RIT Faculty Host Inaugural Sister Scholars Connect Writing Retreat
Only two percent of full professors at US colleges and universities are Black women, according to National Center for Education Statistics data, and Black faculty as a whole make up about six percent of all faculty. During the Sister Scholars Connect Writing Retreat held last month at RIT’s Tait Preserve, more than 30 Black women faculty from throughout the region met for a day of scholarly writing, collaboration, mentoring, and support.
Writing exercises facilitated by RIT faculty as well as time for reflection and networking were highlights of this inaugural event, and the group hopes to offer the retreat or a similar experience annually.
“The goal was two-fold: to make measurable progress on our scholarship and to foster and build lasting connections with sister-scholars specifically in the Upstate NY region. Black women faculty have long realized that they thrive and succeed as a collective. Most of us often seek out and need sustainable and affirming spaces to build community with other Black women in the academy,” said Katrina Overby, assistant professor in the College of Liberal Arts’School of Communication.
Research literature on the challenges faced by Black women and higher education, at all levels, indicates the importance of peer-support groups and mentoring (Walkington, 2017; Henderson et al., 2010). According to Henderson et al. (2010), “Historically, Black women have relied on a network and community of women to resist subordination and domination and to support their own self-definitions and self-valuations, which continues to be an excellent form of personal resistance. We also must reclaim and re-interpret that which has been denigrated and confront the often-invisible devaluing of Black women in academe” (p. 36). The need and desire for collective spaces is clear and a valued source of resistance from the challenges of higher education.
This RIT-hosted retreat was made possible through the RIT Connect Grants program from the AdvanceRIT office, which supports faculty career advancement for women faculty at RIT. Additionally through co-sponsorships from the RIT Provost Office, the University of Rochester’s Frederick Douglass Institute, and the School of Communication.
Overby serves as Principal Investigator (PI) on the grant, with a team of five Co-PI’s from a variety of departments at RIT. They team included: Makini Beck (CLA and School of Individualized Studies), Nickesia Gordon (CLA/School of Communication), Sarah Sarchet (NTID Science and Mathematics), Blessing Emerenini (COS School of Mathematics and Statistics), Nonhle Channon Mdziniso (COS School of Mathematics and Statistics) and Graduate Assistant, Sheetal Pandey (School of Communication The senior project mentor is dt ogilvie, professor in Saunders College of Business, who delivered the group’s charge for the day and words of wisdom.