Meredith College faculty and staff participated in the Racial Equity Institute’s Groundwater Training this fall. The educational program was part of the College’s initiative on anti-racism.
The Racial Equity Institute (REI) uses data from areas including education, housing, banking, and more to present a perspective that racism is fundamentally structural in nature. According to REI organizers, the groundwater metaphor used in the training is “designed to help [participants] internalize the reality that we live in a racially structured society, and that that is what causes racial inequity.”
President Jo Allen and the Executive Leadership Team are among those at Meredith who have participated in more extensive REI training.
“The groundwater metaphor is a valuable way to discuss the issues of systemic racism in society,” said Senior Vice President and Provost Matthew Poslusny, who completed the two-day REI Phase I workshop with academic deans last summer. “And just like one needs to address the quality of groundwater if fish are getting sick in many lakes, one needs to address our systems that lead to racial inequality.”
After participating themselves, Meredith’s leadership decided to fund participation in the groundwater session for faculty and staff in support of the antiracism initiative.
“More than 100 faculty and staff signed-up to participate in the training, and others reached out to say that they hoped the training would be offered again because they could not attend on the scheduled date,” said Professor of Education Julie Schrock, who helped host the virtual session in October. “This tells me that the Meredith community recognizes our need to grow in our understanding of issues surrounding racial equity and diversity on our campus.”
Assistant Director of International Programs Traci Stewart Johnson said she participated in the program because she places a high value on educating herself on race and equity issues.
“As the primary international student advisor on Meredith’s campus, I believe it is my responsibility to create ‘safer spaces’ for students, operate in cultural humility, and constantly seek to better understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with students with cultural differences,” Johnson said.
Johnson, like many other faculty and staff, appreciated the opportunity provided by the REI training.
“I understand that educating myself through opportunities like the REI Groundwater Training and being open-minded to widening my view on race and equity issues is a life-long learning process that involves critical self-reflection and openness,” Johnson said. “I want to put in the work and appreciate opportunities from Meredith College for training on these issues.”
After the initial session, a survey was done of participants asking for feedback on the experience.
Schrock said feedback from participants was “overwhelmingly positive, with many expressing the desire for more training and action steps.”