Category: Equity Diversity Inclusion

New Black Teachers Matter Scholarship

Donors to the U of R share in the University’s commitment to creating and promoting a more equitable system that fosters diversity and inclusion.

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: September 13, 2021

“This commitment to well-being and belonging was no more evident than in the $25,000 donated by Agnes Stephanson-Cooke to endow the Black Teachers Matter Scholarship in 2020 – an award that will support a Black undergraduate student in pursuing a degree in the Faculty of Education in their final year.

“It’s a huge commitment by Agnes to trust us and our Faculty and our University to carry forward this gift with her name,” said Dr. Jerome Cranston, Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina. “It brings me tremendous joy to know that there are people like Agnes out there. Her foresight and her willingness to have her name associated with this gift is huge.”

Dr. Cranston was quick to give credit to his Faculty of Education colleague Stephen Davis, who came up with the concept and name of the award. “I felt that this was needed to recognize the important role of Black educators in Saskatchewan and celebrate the brilliant and gifted educators that we have at the University of Regina,” Davis said. Both Dr. Cranston and Davis recognize the enormous impact that the award will have.

“Representation matters. We don’t only need Black teachers for Black students, we need Black teachers for white students,” Dr. Cranston said. “This award is going to support changing the teaching workforce and it’s going to do it in a way that even further identifies the U of R as a place where we are inclusive, and we are respectful.”

Read the full story on the U of R Front Page

If you would like to help a student in need, visit our donor page and consider supporting one of our Faculty’s funding priorities:

Inaugural recipients of the Associate Dean’s Graduate Student Thesis Award

Congratulations to the 2021 inaugural recipients of the #UREdu Associate Dean’s Graduate Student Thesis Award: Dr. Needal Ghadi (the Faculty of Education’s nominee for the Governor General’s Academic Gold Medal) and Dr. Rubina Khanam (BIPOC).

The Faculty of Education Associate Dean’s Graduate Student Thesis Award was established to recognize the outstanding academic performance of thesis-based graduate students (Masters and PhD) in Education. Each recipient is a student in a graduate program in the Faculty of Education who has exemplified academic excellence and research ability, demonstrated leadership ability and/or university/community involvement, and whose thesis was deemed meritorious by the Examining Committee.

One award (of $2000) will go to an applicant who has self-identified as a Black, Indigenous, or person of colour (BIPOC).

The second award (of $2000) will go to the Faculty of Education nominee for the Governor General’s Academic Gold Medal (Spring) or the President’s Distinguished Graduate Student Award (Fall).

Researching representational practices in musical theatre

Dr. Sara Schroeter Assistant Professor – Arts Education, Drama Education

When Sara Schroeter set out to attend a local musical theatre production one evening, an outing with one of her children, she didn’t expect she would have to have difficult conversations with her family because of the problematic racial representations.

“As a mother of mixed-race children, when I started going to the musical theater and seeing the problematic representations and after talking with my husband and hearing him say the damage was already done, and that this was one of many, many experiences that our children will have, that they might not understand right now, but one day they will, and these experiences will have an accumulated impact [sigh]—that’s when I realized that this is what we are doing with musicals.”

Musical theatre is a popular and traditional feature in many high schools across North America, including Regina. When Schroeter first joined the Faculty of Education as an assistant professor of arts and drama education, she realized she needed to gain a better understanding of musical theatre:

“Musical theatre is what many of my students in Arts Ed understood theatre to be. I needed to better understand what’s going on in musical theatre. I was told that musicals are really big for the local high schools and the community attends these musical shows.”

Schroeter set out to investigate and says, “I went to two musical theatre productions the first year I was here and both had really problematic representations of either race or gender and sexuality—some of the most troubling representations that I have seen recently, certainly something I didn’t expect to see in 2016.”

Her experiences caused Schroeter to start questioning the pedagogical value of musical theatre. She wondered where teachers were drawing their inspiration from and how they were contending with issues of representation in a field that, she says, “is known to have quite a problematic history.”

In 2018, Schroeter’s wondering turned into a University of Regina, President’s Seed Funded research project entitled, “Staging Difference: Examining Representational Practices in Musical Theatre Productions in Regina Schools and on Professional Stages.”

Though a drama educator, this exploration into musical theatre has been a new focus for Schroeter, whose research has mostly focused on youth representations of self and other through drama.

“I study applied theatre and drama in education, and am interested in youth making their own stories and telling their own stories. My research has also examined representational practices, often drawing on critical race theory and cultural studies,” says Schroeter.

Schroeter’s research project involves two parts: “Part of my research is to look at what is going on in high schools, interviewing teachers, and part of it is to go and see contemporary progressive shows, or shows said to be doing progressive things.”

Though her research is not complete yet, and no in-depth analysis has been done on the data, Schroeter is able to share some of her understanding of the issues so far.

Musical theatre productions are essentially money makers, Schroeter says. As such, “they are meant to have an appeal to a large audience. To do this, they rely heavily on stereotypes and tropes to make easily recognizable characters so that everybody knows what story is being told. These representations always comes with issues.”

When musicals are purchased for reproduction at the high school level, as commercial enterprises, strictly guided by copyright law, there is little room for local teachers to make adaptations. This is a problem because, Schroeter says, there are “so many ways in which race, religion, and gender and heteronormativity are written into the productions as a way of telling a particular story about how Americans see themselves and the image they want to portray in American society.”

Summarizing Hoffman (2014) in The Great White Way, Schroeter says, “the musical is in essence part and parcel of the invention of Americanism and white supremacy, with roots in minstrel shows from the 1800s and early 1900s when performers did dress up with blackface, and used quintessential stereotypes, such as mammy.”

As a form of public pedagogy, Schroeter views high school musical theatre as “teaching all of those things that make up what we are understanding and learning—how we construct knowledge.” Referencing Donatella Galella’s work, Schroeter says that “musical theatre is a form of public pedagogy because it tells us stories about who we are and who we imagine ourselves to be.”

As an example, Schroeter points to Hamilton (2015), which is purported to be a very progressive musical production. She says, “Hoffman (2014) writes about songs in musicals, such as the song for change. The main character goes through immense change and the person who sings the song for change is usually a white character who has multiple dimensions, whereas characters of colour are presented as flat characters; they stay the same throughout the show. Hamilton (2015) plays with this by representing white characters through actors of colour. Actors of colour get to play this range of emotion and change, but it is still problematic because they are still representing White folks, so they haven’t changed and disrupted what happens in the structure of the musical.”

Schroeter highlights other problems with Hamilton (2015): “The way the American history is told through hip hop makes history relevant, but it also makes the history irrelevant, because it is a story from which the actors of colour in the cast have historically been excluded—in some ways a re-appropriation. Why aren’t they telling the story of the Haitian revolution or of the theft of lands; there are so many others stories that could have been told that would be relevant to the students who would then see their histories represented in the play. Instead they are being told what is ultimately a white story—a slave-owning story—that has been re-imagined to maybe include the possibility of mixed heritage in Alexander Hamilton, which perpetuates the idea that he was mixed race, but we don’t know that.”

Though musical theatre is problematic, Schroeter understands that it fulfills a purpose: “The musical fills this void in not requiring audiences to work very hard to understand what is going on in the story,” she says. Musicals also “bring various departments, music, dance, theatre, and art departments together for these wide scale productions that involve a lot of kids.”

Schroeter clarifies her position saying, “I’m not taking away from the bonding experience or artistic learning, but I want to know what these productions do to us as a public, pedagogically, and to students in particular, and also to acknowledge, as Gastambide-Fernandez & Parekh found in their 2017 study of arts programs, who is included in those productions and who is excluded historically in drama and theatre programs in our schools.” Schroeter is encouraged that increasingly IBPOC scholars, educators, and artists are raising their voices about this exclusion in representation and taking on leadership roles in musical theatre, such as director and producer.

Schroeter still wants to see plays integrate music and art with drama, but she would love to see them be stories relevant to youth. “I’m not going to deny that kids want to do Grease (1971). I get that teachers are in a delicate position of having to do what kids want and push them.”

Avant garde theatre is one alternative to musicals because “avant garde theatre artists are often trying to avoid stereotypes or trouble the tropes. Then you get really controversial theatre because opinion is divided—with some hating and some loving it,” says Schroeter. Likewise, “when you make original theatre and stories told by students and their points of views, sometimes parents don’t like the stories that kids have to tell and sometimes the stories are experimental and people don’t get it.”

Through interviews with local drama teachers, Schroeter is finding some teachers “that just won’t do the musical because they are going to create plays that involve music and singing, but not musicals—once you open that door, you can’t close it because that is what people will want and expect.” With student-created theatre, Schroeter says, “you can cast more diversely, and the tools you are giving students are much bigger because you are training them as story tellers.” Other teachers in her study, she says, “are aware of the issues, and are trying to address stereotyping and problematic representational practices by having conversations with their students about it and by not letting the problems disappear.”

So far, Schroeter says, “my research is reinforcing what I already know about the value of arts education—giving students the tools to come together and make and create original art.”

Journey of Becoming a (Trans-multi)culturally Responsive Educator

Dr. Latika Raisinghani is a lecturer in science and environmental education at the Faculty of Education

Exponential growth in student diversity, the challenges posed by the current COVID-19 pandemic, and recent racial injustices in Canadian and global society, demand that we continue to explore ways to stimulate ongoing conversation and action that may invite education that is responsive to the needs of diverse students.

My journey to inquire about such an education began with exploring what culture is, how we define cultural diversity, and what culturally responsive education means in a multicultural country such as Canada. My doctoral study at the University of British Columbia exposed me to the complexities inherent in various dimensions of cultural diversity, the structural systemic inequities embedded in the education systems, and the politics of education that continue to marginalize many culturally diverse students in diversity-rich classrooms of Canada. What could be possible ways to respond to student diversity?

Informed by my doctoral research with K-12 teachers in Vancouver schools, I have conceptualized a (trans-multi)culturally responsive education framework as one way to do so. Amalgamating critical and transformational multicultural education perspectives and culturally responsive teaching, this framework invites educators to engage in critical self-reflective inquiries and initiate complicated conversations to interrogate the hidden curricula, recognize Other(ed) cultural knowledges (that are missing), and welcome multiplicity of lived experiences. Acknowledging culture as a dynamic way of life and cultural diversity as all cultural experiences that a student may bring into schools, a (trans-multi)culturally responsive education calls educators to cultivate critical cultural consciousness, embrace relational caring and develop empathetic relationships that may promote wholistic, socially-just, inclusive education, which cherishes diversity and engages with difference with solidarity and critique.

My efforts to invite educators in this transformational learning journey include organizing provincial professional development workshops for Ontario school principals and British Columbia teachers. As a member of the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina, I am continuing these efforts to invite (trans-multi)culturally responsive education through my engagements in teaching science and environmental education courses that focus on Indigeneity and responsiveness. My initiatives include contributing to the Fall 2020 Treaty 4 Gathering and co-initiating a Centre for Educational Research, Collaboration, and Development approved Knowledge Mobilization Project with Dr. Xia Ji on culturally responsive leadership for school leaders and administrators in Regina. Becoming a (trans-multi)culturally responsive educator is a life-long ideological and pedagogical commitment which necessitates what Mahatma Gandhi emphasized: “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” So, my journey of becoming a (trans-multi)culturally responsive educator continues, and I invite you to join me in this life-long journey.

By Dr. Latika Raininghani, Lecturer in the Faculty of Education

Living in Colour: Blackness and Racial Justice and Equity in the Education Institution

Obianuju Juliet Bushi, PhD student, sessional lecturer, student advisor and newly elected Regina Catholic School Board trustee

The current coronavirus pandemic has created economic, social, educational, and political uncertainties in North America and worldwide. This pandemic has tested our systems and has changed the way we perform our daily living. Teaching and learning have taken a new form and classes have been restructured and redesigned to keep students and teachers safe and to minimize the spread of this deadly virus. In addition to the pandemic, education institutions have to respond to concerns and provide clear answers to tough questions from students, faculty, and non-teaching staff about their safety in school and the impact of COVID-19 on teaching and learning. Schools have also witnessed significant cuts in funding and resources that have affected the ways education resources become available and accessible based on needs, race, and class (Khalifa, 2013).

The issues of power and racial inequalities in schooling contexts have been a topic of discussion since the 1990s by many scholars of colour (see, for example, Derrick Bell, 1993; Gloria Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995). In response to the inequitable access to education for minoritized students (Indigenous, Black, Latino, Asian, and other People of Colour), many post-secondary institutions have developed frameworks that address “whiteness” and are working to understand education policies and reforms (Khalifa, Dunbar & Douglas, 2013) and their impacts on Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour (IBPOC) students and faculty members. Discrimination and racial inequalities against IBPOC people are invisible to those who are not affected by them because they are endemic, engrained, and normalized in educational institutions and policies.

The unlawful killing of 46-year-old George Floyd on the 25th of May in the United States sparked unrest all over the world with thousands of concerned citizens taking a stance against racial injustice and police brutality against Black people. Many “Black Lives Matter” rallies were held across the country with hundreds and thousands of protesters showing their support and marching in solidarity.

As a Black student in the Faculty of Education, I have received moral and social support from fellow students, my supervisor, and senior administrators. This act of responsibility and support also shows that more needs to be done to address racial injustice and inequalities that IBPOC students and faculty may experience within and outside our Faculty. It also indicates that educational institutions need to move beyond conversations to actions—from liberal multiculturalism to critically relevant practices, from abyssal thinking to critical thinking and post-abyssal thinking (thinking from the realm of the “other” by the “other”) and from a non-racist to anti-racist practice—to address barriers and challenges that continue to impact academic success and personal growth of students and to promote a safe space for IBPOC faculty members to be their authentic selves. So, one may ask, how can an educational institution that embodies whiteness and Eurocentric practices promote blackness and black scholarship?

As many education scholars will agree, education is politics, and so is our curriculum because it is created from a lens that privileges a particular construction of knowledge and the record of knowledge, which more often than not, favours dominant culture. As a graduate student, I have enjoyed classes that allowed me to share my story without having to think and speak like the dominant population. I have also enjoyed classes that were interactive and engaging especially for IBPOC students. More often, our voices are silenced and our knowledge and experiences go unnoticed and undervalued. The Faculty of Education has allowed me to grow as an aspiring critically aware educator and activist and I have cherished the support and resources I have received and continue to receive.

I started my post-graduate studies in curriculum and instruction in the Faculty of Education in 2015, a couple of years after completing my MPA. Since my start date, I have been very fortunate to have been granted a much-needed Leave of Absence (Personal and Maternity) that allowed me to balance my studies and family life. I have also been a Sessional Lecturer at First Nations University for over eight years and a faculty advisor for a couple of years now. I have had the privilege of working with faculty members in the capacity of a graduate teaching assistant (GTA) that allowed me to experience and gain crucial knowledge in the teacher education program. I have also built intellectual relationships with students, faculty, and preservice and in-service teachers and have improved my knowledge of the K-12 system. These experiences have also inspired me to continue my research work in “exploring the perceptions of Black-African students (K-12) school experience and mental wellness in Saskatchewan,” an area I am passionate about. As a recently elected board trustee in the Regina Catholic School Division, I hope to continue to inspire young people to be more involved in their various communities and capacities. I am also very fortunate to be on the Board with dedicated and passionate trustees that understand the importance of putting students first.

By Obianuju Juliet Bushi, PhD student, sessional lecturer, student advisor and newly elected Regina Catholic School Board trustee

Click here to read Obianuju Juliet Bushi’s Opinion piece in CBC News “Sask.’s next government must address barriers Black people face.”

Systemic racism in education

Dr. Jerome Cranston, Dean/Professor

Racial justice and equity are the impetus behind Dr. Jerome Cranston’s research and teaching. As part of an interdisciplinary, international “community of inquiry,” Cranston studies topics that, in his words, “explore formal and non-formal teacher preparation and the ethical dimensions of school leadership with a particular focus on how capacity building in the education system can transform a set of seemingly random acts…into a just enterprise.”

Cranston’s family history explains this focus in part: His maternal grandparents who originated from tribal communities in what are now Nepal and Burma/Myanmar were “anglicized and evangelized as part of the colonial contagion,” says Cranston. His paternal grandfather, a travelling bookkeeper with the East Indian Rail Company, was killed in 1941 during a Japanese bombing of a railway station. His widowed grandmother, a mother of five, died the following year of malnutrition, an outcome of the British-manufactured famine in West Bengal. Singularly and collectively his family’s experiences shaped his earliest experiences of systemic racism.

Cranston says, “I accept a distant yet unvarying connection to the trauma that echoes through the colonized histories of my ancestors.” Yet, says Cranston, it is “impossible to talk about systemic racism without recognizing that it is not only a history, or a memory, but very much a current lived reality for Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour.”

“In the work that I do, race comes first,” continues Cranston. “It foreshadows the work I do and commit to do. From childhood, I’ve known myself to be consummately brown. When I looked in a mirror, I saw a brown face looking back. I endure in a society that doesn’t really want to make a space for me or to create a space for me to belong as I am. In my work, I’ve tried to work towards finding solutions through working with and alongside colleagues, to find ways that will bring greater racial justice.”

In defining systemic racism, Cranston says, “it is important to separate systemic racism from racists. There are individuals who are part of the structure who themselves may not be, in an overt sense, racist. Systemic racism is a pervasive power relation that is reinforced every day through lack of knowledge or ignorance—sometimes ‘willful ignorance,’ (Mills, 2007)—and through policies and practices that may appear to be neutral but have the effect of sustaining and fortifying a system.”

Attempting to dispel the common solution of the need to fix a broken system, Cranston says, “All of us are living in a system that has been imbued, fortified, and strengthened by white domination, white privilege, to the detriment of Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour. The system is doing exactly what it is meant to do. The system is not broken. Rather, the system is designed to do exactly what it was set up to do by the original colonial architects to privilege whiteness over everything else.”

As a critical race theorist and researcher, Cranston says he “uses race-conscious approaches to understand educational inequalities and systemic racism, and to find solutions that lead to greater racial justice for those denied it.” His transdisciplinary work interrogates policies and practices to highlight the overt, and uncover the covert, ways that colonial racial ideologies, structures, and institutions create and maintain racial inequality and injustice in the education system and beyond.

Cranston says, “With the release of the video showing the murder of George Floyd this past summer, it was impossible to ignore the extent of systemic racism in all of our social organizations, not just in policing, but in social services, health, justice and education.”

“The academy is not exempt from systemic racism,” says Cranston. In the academy, there are politics over who is cited, white-architected research methodologies, and salary and progression.

For those who don’t believe that systemic racism exists, Cranston points to three markers: “First, numerical data indicates that racialized people may not get hired into organizations, or may not be able to move into positions of leadership; Second, policies and decision-making processes determine the rules we use to govern ourselves: how we decide that decisions can be made and by who, may be designed to protect a Eurocentric white way of being and conducting business. Third, organizational culture— everything from communication style, to dress code, to the way we socialize—will favour white society: a privileged racial way of being that disadvantages Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour.”

“White supremacy is a fundamental structure, way of being, way of making sense of the social world. Most often associated with whiteness is the aspired version of beauty, intelligence and worth,” says Cranston. Other effects of systemic racism include racialized poverty levels and the effects of poverty on health and social determinants of health as well as education and learning.

Cranston says that what is needed is “the elimination of policies and practices that protect white supremacy and white privilege; the need to commit to enacting equity measures that dismantle the barriers that deny racialized students, staff and faculty opportunities to flourish; to change human resources policies and practices to create opportunities for racialized individuals to access and hold senior administrative roles; and to assemble a faculty and staff that more closely reflects both the diverse makeup of students we educate and a national pool of candidates.”

Because schools are a key site for the normalization of whiteness and white privilege (Cross, 2005), Cranston says it is important that those responsible for teacher preparation, preservice and in-service education, confront and reconsider how education from kindergarten through post-secondary has worked to buttress systemic racism. “I join with colleagues in the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina in committing that all learners gain a deeper understanding of our shared histories, the contemporary relationships, and the important work that needs to be done if we are ever to achieve reconciliation,” says Cranston.

Institutional racism and the implications for faculties of education

On September 30, (#OrangeShirtDay) Dr. Jerome Cranston (#UREdu Dean and Professor) was keynote lecturer for the University of Manitoba’s Distinguished Lecturer Virtual Series.  Cranston addressed how amid the current period of racial reckoning, those responsible for teacher preparation, preservice and in-service education, need to confront and (re)consider how higher education has reified systemic racism.

Arts Ed Students Celebrate Black History Month

Beau Dixon in Beneath Springhill: The Maurice Ruddick Story (Fire Brand Theatre)
Black History Month

Arts Education students enjoyed the one-man performance by Beau Dixon, “Beneath Springhill: The Maurice Ruddick Story” (Created and Performed by Beau Dixon, Lyrics and Music by Rob Fortin and Susan Newman, Directed by Linda Kash).

“This forty-five minute musical chronicles the life of Maurice Ruddick, an African Canadian who survived the historic mining disaster in Springhill, Nova Scotia in 1958. Ruddick – an African Canadian – was awarded “Citizen of the Year” for saving the lives of his fellow workers. Created and performed by Beau Dixon, with lyrics and music by Rob Fortin and Susan Newman, this one man show will recall the events of seven miners trapped one mile beneath a small mining town, the effect it had on their rural Canadian community and the racial tension that surfaced as a result. Book this original one-act play for your school, and participate in an educational story filled with tragedy, drama and comical – yet conflicting moments of hope and bravery.” (