Black History Month at ASU: Actions LIFT our community
Dear ASU Community:
As we reflect on those who sacrificed, contributed, and achieved for the betterment of themselves and others in this month — Black History Month — I’d also like to take a moment to recognize those who are making history every day in service to our renewed commitment to students, faculty and staff here at ASU.
The 25 actions to which we have pledged to address inequities and systemic racism have a new name and a firm resolve to confront these issues through education and participation. The LIFT Initiative, through collaboration and innovation, endeavors to Listen, Invest, Facilitate and Teach — better than we have done in the past. By “better” I mean being better attuned to the unique social and cultural experiences of the learners and educators of our diverse ASU community, and by building better bridges to support leadership learning goals and outcomes for our students, faculty and staff.
Since establishing the Advisory Council on African American Affairs last fall, we have been moving forward and quickly on these initiatives to support the success and growth of Black students, faculty and staff here at ASU. This interdisciplinary group of faculty, staff and students is actively collaborating with other talented members of our ASU community to implement LIFT’s goals through various subcommittees. We are motivated by the efforts and investments of Council members who continue to inspire and initiate participation, not only from within ASU, but in our surrounding communities as well.
It is our goal to document the efforts of these transformative actions, and efforts to do as such are well underway. We will share the results of these efforts in an annual report in the Summer of 2021 and consider new ideas that may stem from this report.
Upholding our commitment to investing resources and providing enhanced service support for Black and African American students, ASU has partnered with the Greater Phoenix Urban League Young Professionals to help create career pathways for our students. Last fall, 50 ASU students enrolled in the 12-month YP CoNext Leadership Program for one-on-one mentorship with young professionals throughout the greater Phoenix area. We encourage others to engage in programs like this and share these opportunities with friends and colleagues.
We are also working to facilitate more opportunities for personal and professional growth among students and staff. Pursuant to our commitment to offer opportunities for service engagement, we have implemented a change to our staff personnel policy to increase the number of hours of release time so that we can engage in activities and opportunities that uphold ASU’s commitment to inclusion. This includes university-sponsored trainings, workshops and conferences, as well as professional organizations, affinity groups and mentor or mentee programs.
The newly formed Faculty Inclusion Research for System Transformation (FIRST) is beginning its research into race and discrimination at ASU. Led by Victoria Sahani, professor of law in ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, this historical study will help us better address our future by looking at our past.
And we recently launched The Difference Engine: An ASU Center for the Future of Equality. Led by Ehsan Zaffar, a civil rights lawyer and educator in ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, this multi-college interdisciplinary initiative is designed to help elevate equality across the United States. Engaging talent and resources from across ASU, Ehsan and his team are creating classes and developing partnerships to transform social justice and deconstruct the structural inequality that calls for this kind of social justice work.
The LIFT initiative is a throughline of the work pioneered and advanced by the artists, the educators, the explorers, the inventors, leaders, laborers, poets and soldiers we often spotlight during Black History Month. It is an active reminder of how ordinary efforts can effect extraordinary change for the betterment of our society. Those efforts advance here through education and dedication in service of our community.
Let’s continue to lift each other up and set our sights higher to build better bridges for our communities.
Michael M. Crow
Arizona State University