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APSU hosts Beloved Community Writing Retreat for Black faculty

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Members of the Beloved Community Writers Retreat

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – In 2019, Forbes magazine published an article titled “Why Are There So Few Professors Of Color?,” which found that “the number of Black faculty members grew by only one-tenth of a percent” at the nation’s doctoral-level universities. This finding backed up data released by the National Center for Education Statistics, that “about 5.5 percent of full-time faculty members are Black.”

At Austin Peay State University, where about 20 percent of students are Black, the University’s African American Employee Council (AAEC) decided to take a more active role in ensuring APSU’s faculty more accurately reflect the University’s student body. To achieve this goal, the council proposed offering a special retreat for Black professors to pursue scholarly and creative activities. They called it The Beloved Community Writing Retreat.

“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. often spoke of his vision of a beloved community that actively works together toward shared goals,” Dr. Eva Gibson, AAEC chair and assistant professor of psychological science and counseling, said. “The beloved community concept emphasized a spirit of support and synergy.”

The AAEC presented their idea to Barry Jones, dean of the APSU College of Arts and Letters, and Tucker Brown, dean of the APSU College of Behavioral and Health Science. The two agreed to sponsor the retreat, so on May 17-20, four Black APSU faculty members gathered in Nashville to work and encourage each other.

Participants included:

“It prioritized scholarship and research,” White said earlier this summer. “It’s so easy to get preoccupied with teaching, but we also have to do research. We were able to work together and encourage each other to pursue scholarship. The thought was, ‘Let’s hold each other accountable as teachers and scholars.’ It was helpful to have a writing community to work on articles and encourage publications.”

Marcus Hayes, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance, facilitated the retreat, with each day including a time for goal setting, guest speakers, independent writing and accountability checks. Black tenured APSU professors, APSU Provost Maria Cronley and other university representatives also stopped by as guest speakers.

The evenings were dedicated to fellowship and community building, and the participants left the retreat with:

“To be in a community is a form of care, moving away from learning in silos, to utilizing the operation of community to support common goals,” Dr. Jessica Fripp, AAEC vice chair and associate professor of psychological science and counseling, said. “Participants hope that this retreat may serve as a model for future courses of action for the university and potentially serve as a recruiting tool.”

For information on this or other AAEC programs, visit https://apsu.edu/aaec/programming.php.

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