Evelyn Hu-DeHart (KNFP 5), Director and Professor, Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island.
This article was originally published in the January 2006 issue of the KFLA Newsletter.
In her pursuit of social justice, Evelyn Hu-DeHart is working to close the gap between those who have access to opportunities in our country and those who do not. Evelyn's career in higher education has taken her from City University in the Bronx, with a predominately low-income and immigrant student population, to large universities around the country, and now to a private, elite university. Regardless of the institution, she says, "I feel we have an obligation to reach out to students who have barriers, by race or socio-economics, to allow them one of the precious slots in higher education." Evelyn points out, "The students we don't have to worry about, middle-class students with educated parents, find us. It's important to reach out to less privileged students, those who attend high schools with few advanced placement courses and only a handful of counselors, but who still have high ambitions and aspirations." She also stresses the importance of retention efforts once the students arrive. Apart from welcoming them and keeping them motivated and involved, she believes it's critical that the issues of their culture are not treated as add-ons in the curriculum. "We have a commitment to making sure that their communities and their histories in America are reflected in all our departments," says Evelyn. "If you teach world history, what does it mean if 80 percent of the course is on Europe? Or, if in medical school, the health of women and of minorities aren't addressed? Are we really preparing future professionals?" she asks. Evelyn has seen strides in the diversification of students by race and class on college campuses around the country. However, much less progress has been made in the diversity of faculty. "Progress isn't always made in a linear way," she points out. "We can point to milestones in history, the civil rights act, affirmative action, yet, instead of moving forward, we are still in a position of defending them and possibly losing them. You have to be ever vigilant. Now," she says, "we have a Supreme Court that may undermine the rights of women; we have an administration that is cutting funding for education. We have to make sure we don't slip too far back."