even more faculty in the future.

Recipients received awards for their work in a variety of fields, ranging from queer and transgender studies to ecology. The Western Front talked to two of the grant recipients about their work.

Teaching Native American History

Senate Bill 5433 was signed into law in July of last year and will require the teaching of Native American history, government and culture in K-12 schools.

Western history professor Christopher Friday received a research grant for his work in social justice. Friday is working on figuring out how best to implement the requirements of Senate Bill 5433 at Western.

A critical part of Friday’s research will involve connecting with Washington’s 29 tribes to ensure the proper implementation of SB 5433.

“I will be meeting with faculty across the campus to see what they offer or would like to offer in their teaching that could help prepare students to recognize the variety, complexity and depth of the experiences in the 29 tribes,” Friday said in an email.

Decolonizing Bellingham

Joshua Cerretti, Western history instructor, received a summer teaching grant for his work in a similar area of social justice. Cerretti’s teaching involves the “Decolonizing Bellingham Tour.” Cerretti’s one-mile tour of downtown Bellingham aims to unveil the oppressive systems that led to Bellingham’s colonization.

The tour consists of stops at a number of sites central to the history of Bellingham and the region, especially as they pertain to local Indigenous communities, violence against people of color and violence against the land, Cerretti said.

Cerretti attempts to apply the recognition and alteration of systems of power to his work, hoping that it will help those within and outside of Bellingham to see the impact of social justice.

“As a historian, I think it’s really important to recognize everything that came before us, both the good and the bad, and to recognize the way that oppression has shaped the terrain on which we act. There’s always been resistance and we can draw a lot of strength from those histories of resistance,” Cerretti said.

With the tour, Cerretti is making an effort to connect out-of-state faculty and students to the complicated history of the region.

“I do hope to reach out to a wide range of people, but I’m really interested in getting new faculty and new students who are coming from outside of Bellingham and Whatcom County to learn a little more about what came before them and how we all got here,” Cerretti said.

The other recipients include:

Regina Barber DeGraaff, physics and astronomy lecturer, received a summer teaching grant for their “Inclusion and Social Mindfulness Workshops for STEM Faculty.”

Niall Ó Murchú, associate professor of Fairhaven College, received a summer teaching grant for their “Expand Fairhaven World Issues Global Social Justice Curriculum.”

Greg Youmans, assistant professor in English and film studies, received a research grant for their “Expanding the Frame of Queer and Transgender Studies.”

Nabil Kamel, assistant professor in environmental studies, received a research grant for their “Diversity Planning and Implementation for Huxley College of the Environment Baseline Comparison and Best Practices in Ecological and Environment Fields.”

Tamara Spira, assistant professor in american cultural studies, received a research grant for their “Movements of Feeling: Affect, Neoliberalism and (Post) Revolutionary Memory in the Americas.”



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