KU scholars strive to advance racial equity through newly funded projects

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LAWRENCE – Promoting health equity through culturally competent pharmacy care, dismantling anti-Black linguistic racism, documenting the unique contributions of diverse composers and celebrating living Indigenous cultures while repairing relationships with Native communities are among the goals of four projects selected for the 2022 KU Racial Equity Research, Scholarship & Creative Activity Awards.

Led by members of the University of Kansas research and creative community, the two-year projects aim to foster progress toward a state where race no longer determines one’s ability to thrive because systemic barriers to quality housing, education, employment, health care, public safety and other needs have been removed.

“We are excited about the potential for these insightful projects to create both immediate change and sustainable progress toward racial equity right here at KU and in the communities we serve,” said Simon Atkinson, vice chancellor for research. “I am especially enthused about the range of expertise that will be applied to this profound challenge — by musicians, pharmacists, filmmakers, linguists and museum curators — and the meaningful engagement with campus and community partners who will generously share their experiences and ideas to help increase understanding and co-create a path forward.”

The project teams — representing five departments across the university — were chosen through a peer-reviewed competition co-sponsored by the Office of Research and the Hall Center for the Humanities. They each will receive $20,000 to support their work.

“As a leading research university committed to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in all aspects of its mission, KU must invest in research, scholarship and creative activity that levels the playing field for historically marginalized groups,” said Giselle Anatol, interim director of the Hall Center. “These projects challenge our university, our professions and our society to engage in honest self-reflection and make systemic change so that we can live up to our ideals.”

The recipients will come together this spring and fall for a series of workshops hosted at the Hall Center to exchange ideas and provide feedback on each other’s work as it progresses. KU has funded 14 projects through the Racial Equity Awards program, which launched in 2021.

Learn more about this year’s projects:

World Music: A Portrait Series of Modern Composers
Yi-Yang Chen, assistant professor of music
David Mai, assistant teaching professor of film & media studies

Yi-Yang Chen

Through this interdisciplinary, community-based project, Chen and Mai aim to celebrate diversity and enhance racial equity by acknowledging and documenting the musical contributions and cultural heritages of living Latinx, Asian, Middle Eastern, Indigenous, African, European and Pacific Islander classical composers. They will commission musical works by seven composers and capture each composer’s process of blending their ethnic/geographical background with their compositions in a documentary film series.

David Mai

The documentary will be premiered at KU in April 2024 during a symposium organized in collaboration with the university’s cultural and language centers, then shared broadly through online video platforms and social media in order to widen the bridge to classical music and make it more accessible to a global audience.

Language Ideology and the Dilution of Black Student Voices through ‘Proper Grammar’
Philip Duncan, assistant teaching professor of linguistics

Philip Duncan

Higher education norms — particularly at predominantly white institutions — allocate high status and validity to some varieties of English while dismissing and demeaning others. These standards operate in partnership with elements of white supremacy culture to promote what scholars have called “anti-Black linguistic racism.” Using surveys, qualitative interviews and collaborative work, this project aims to understand and respond to students’ perspectives on how their diverse ways of speaking are and are not valued across KU. That feedback will inform Duncan’s coordination with campus offices and groups to create policies that actively valorize diverse ways of speaking. The project’s goal is to foster understanding and acceptance of multiple ways of speaking in academic settings for the promotion of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at KU, and to move beyond celebrating diversity to actively opposing anti-Black linguistic racism.

Promoting Health Equity Through Cultural Competency: Exploring the Patient Perspective of Community Pharmacists Delivering Care to Racially Diverse Individuals with Disabilities
Cambrey Nguyen, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy
Kristin Villa, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy

Cambrey Nguyen

Nguyen and Villa will conduct a study that explores the quality of care provided by community pharmacists to racially diverse people with disabilities with an emphasis on Native and Black populations. Based on the Healthy People 2020 final review, 76.8% of adults with disabilities encounter barriers that may lead to poor comprehension of their health status, low quality of life, and unfavorable health-related outcomes.

Kristin Villa

To combat inequities in health care, pharmacists are encouraged to provide patient-centered and culturally responsive care, but there is limited research on patient perspectives of how well pharmacists provide such care. This study will promote progress toward racial and health equity by making pharmacists aware of barriers that this intersectional patient community faces and providing resources and best practices to meet their needs.

Indigenous Fashion Show & Exhibition
Sydney Pursel, curator of public practice, Spencer Museum of Art

Sydney Pursel

As the first curator of public practice at the Spencer Museum of Art and a member of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, Pursel is leading the museum’s efforts to restore its relationship with Indigenous communities. Through this project, she will collaborate with a team of Native advisers to co-curate an Indigenous fashion show and corresponding exhibition featuring local designers and works from the museum’s collection. This community-engaged scholarship project will give agency and power to Native people to tell their own stories while demonstrating the museum’s commitment to engaging with Native peoples and celebrating Native cultures. This project also aims to mend relationships between Indigenous communities and KU by offering community members who cannot be involved directly in the repatriation of ancestral human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony in KU museum collections an opportunity to participate in other joint initiatives, now and in the future.

Thu, 01/26/2023


Mindie Paget

Media Contacts

Mindie Paget

Office of Research