North Central News

Faculty find new ways to battle systemic racism in online workshop

Lauren Ford

Sep 11, 2020

North Central’s faculty were inspired to reflect on their beliefs and consider new teaching approaches during a virtual workshop on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Dr. Sumun L. Pendakur, chief learning officer at University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center, was the keynote presenter and discussion facilitator at this year’s Provost’s Fall Faculty Colloquium.

The interactive presentation -- “Fierce Imagination: Purposeful Teaching for Today, Not Yesterday” -- received rave reviews from faculty across all disciplines, as well as from staff who participated. Pendakur’s combination of data, research, and personal anecdotes expanded participants’ understanding of systemic racism and offered actionable steps for designing more inclusive curricula and learning spaces, including creating greater syllabus transparency, using tools for name pronunciation, recognizing biases, socializing for course expectations and increasing compassion in teaching.

“Dr. Pendakur gave us opportunities for self and collective reflection, which prompted us to examine our foundational beliefs,” said Jennifer Keys, assistant provost for teaching and learning and director of the Center for the Advancement of Faculty Excellence (CAFÉ). “As a faculty developer, I appreciated Dr. Pendakur’s ability to offer faculty who have been deeply committed to equity new ideas to consider, while also bringing so many more colleagues into this critical dialogue in a very disarming way. We are deeply grateful for the illumination she has provided on these difficult conversations and look forward to continuing this productive dialogue as we keep striving for transformational action in our community.”

In a post-workshop survey, other faculty reported that “recognizing my blind spots and figuring out how to address them” and “integrating humility, community-building, compassion into my teaching” to be particularly helpful.

“We were honored to host Dr. Pendakur at this historic moment when our nation is reckoning with systemic racial injustice,” said Abiódún Gòkè-Pariolá, provost and vice president of academic affairs and professor of English. “Our colloquium aims to bring to campus inspiring ideas and constructive dialogue on critical issues in higher education, and to unite us in our shared purpose as intellectuals and educators. Dr. Pendakur’s workshop aligned beautifully with our strategic plan, which stresses the affirmative obligation we all have to ‘work toward a campus community that is welcoming and supportive of diversity and inclusion, is free from discrimination and models civil dialogue on social issues.’”


Picture of Dr. Sumun L. Pendakur

Dr. Sumun L. Pendakur