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 SRU Frederick Douglass Institute promotes diversity, understanding 




Feb. 10, 2009

Contact: K.E. Schwab  



Frederick Douglass Institute promotes diversity, understanding


SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Making plans for Black History Month events, a field trip to Pittsburgh' Heinz History Center's "Slavery in Pittsburgh" exhibit and offering students opportunities to spend a month in Cameroon, Africa, are keeping Slippery Rock University's Frederick Douglass Institute active and on task.

            "With more than 500 students taking part in institute activities each year, we find planning and preparation keep us on our toes," said Christophas Walker, institute director and assistant professor in SRU's Office of Academic Services. "Among our principal missions are to help with leadership development, multi-cultural understanding and the ideals of the institute's namesake." 

            "The recent approval of a $100,000 state grant to help fund initiatives in the Frederick Douglass Collaborative, which includes all of the Douglass Institutes at Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities, will help fund the Cameroon study program and other projects that involve FDIs as the various state system universities," he said.

            Two students from each state system school will be permitted to join the nine-credit, May 22-June 22 program. The study abroad program is being offered through Africa's University of Beau and includes course work in the geography of Africa, gender and development in sub-Sahara Africa, environmental geology and non-Western literature, including African women and their stories. Participating students will visit the Korup Rain Forest and Pamol Plantation in Ndian Division, the botanical garden and Seme Beach in Limbe, a Pigmy village in Kribi and tour the cities of Yaounde and Douala, among other sites.

            Walker said the institute's primary mission is to be a window to the world of knowledge, a catalyst for bridging systems of thought and expression, a light of hope and a place of encouragement for all who seek change. "The institute is a University program for advancing multicultural studies across the curriculum and for deepening the intellectual heritage of Frederick Douglas, a former slave, distinguished orator, journalist, author and statesman," he said.

            "The institute also works closely with the 30-35 students living on the Frederick Douglass Leadership Floor of Building B in SRU's residence hall complex," Walker said. "It is a true mix of students with varying backgrounds. Some are there to take advantage of leadership opportunities, others for diversity projects and social justice information."

            In addition to Wednesday's Pittsburgh field trip to the slavery exhibit, other Black History Month events planned by the institute are a number of feature films, including "Malcolm X" and "Jazz: A Film by Ken Burns," which was first broadcast on PBS. "The institute is also bringing Faith Adiele, an assistant professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, who shares a number of similar backgrounds to President Obama, to campus" Walker said.

            Adiele visits at 7 p.m. Feb. 25 and will speak in Bailey Library.

            "This year the institute's 'Global Leadership' program, which was conducted by President [Robert] Smith, drew 40 students who spent the entire day in a workshop learning how to participate and lead in our global society. While it was serious work, it was done in a fun-learning environment," he said. "We are hoping to expand the program, and are finding other universities interested in using our program as a model."

            "The institute sent students to last fall's Underground Railroad Conference in Lancaster where they learning about enslaved Africans from 1765 through 1865 and saw an original station on the railroad," he said. "We are also always active with the state system's Frederick Douglass Teaching Scholars Summer Program, which allows us to bring a graduate student to campus each summer to team teach with a regular faculty member. It gives the doctoral candidate the chance to work in front of a classroom as they prepare for teaching and to hone their skills." 

            "We also participate in the annual 'Making Connections' publication sponsored by the state system as a journal for teachers of cultural diversity and we also join in the annual Undergraduate Interdisciplinary Conference, which will have its ninth annual meeting in April at Bloomsburg University. The speaker will be Keidi Beirich, deputy director of the Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Project who will address immigration issues.

            The interdisciplinary event is free to SRU students interested in research on social justice issues, Walker said. 

            Walker said additional institute goals include promoting and conducting research on multiculturalism in education and on Frederick Douglass; enhancing the academic experience for all students at SRU; establishing opportunities for advanced study for members of the academic community; sponsoring distinguished exhibits, lectures and library collections; collaborating with academic programs on campus, historical societies and other educational and cultural agencies; and improving the recruitment and retention and graduation rates of historically disadvantaged students. 

            "Of course all of our programs are open to all SRU students, faculty and staff, and we find that our programs truly draw a diverse audience, showing that education in multiculturalism is a growing part of an SRU education," Walker said.


Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.

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