Webster introduces new antiracist classes in multiple schools

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Webster University is offering two new courses that focus on race, racism and antiracism in the arts, education and psychology.

Webster University is offering more opportunities to learn and explore racial dynamics in the professional world.

“Topic in Studio Art: The Antiracist Artist” and “Race and Racism in Education and Psychology” are two new courses on Webster University’s course list that focus on race, racism and antiracism in the arts, education and psychology.

“These two new courses are a natural growth from Webster’s work in addressing inequity, diversity and inclusion in multiple areas of study,” Webster University Chief Diversity Officer Vincent Flewellen said.

“Topics in Studio Art: The Antiracist Artist” is a course in the Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Arts that puts an emphasis on inviting local guest artists and arts organization leaders to discuss the missions, strategies and goals they make to combat implicit and explicit racism within the field.

This emphasis is so integral to the identity of the course that it abandons the traditional, teacher-student classroom structure, according to Gad Guterman. Guterman is the chair of Sargent Conservatory of Theatre Arts.

Graphic from Pixabay.

“We recognize the need for exposing students to artists who are successfully combatting racist structures, as well as the power of learning from each other’s disciplines,” Guterman said. “We certainly hope this experiment is the beginning of more collaboration among the four departments [art, dance, music and theatre].”

The vice president of the Surface Design Association, Yvonne Osei, is one such guest speaker for the course. Osei spoke on her experiences as a Ghanaian artist living in the Midwest and how she uses those experiences as inspiration for her art. Her most recent work, “The Mess is Us,” is a textile project that addresses racial violence, police brutality and displacement not only in the St. Louis area, but the United States as a whole.

“In my point of view, the leading canker and most critical issue the United States faces is race. The world that Webster University students are inheriting and [are] going to influence is plagued by systemic racism,” Osei said. “It would be disingenuous, unrealistic, unwise and quite frankly ridiculous to not expose and adequately equip students with the necessary historical truths and tools to fight against racial violence and injustices.”

The other new course coming to the School of Education in the spring is “Race and Racism in Education and Psychology.” The course is designed for those with leadership roles within education and social services and will focus on race, racism and antiracism within education and social services.

“We need to be able to educate educators and practitioners about the systemic racism and biases that have created many of the disparities that we see both in the school systems, as well as in healthcare,” course instructor, Jameca Woody Cooper said. “This graduate certificate in Race and Racism education and psychology is imperative for the university and the St. Louis community.”

A topic to be explored within the course is critical race theory, a concept that explores how historical patterns of racism that have been ingrained into law and other fundamental institutions result in disparities across the board. Woody Cooper recognized that such topics are met with controversy and discomfort but wants to circumvent these roadblocks with her position as an instructor.

“[My goal is to] create a safe environment for all students so that they feel comfortable discussing topics such as racism, privilege and discrimination,” Woody Cooper said. “My hope is that students learn about the history and systems that impact students’ educational experiences and experiences in mental health so that they can be change agents in the communities that they serve.”

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Jordan Parker
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