Campus News

Conference speakers: African Americans must be resourceful to succeed in academe

Speakers at UGA’s recent 2008 Black Issues in Higher Education Conference emphasized the need to support the next generation of African-American educators and academic leaders, and encouraged students to persevere and be resourceful in climbing the academic ladder.

About 150 graduate students, faculty, staff and administrators from across the Southeast attended the Feb. 1 conference at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education Conference Center and Hotel. The speakers and panelists included the experienced voices of four past deans, including former UGA College of Education Dean Louis A. Castenell Jr. Keynote speaker John L. Taylor, professor at Arizona State University and former dean of education at California State University, discussed the need to develop stronger coalitions among minorities in higher education, close the divide between middle-class and poor blacks, and questioned why black people are often perceived as being to the political left of functions at liberal research institutions.

“We can be challengers and bargainers,” Taylor said. “We must close the gap and study the problems together.”

Panelists Castenell and June G. Hopps, Parham Professor of Social Policy at UGA and former social work dean at Boston College, shared their experiences from more than 25 collective years of serving as deans.

“No one does it alone,” Hopps said. “We all stand on the backs of others.”

“Always look out for those without a voice,” said Castenell. “Don’t forget about the little people as you move forward. You are only as good as the people around you.”
This year’s theme of creating a legacy for future scholars through community building helped to further fulfill the principles and goals conference coordinators Juanita Johnson-Bailey and Bettye P. Smith set out to achieve when they developed the conference in 2006.

The coordinators plan to continue developing the BIHE conference, now in its third year, and plan to attract attendees from outside the social sciences fields and especially from areas where minorities are traditionally underrepresented.

“Teaching and research are always issues of concern for faculty in a research institution and will remain part of the conference,” said Smith, an associate professor in the College of Education’s department of workforce education, leadership and social foundations. “However, we plan to expand by including issues related to areas of study in which few women and faculty of color participate in such as math, science and technology.”

Penny Ralston, professor and director of the Center on Better Health and Life for Under-Served Populations at Florida State University, presented a keynote address during the luncheon.