Updates and Resources for Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion from the Task Force
Social Justice Quote

Earlier this summer, Mary Ann Danowitz, dean of the NC State College of Education, made a commitment to transform the College of Education into a more diverse, inclusive and supportive community for learning. As a part of this commitment, she formed and charged a change agent group/task force to lead this effort. The group consists of faculty and staff across the College of Education. Last week a call went out to students within the college to identify student representatives to serve on the task force — one undergraduate and one graduate student.

The task force will focus on four areas:

  • Defining what it means to be an anti-racist college
  • Structural diversity within the college
  • Creating teaching and learning environments to be more inclusive and just, and evaluating how we prepare educators to challenge structural racism in educational settings 
  • Reviewing policies, rules, regulations and procedures to reduce discrimination and inequitable treatment

The task force will call on the expertise of everyone within the college. There will be opportunities for faculty, staff, students and alumni who are not on the task force to be involved and provide ideas and suggestions as we engage in this important work.

Previous Communication from Dean Danowitz:


  • Professor Joy Gaston Gayles, Chair
  • Assistant Professor Jenn Ayscue
  • Assistant Teaching Professor and Assistant Director of Professional Education Sarah Cannon
  • Professor Jo-Ann Cohen
  • Professor Jessica DeCuir-Gunby
  • Professor Marc Grimmett
  • Director of Graduate Student Success Melvin “Jai” Jackson
  • Professor Gail Jones
  • Assistant Teaching Professor Joanna Koch
  • Assistant Professor Paula McAvoy
  • Writer and Content Creator Reah Moore
  • Professor Kevin Oliver
  • TBD: One undergraduate student representative
  • TBD: One graduate student representative
  • Professor Jose Picart
  • Associate Dean Anona Smith Williams (ex officio)
  • Administrative Support Associate Sarah Royce
  • Graduate Research Assistant Caranda Shubrick



The Change Agent Group to Advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion invites you to participate in #ScholarStrike, Sept. 8-9, 2020, a 48-hour teach-in strike by scholars across the country, in response to the most recent incident of police brutality and ongoing racial injustice.

The strike is not intended to be a day off from teaching and learning; rather, it is intended to be a form of activism via teach-ins. Many are choosing to withhold labor by pausing their teaching and administrative duties and using that time to participate in and/or join teach-in sessions on police brutality, racism, white supremacy and other systemic issues. If you decide not to withhold teaching, you can choose to dedicate class time to discuss these issues in an act of solidarity with the #scholarstrike.

This effort is not in protest of institutions of higher learning — it is in direct response to police violence and racial injustice that continues to plague our country. The strike is open to everyone on college and university campuses including faculty, staff and students​ who are committed to eradicating racism and advocating for social justice for Black, Indigenous and People of Color within our society.  

To learn more about the #scholarstrike and how you can get involved over the next two days, visit the following social media platforms and websites:

Don’t forget to use #ScholarStrike and share how you are participating.

Jessica DeCuir-Gunby


Jessica DeCuir-Gunby, Ph.D.
Professor of Educational Psychology
Head of Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences

How long have you been on faculty at NC State? I joined NC State as an assistant professor in 2003 after I finished graduate school. This is my 17th year at the university.

Why is diversity, equity and inclusion in education important to you? I have always been interested in issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, particularly issues regarding race and racism. As an African American woman living in the South, race has always been a part of my everyday existence, including my experiences within education. When I was a graduate student, I decided to center my scholarship on the educational experiences of African Americans, focusing on race and racial identity development.

Are you currently conducting research around the area of diversity, equity and inclusion? If so, tell me a little about your research. I am finishing up a project on how African American college students’ experiences with racial microaggressions influence their feelings of belonging. Within this study, my research team is also examining how students cope with racism-related stress within the college context.

What are you hoping to accomplish as a result of your research and how do you hope it impacts the field of education and learners? It is important to understand how racism operates within higher education, particularly predominately white institutions. The findings can be used to better understand how subtle forms of racism, like racial microaggressions, impact African American students’ feelings of belonging. Also, it is imperative to better understand how African Americans can more adaptively cope with racism-related stress.

Are there community projects and/or initiatives you are involved in that are related to diversity, equity and inclusion? Tell me about those projects. Thandeka Chapman (University of California at San Diego), Adrienne Dixson (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne) and I just received a grant from the Spencer Foundation. The grant focuses on Black mothers, who are essential workers that work outside the home, and their experiences with their children’s remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, we have assumed that all parents have the same availability, resources and can easily shelter in place with their children. This study will provide a counternarrative by examining how Black essential worker mothers are meeting the education demands from their children’s schools and school districts. Findings from this study will provide implications for schools and school districts for designing and implementing distance learning in racially and socially diverse school contexts. Although this study will focus on two urban school contexts outside of North Carolina, I hope to expand what we learn in this project to the North Carolina context.

What do you hope to teach future educators and scholar-leaders about equity and inclusion in education? How do you incorporate that into your instruction and curriculum? I bring issues surrounding equity and inclusion to all of my courses. I teach courses that explicitly focus on diversity and race. While in other courses, I thread aspects of diversity throughout the curricula. Within my courses, I emphasize to students that it is important for them to be advocates and allies. I remind students that they cannot be afraid to stand up for issues of social justice. They cannot expect others to do the hard work and they have to be willing to take a stand, even when facing adversity.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the College of Education community? There is no quick fix to address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, especially racism. It will require significant investments including time and financial resources. At times it will also be emotionally painful. However, this is the work that we need to do in order to make our community better, which in turn helps us to produce even better educators, leaders and researchers.


For educators and teacher-leaders who are interested in learning more about advancing equity, diversity and inclusion and anti-racist education, Professor DeCuir-Gunby recommends two frameworks:

  • When addressing how to better incorporate issues of diversity into teaching and learning, I would suggest Culturally Relevant Pedagogy, which focuses on how teachers should incorporate their students’ cultures within the classroom.
  • In order to better understand how racism functions structurally and impacts individuals’ lives, I would recommend reading about Critical Race Theory, a theory that originated in the legal profession but is used in education to challenge the enactment of racism within schools and schooling.

Another resource that might be helpful is “Strategies for doing the right something in times of racial injustice” co-authored by Joy Gaston Gayles, Ph.D., and Ashley M. Gray, Ph.D., for Diversity in Research Jobs.


As we continue our work toward advancing diversity, equity and inclusion within the college, the Change Agent Group/Task Force would love to hear from you. Please submit your ideas, suggestions, and feedback for what you’d like to see and experience for your growth and development, as well as what the college should focus on to improve the culture and climate.

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