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136. Rebuilding an Inclusive Academia with Dr. Ashalla Freeman

As protesters march in the streets, you’ll hear calls to “Defund” or “Disband the Police.” These advocates argue that tweaks and training programs will never be enough to meaningfully alter the course of modern police departments, some of which can trace their origins to slave patrols in the South.

You simply can’t get there, from here, they say. We need to reimagine what we mean by ‘public safety’, and look for other ways to foster healthy communities.

That same revolutionary approach may sharpen our thinking on academic training at a University.

As we grapple with the way our society treats people of color, we can’t turn away from the advantages and obstacles enshrined by our educational system.

Indeed, access to education may be one of the many steps in our path to equality.

We caught up with Dr. Ashalla Freeman, Director of Diversity Affairs for UNC Chapel-Hill’s Biological & Biomedical Sciences Program and Co-Director of the NIH funded IMSD program.

Dr. Ashalla Freeman, PhD

Dr. Freeman works to promote the development and success of biomedical PhD students from groups historically underrepresented in the sciences and implements diversity awareness programming for the UNC School of Medicine Faculty Diversity efforts.

This week on the show, she shares her ideas for making science more diverse and inclusive. Some solutions, like regular training for students, faculty and staff, could be implemented tomorrow with tangible results.

But the real, and lasting, changes take more work, and more introspection. She talks about the need to explore the origins of academic training, and how its very designs have always privileged some groups over others.

When we ultimately understand how our academic institutions were born and evolved, we’ll be able to reimagine them from the ground up with diversity in mind.

And diversity – of experience, ideas, and people – can only strengthen and accelerate scientific progress.

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