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Toxic Ivory Towers: The Consequences of Work Stress on Underrepresented Minority Faculty
Date Reviewed: April 2, 2019
Ruth Enid Zambrana’s Toxic Ivory Towers presents readers with new research on the conditions and consequences of workplace stress among underrepresented minority (URM) faculty in higher education. It draws from the “largest web-based survey of URM faculty in the United States to date” (13) and focuses particular attention on the experiences of African American, Latinx, and American Indian early- to mid-career faculty at elite universities (12). The study examines “the associations between workplace stress, academic organizational factors, coping strategies, and physical and mental health among URM faculty” (10). Zambrana also brings more than thirty-five years of experience to the table as a URM teacher, researcher, and faculty member in order to demonstrate that “workplace stress on URM faculty colleagues is uniquely and adversely impacting their lives” (21).
In chapter one, Zambrana illustrates the gap between the stated commitments and actual commitments of universities to diversity initiatives in general and to URM faculty in particular. Then chapter two explores the complicated history behind recruiting URM faculty into the academy. Chapters three through five focus on the climates in which URM faculty experience high levels of stress: climates that are often structurally racist (chapter three), that use mentoring programs to mask deeper problems (chapter four), and that foster micro- and macro-aggressive discrimination (chapter five). Chapters six through eight deal with the impact of work stress on URM homes and families (chapter six), on advancement opportunities such as promotion or tenure (chapter seven), and on emotional and professional well-being (chapter eight). Chapter nine considers the complexities around gender dynamics. Chapter ten exhorts academic leaders to listen to and learn from URM faculty experiences in order to renew their practices.
On occasion, Toxic Ivory Towers plods along on account of too many first-hand verbatim reports. More selectivity in verbatims would help with flow. Also, it would be more beneficial to readers if Zambrana proposed a clearer roadmap for the future. Creative solutions are usually more complex than learning from past mistakes and correcting them. However, the many strengths of the book will lead many readers to overlook its weaknesses. Zambrana unmasks the misleading data that a lot of universities publish on the “success” of diversity initiatives; she offers constructive language for URM faculty to help name their experiences; and, her work provokes responses that challenge the status quo. Those who read this book may experience a diverse number of responses: some may be surprised by research findings, others unsettled by testimonies, others reassured they are not alone in their experiences, and still others an aggregate of reactions. Every academic leader (presidents, deans, department chairs, and so forth) who wants positive change in these areas will benefit from interacting with Zambrana’s research, and virtually every URM faculty member will benefit from her adeptness at naming the workplace stressors that they experience.
For Kenneth Ngwa, Drew Theological Seminary, teaching is not just a vocation but it’s a way of life. He confesses, “I cannot but teach.” Teaching is about a community of learners coming together to make meaning from a set of texts or artifacts. “I think teaching is a powerful tool, ” continues Ngwa, “to shape not just individual perspectives but how society functions.” He teaches classes in the Hebrew Bible and is an important voice in the field of African Biblical Hermeneutics.
The “I” That Teaches - A new video project that invites senior scholars to talk about their teaching lives. These scholar-teachers candidly discuss how religious, educational, and family backgrounds inform their vocational commitments and, also, characterize their teaching persona. From the vantage point of a practiced teaching philosophy we get an intimate account of the value and art of teaching well.
Click here to watch all episodes of "The "I" That Teaches" on YouTube
Teaching and learning become rich and exciting when any classroom makes room for and taps into the resources of diverse backgrounds, contexts, and identities. Also, it’s the right thing to do. When I began teaching online, I knew classroom diversities might increase due to broadening access, but I suspected ...
Teaching Religious Literacy: A Guide to Religious and Spiritual Diversity in Higher Education
Date Reviewed: October 1, 2018
Ariel Ennis, Assistant Director and Senior Multifaith Educator at the Of Many Institute for Multifaith Leadership in the Office of Global Spiritual Life at New York University, has authored an important contribution to a burgeoning literature on campus-based interfaith and interreligious outreach. Noting that diversity and inclusion initiatives on American campuses frequently address race, sexuality, and gender while ignoring religious identity, Ennis reports on efforts at NYU to create a center to support spiritual life. Special attention is given to the development of a “Faith Zone” curriculum that trains leaders for enhanced multifaith encounters.
Ennis analyzes a variety of extant approaches to cross-cultural religious and spiritual experiences, looking at intended outcomes of different programs. Focusing on the concept of “religious literacy,” he describes a framework for the NYU workshops on spiritual diversity that supports religious literacy initiatives. Included in the book is the Faith Zone curriculum and rubrics drawn from the AACU (Association of American Colleges and Universities) VALUE rubrics that are used for post-workshop outcomes assessment. He shares data from these assessments in order to demonstrate the impact on campus of the religious literacy curriculum. The book closes with the author’s reflections on how Faith Zone workshops could be offered on different types of campuses (public/private, religious/secular) and with his recommendations for successfully meeting challenges emerging from the workshops.
Campus religious literacy initiatives that Ennis advocates embrace the question: Can we teach people to have more productive conversations about religion and spirituality in diverse settings? Using the definition of religious literacy developed by Dianne Moore of the Religious Literacy Project at Harvard Divinity School, Ennis answers this question affirmatively, setting four outcomes for the interfaith curriculum. Workshops will (1) enhance participants’ knowledge of historic and contemporary interconnections of religion with cultural, political, and social life; (2) embrace an ecumenical orientation that offers participants firsthand experience in exploring religio-cultural boundaries; (3) promote self-awareness about the intersections of participants\' religio-spiritual identities with larger social forces; and (4) encourage participants\' commitment to apply their new found religious literacy through practical projects that bridge intercultural divides.
In contrast to Eboo Patel’s portrait of a fraught relationship between interfaith outreach and religious studies programs (https://www.wabashcenter.wabash.edu/scholarship/interfaith-leadership-a-primer/), Ennis’ book points to positive implications for partnerships on campus between religious studies programs and interfaith outreach. Similarities between Faith Zone outcomes and learning outcomes/assessment of the religion major on many campuses suggest productive cross-fertilization. Students could sustain the long-term impact of the workshop outcomes, adding depth and breadth, through coursework in religious studies grounded in similar learning outcomes. In complementary fashion, religious studies majors could apply learning in the major outside the classroom, enhancing their resumes, through interfaith internships: as graduates of Faith Zone training, they could lead workshops on religious literacy and develop and lead associated campus programming.
Is Everyone Really Equal? An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education
Date Reviewed: March 23, 2018
This book is one among fifty others within the Multicultural Education Series. According to the series editor James A. Banks, these books “[summarize and analyze] important research, theory, and practice related to the education of ethnic, racial, cultural, and linguistic groups in the United States and education of mainstream students about diversity” (xiii). Özelm Sensoy and Robin DiAngelo’s book focuses on social justice. For distinction from the commonplace notion of social justice, Sensoy and DiAngelo use the alternative term “critical social justice.” By critical social justice, they mean: (1) recognition of unequal social power relations at the individual and group levels in society; (2) understanding of one’s place within these relations of unequal power; (3) critical thinking on what knowledge is and how it is produced and acquired; and (4) action informed by the best understanding of what social justice is and sound methods for its realization in society (xxi). Sensoy and DiAngelo provide guidelines for teaching and learning social justice.
The book consists of twelve chapters. The chapters include: pictures; charts; figures; vocabulary lists; boxes for definitions of key terms and reminders of ideas and concepts if discussed in a previous chapter; questions for discussion; and instructions for learning activities. The authors intend for persons to read the chapters in their numerical order. The content of the book is cumulative, with each chapter building upon the one that precedes it.
There is an underlying logic in the linear progression of the chapters. Chapters 1 and 2 deal with instructional matters, providing students with guidelines for learning social justice course content (6-18), instructors with guidelines for grading student performance (19-21), and both with an overview of critical theory in social justice courses (25-27). Chapters 3 to 5 define the concepts and operations of culture, socialization, prejudice and discrimination, and oppression and domination (36-40, 51-57, 61-73). Chapters 6 to10 define ableism, sexism, racism, and classism and describe how they pervade social institutions (82-86, 104-115, 123-129, 142-144, 156-162, 177-182). Chapter 11 refutes 13 common statements that are used to discredit social justice education (186-197). Based on Sensoy and DiAngelo’s definition of critical social justice, Chapter 12 specifies four learning outcomes for social justice education and crafts possible scenarios for illustration of the kinds of actions for each outcome (200, 203-204, 207, 211).
Though written primarily for white readers, Sensoy and DiAngelo’s book merits consideration by all readers interested in social justice education in pluralistic society. The series editor notes that “most of the nation’s teachers are white, female, and monolingual” (xii). Using the terms “we” and “us” throughout the book, Sensoy and DiAngelo acknowledge their associations with this demographic group (120). Given the fact of intersectionality – that any one person has multiple associations – race or ethnicity cannot be a person’s only identification (138, 175). The complexity of human subjectivity warrants the concern of all persons with social justice in a world characterized by ever-increasing diversity.