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Gateway to Belonging at OU program director candidates to make virtual campus visits in webinar series

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Empty campus in front of the Oklahoma Memorial Union on the first day of online classes after Spring Break on March 23.

Candidates for director of the Gateway to Belonging at OU program, a mandatory diversity, equity and inclusion course for students, will visit campus virtually from April 13 to April 23.

A mandatory semester-long course for students on diversity was one of the demands made by the Black Emergency Response Team in February 2020, protesting the university administration’s response to two acts of racism on campus that month. The course became a formal part of the university’s strategic plan when it was unveiled in July 2020.

The Gateway to Belonging at OU general education course is hosted at the university for new OU students to “build an intercultural awareness,” according to an email sent on behalf of Joshua Nelson, the chair of the Search Committee for the director. By understanding different perspectives — such as abilities, cultures and social backgrounds — students will build an “intercultural awareness” that will help them interact more effectively with others, Nelson wrote.

The candidates will present their “visions for the program,” as the future director will receive a faculty position, supervise the curriculum and “coordinate the instructional faculty team.”

Adrienne Carter-Sowell will be the first candidate, hosting a webinar at 12:30 p.m. April 13. She is an associate professor of women and gender studies and psychological and brain sciences at Texas A&M University, combining scientific scholarship, social change and diverse communities into her work, according to her biography page.

The second candidate, Meta G. Carstarphen, will speak at 2 p.m. April 15. She is a faculty member in the strategic communications department of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication who researches “the intentional use of mediated communication to create transformative, collaborative and diversified social change” and the first tenured African American professor in the college, according to her faculty page.

Akilah Carter-Francique, the third candidate, will speak at 2:00 p.m. April 19. She is the executive director for the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change (ISSSSC) and an associate professor in the Department of African American Studies at San Jose State University. Her research focus is the “intersection of sport, society and social justice that is inclusive of issues of diversity, social movements, and the dynamics of social change and development,” according to her faculty page.

Adrienne Dixson will host the final webinar at 12:30 p.m. April 23. She is a professor of critical race theory and education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign focused on “the intersectionality of race, class and gender in urban educational contexts,” and specifically on how these issues impact “educational equity for students and people of color in the urban south,” according to her staff page.

The OU community can register for the webinars here by 5 p.m. April 9.

Editor's note: This article was updated at 2:06 p.m. April 8 to correct Dixson's title.

Marien López-Medina is an international student and United World Colleges alumna from Nicaragua. She is majoring in journalism with a minor in public and nonprofit administration and works as a news reporter for The Daily.

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