Minnesota's first university has been tapped by the Association of Colleges and Universities to take the lead in helping eliminate racial hierarchies.
In a competition against 125 other institutions, Hamline University was chosen to receive a $30,000 grant to develop Minnesota's first "Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Center."
"This fits in very nicely with work we've already been doing through our Center for Justice and Law - the Summer of Justice, where we're engaged in conversation with our community, neighbors and friends around issues of race, around issues of inclusion and around issues of equity," said Fayneese Miller, Ph.D., President of Hamline University.
Hamline is among only 10 institutions selected to create the TRHT Centers, including Brown University, Duke University and Rutgers University, to create positive narratives about race, identify and examine current realities of race relations in their communities and pinpoint levers for change.
"It's pretty darn amazing," Director of Hamline's Center for Justice and Law Mael Sheridan Embser-Herbert, Ph.D., J.D. said. "We're in good company. The idea is there'll be these 10 institutions that are models in a sense."
The three-year initiative will honor ongoing trauma brought on by structural racism, but focuses on creating new narratives and relationships.
And in light of Minnesota's recent racial tensions and the deadly rally in Charlottesville, Va., Dr. Miller considers the honor a timely endeavor.
"When I think of the young people who were marching in Charlottesville who were championing the KKK and neo-Nazis and all these other groups, we have a responsibility in higher education to help them understand what they're doing and who they're doing it to," Dr. Miller said.
Hamline's upperclassmen say some of their peers wish this initiative was presented sooner.
"All of the efforts to stop racial injustices and discrimination in this country are overdue, long overdue," junior Tachianna Charpenter said.
Her sentiment has Hamline's leaders eager to be at the helm of empowerment and set a lasting tone.
"I'm proud of Hamline for having the guts to say we need to do this, and we will be leaders in this area," Dr. Miller said. "We all need to be standing up, our students are relying on us to do the right thing.
Teams from selected institutions will participate in a kick-off TRHT project meeting in Sept. 2017 and head to Washington, D.C. for AAC&U's inaugural Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Institute in January.
The guidebook that comes out of the initiative will be available to more than 60,000 leaders in higher education once it's published.
The ultimate goal is to establish 150 centers across the country to ensure higher education takes a greater role promoting racial and social justice.