USF St Petersburg campus-led effort selected for summer institute on Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Centers.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (June 3, 2021) – Representatives from four higher education institutions who collectively serve 36,000 students in St. Petersburg, Florida are joining together to create a consortium focused on dismantling racial hierarchies.
After working for months to create a shared vision and reaching out to community and campus stakeholders, their efforts have been recognized by the American Association of Colleges and Universities as one of 78 institutions (and the only consortium) across the nation selected to participate in a four-day summer institute to learn about the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) framework and develop an action plan. The consortium includes Eckerd College, Stetson University College of Law, St. Petersburg College (SPC) and the University of South Florida (USF) St. Petersburg campus.
“I am very excited to work alongside others to create a campus community, city and county that eliminates racial inequalities, becomes a model for educating the community around issues of social justice and social action, and ensures that all USF St. Petersburg campus faculty, staff and students understand, appreciate and live the ideals of an inclusive community,” said Martin Tadlock, regional chancellor of USF’s St. Petersburg campus.
The Association of American Colleges and Universities has been partnering with higher education institutions since 2017 to prepare the next generation of strategic leaders to break down racial hierarchies through the TRHT framework developed by the Kellogg Foundation. TRHT Campus Centers implement action plans with the aim of moving toward the transformative goal of erasing structural barriers to equal treatment and opportunity on campuses, in communities and for the nation around the pillars of the TRHT framework: narrative change, racial healing and relationship building, separation, law and economy.
“A TRHT Center could provide training for our students and the community on how to have difficult conversations about race, provide opportunities for us to learn about the legal racial history of St. Petersburg and to connect our legislative advocacy work as part of the Florida Law School Consortium on Racial Justice to community advocacy,” said Judith Scully, co-founder of Stetson University College of Law Social Justice Advocacy program and co-chair of the Florida Law Schools’ Consortium for Racial Justice.
Each institution of the St. Petersburg consortium will send three members to the TRHT Summer Institute that will be held virtually from June 22-25, where they will participate in capacity-building workshops. At the end of the institute, the group will present its action plan.
“When we first learned of the TRHT Centers and their framework from our colleagues at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus, we were awed at the streamlined approach to a subject we have deeply considered in our five-year strategic planning efforts,” said Robbyn Hopewell, director of media and public relations at Eckerd College. “Eckerd College joined the consortium to attend the Institute and learn out how to turn our current programs addressing racial justice into a resource for our whole community.”
Some of the initial goals the representatives hope to develop further include how the consortium will:
- Play a pivotal role in racial healing and transformation in St. Petersburg by presenting a collective truth to build a collective future;
- Engage faculty on incorporating issues of race into curricula and providing more truthful narratives about racial history;
- Develop community seminars related to racial justice from a national, state and local perspective and partnering with local media;
- Create student opportunities with a racial justice component with community organizations; and
- Engage in legislative and community advocacy around issues that have been identified by community organizations as key to racial progress.
“SPC is committed to serving as a leader, convener and a catalyst for positive change and our partnership with the TRHT center will connect and enhance resources that cultivate healing and learning,” said Tashika Griffith, provost for the SPC Downtown and Midtown Center. “The establishment of a TRHT Center will assist with ensuring all stakeholders have an opportunity to thrive in an environment that fosters inclusive growth.”
The idea for the consortium originated in 2020, when USF’s St. Petersburg campus and community leaders in St. Petersburg and Pinellas County convened a task force to explore how to connect efforts to address inequalities that exist in the region. Task force members met monthly to discuss current initiatives, as well as gaps that might present opportunities for collaboration, and identified the TRHT framework as a beneficial tool that could help strengthen each campus’ commitment to community and inclusion.
The consortium has already received support from community organizations, including the Foundation for a Health St. Petersburg, which has provided a local planning grant.
“Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg supports the work of the consortium and believes the implementation of the TRHT model will transform longstanding institutionalized systems rooted in racism,” said Carl Lavender, chief equity officer for Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg. “The framework for discovering truths about racial harm, jointly working to heal resulting trauma and supporting the role of higher education to uplift the narrative and voices of Black, indigenous and people of color will yield multiple pathways to collectively manifest race equity within the consortium and community at-large.”
To learn more about the TRHT framework and the summer institute, visit: https://www.aacu.org/events/2021-institute-truth-racial-healing-transformation-trht-campus-centers