KINGSTON, R.I., March 6, 2017 — A book co-authored by a University of Rhode Island professor and a staff member imparts effective methods for creating an empowering learning and teaching environment within higher education for women of color.
Annemarie Vaccaro, associate professor of Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Health Sciences/Academic Health Collaborative, and Melissa J. Camba-Kelsay, coordinator of URI’s Center for Student Leadership Development and instructor for the minor in Leadership Studies, authored Centering Women of Color in Academic Counterspaces (Lexington Books 2016) based on several years of research.
Centering Women of Color addresses the stark realities of women and students of color who may feel marginalized, isolated and sometimes threatened on predominately white campuses, the authors said.
“The process of writing this was integral to my teaching and research, which are geared toward having tangible effects on people’s lives,” Vaccaro said. “The book focuses on a class we call ‘Sister Stories,’ where often untold stories are shared to explore the historical and contemporary experiences of women of color in the United States. Storytelling is a powerful means to warming an academic environment and creating an inclusive space for everyone.”
The book stands apart because it is told not from the single perspective of researcher, student or teacher, but from various viewpoints within a diverse group of undergraduate and post-graduate students, 66 percent of whom are women of color. The authors collected and analyzed stories over a five-year period, distilling their findings into actionable approaches to successful teaching and learning.
“This book is important because it showcases real students’ voices that deserve to be heard, validated and honored. This is particularly important in a world where many of these students are often silenced, ignored, or unseen,” Camba-Kelsay said. “If their words inspire us to make changes in our curricula, enhance training programs and improve campus climate, these are ways we can truly honor them.”
The book examines such social justice issues as oppression, subtle discrimination and tokenism while also tackling beauty, body image and leadership, the authors said. It offers insight into the process of transformational learning and some of the challenges that may arise when emotion-laden topics are explored in the classroom.
Given Centering Women of Color’s unique construct and timely matter, a book signing with the authors will be held Friday, April 7, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Alumni Center, 73 Upper College Road, Kingston Campus.
Sponsors of this event are: URI’s Office of Community, Equity and Diversity, College of Arts and Sciences, School of Education, Department of Athletics, Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Education and Professional Studies, Division of Student Affairs, Office for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, Multicultural Student Services Center, Gender and Women’s Studies Program and Department of Psychology/College of Health Sciences/Academic Health Collaborative.