IUP Names New Directors of Frederick Douglass Institute

Posted on 9/18/2018 3:31:13 PM

Two members of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania community have been named to take on leadership of IUP’s Frederick Douglass Institute for Intercultural Research.

Malaika Turner, director of Residential Living in IUP’s Division of Student Affairs, and Sibyl West, an associate professor in the Department of Counseling in the Division of Academic Affairs, will succeed Veronica Watson, the Institute’s founding director, starting in the fall 2018 semester.

“Dr. Watson has done a superb job as director of IUP’s Frederick Douglass Institute,” IUP Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Timothy Moerland, said. “She has not just sustained this important initiative at IUP, but has worked to grow the program in new and unique ways to benefit our university community—our students, faculty, and staff—and the entire Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. She has worked tirelessly as an advocate and educator on issues of diversity and inclusion. She deserves a great deal of thanks for her work and her commitment to IUP and this important initiative.

“I am very pleased that Dr. Turner and Dr. West are willing to take on leadership roles for this program. They have big shoes to fill, but I feel confident that they will do an excellent job.”

The Frederick Douglass Institute for Intercultural Research is an interdisciplinary, campus-wide body that serves as a resource for information and advocacy on issues related to equity and diversity at IUP and supports students and faculty of color.

There are several components within the Institute:

  • The Frederick Douglass Scholars Fellowship program. This initiative welcomes graduate students who have completed a master’s degree, who are enrolled in a terminal degree program, and who are on a career path in higher education to teach, continue their research, and contribute to the life of the university. IUP has hosted Fellows since 2001. The program began with Fellows at IUP for the summer months, but was expanded to hosting Fellows for an academic year to provide more support for the Fellows to become successful in the classroom. This year, IUP welcomes four Fellows: Nathaniel Abrams (sociology), Armani Davis (communications media), Ethan Hollinger (theatre and dance), and Griselda Wille (history).
  • The Douglass Debate Society. This program is part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Douglass Debate Society. About 20 students annually take advantage of this competitive debate experience.
  • The Douglass Research Academy. Students, including many students who are IUP Promising Scholars, work with faculty to develop scholarly research and presentation skills. The Institute is currently researching the impact that participation in the Douglass Research Academy has on the understandings of research and professional aspirations of student participants.
  • Each One, Reach One. This program, unique to IUP, was born from the students’ desire to do community service. It was started in 2016, and, since that time, students have researched and proposed a campus food pantry, participated in Hunger Awareness Week activities, and served free pizza during finals week to raise awareness about food insecurity among college students.
  • The Douglass GSPS (Graduate Students Planning for Success) program, a graduate student mentoring and professional development initiative. Watson received a grant to fund a program to launch the initiative in 2017.
  • Issues of Diversity: Voices from the Field. This is a working paper series designed to showcase research on topics related to diversity, social equity and inclusion. Students and faculty present their original research in the series.

Overall, between 50 to 60 students participate in initiatives that are part of the IUP Frederick Douglass Institute. Additionally, the FDI reaches many more through their attendance at various campus wide events, like the Issues of Diversity series and research colloquia offered by Douglass Fellows. The office for the Institute is located in the Humanities and Social Sciences building.

Veronica Watson convened the Frederick Douglass Institute in 2010In 2010, Watson was named as the convener for the Frederick Douglass Institute Collaborative for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, building on a decade of experience as leader of IUP’s Frederick Douglass Institute. She will continue in this role.

“It’s been my baby for a long time, so the transition is a bit bittersweet,” Watson said. “But it is time. I am really looking forward to the new energy and new directions that new directors will bring. I’ve had amazing colleagues who have really stepped up and have done great work with students in the Frederick Douglass Institute programs. I feel very confident that I am passing the torch to two talented people who will treat this as their own and help it to continue to grow.”

Watson is a professor in IUP’s Department of English and is director of the Graduate Studies in Literature and Criticism program. Watson has also served as dean’s associate for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at IUP (2003–07) and on the Board for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council.

As a graduate faculty member in the Department of English, Watson teaches, publishes, and presents on a range of literature focusing on 20th-century African American literature, Southern American literature, and critical race and critical whiteness studies. She is author of The Souls of White Folks: African American Writers Theorize Whiteness (University Press of Mississippi, 2013) and the co-editor of Unveiling Whiteness in the 21st Century: Global Manifestations, Transdisciplinary Interventions (Lexington Books, 2014). She has secured more than $400,000 in internal and external funding to support her scholarship and programming.  She is the recipient of IUP’s University Senate Distinguished Faculty Award for Service (2002) and the Hilda Richards Award for Commitment to Diversity (2003).

“I am really excited about the opportunity to co-direct the Frederick Douglass Institute,” Turner said. “I believe the co-directorship will provide a rich blend of knowledge, experience, and energy from both directors that will move the FDI to the next level. With retention and persistence at the forefront of university priorities, one of our goals is to ensure that FDI contributes to this charge, as well as impacting students at IUP on all academic levels.”

Malaika Turner is named co-director of Frederick Douglass InstituteTurner joined IUP as a staff member in 1998 as a residence director. Her dissertation focused on technology’s impact on the learning experience of at-risk digital natives, and, having been admitted to IUP as an at-risk student, her scholarly interest includes the role of motivation and mentoring of underrepresented students at predominantly white institutions. 

Turner was a residence director for eight years and was one of the original staff members for the Living Center on the Punxsutawney campus, where she worked as the Student Life coordinator.  Following that work, she worked at the Career and Professional Development Center before returning to the Office of Housing, Residential Living, and Dining.

Turner has worked on various committees at IUP and facilitated many workshops and presentations. She sits on the University-Wide Retention and Persistence Committee and served on the Task Force on Undergraduate Retention and Persistence (TOUR). She recently was selected to participate in the 20th annual Regional Entry Level Institute, a national professional development seminar.

Sibyl West is named co-director of the Frederick Douglass Institute“I'm thrilled to be co-directing the Frederick Douglass Institute,” West said. “This will be such a unique opportunity to help foster the growth and development of multicultural and diverse undergraduate scholars and future faculty. Dr. Turner and I have a vision of what we would like for FDI at IUP, and I’m just excited to get started.”

West joined the IUP faculty in fall 2009 and teaches a variety of courses within the Department of Counseling. Her scholarship involves issues of diversity and multiculturalism in many different environments, including counselor education programs. Over the last few years, West has devoted much of her service to the College of Education’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, which worked to establish a diversity action plan within the college.

Additionally, West works closely with Ruling Our Experiences (ROX), the national nonprofit leader in programming, research, and education focused on girls. West collaborates with facilitators across the country as they implement their ROX programs in schools and communities. She also is part of the facilitator training team and has trained hundreds of facilitators across the country.