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Director position at Loyola’s Karson Institute elevated and redefined

Photo of Dr. Karsonya "Kaye" Whitehead looking at the camera

Loyola University Maryland is strengthening and elevating the position of the Karson Institute for Race, Peace & Social Justice within the University and elevating the role of the founding director, Karsonya “Kaye” Whitehead, Ph.D.

As director, Whitehead now reports to Rodney Parker, Ph.D., acting chief equity and inclusion officer, a key, strategic role Loyola created in January 2020 to lead diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts across the University. The chief equity and inclusion officer reports directly to the president.

“By positioning this role in the University in this way, we hope to make it possible for Dr. Whitehead to broaden the impact of the Karson Institute’s work throughout the University,” Parker said. “The Karson Institute also serves as a viable resource to the Baltimore community, including social justice workers and activists.”

The Karson Institute provides a scholarly space for professors, students, social justice workers, and activists to come together to research, discuss, debate, and explore answers to America’s most urgent questions on inequality, injustice, and racial inequity.

“The Karson Institute continues to challenge and inspire our community and help us focus on the important work we are undertaking related to equity and inclusion,” said Amanda M. Thomas, Ph.D., interim president. “It’s phenomenal to think of the impact that the Karson Institute has been able to have already—and the impact it can have moving forward.”

Since its founding less than a year ago in October 2020, the Karson Institute has opened all three of its Centers—the Center for Public Engagement, the Center for Teaching and Learning, and the Center for Research and Culture—and they are all fully functioning.

  • The Center for Public Engagement, which provides a conversational space to discuss relevant and timely issues around racial, social, and healing justice, is offering dialogue sessions including the COMloquium series, Koffee & Konvo, and Student Talk Backs. These sessions are held once a month with scholars, selected guests, and faculty members.
  • The Center for Teaching and Learning, which provides culturally responsive teaching (CRT) to K-12th grade teachers, has selected City Neighbors High School in Baltimore as its inaugural education partner. Under Whitehead’s direction, teachers and staff will spend the year being trained in culturally responsive teaching and instruction; racial equity training, and the social construction of race; creating and maintaining classrooms of excellence and inclusion; and, curriculum and lesson plan development. The training has been custom designed to support the equity and inclusion initiative already happening at the school.
  • The Center for Research and Culture welcomed its inaugural doctoral fellow, María Colompos-Tohtsonie, this summer. A doctoral student studying Educational Leadership and Policy at Texas Tech University, Colompos-Tohtsonie serves as Senior Program Manager and Policy Analyst for the United States Marshals Service and is assisting the Karson Institute with public policy initiatives. Starting in mid-August, the CRC will welcome two senior fellows, Van Gayton, Ed.D. and William Murphy, Esq., who will work with the Center to complete their book projects. 

“As a nation, I believe that we have a responsibility to address and try to answer some of the most urgent questions facing our society today around economic, social, and medical injustice; racism and white supremacy; and, about the legacy and history of slavery. At the Karson Institute and at Loyola University Maryland, the best course of action is to lean into these difficult and emotional conversations rather than shrink away from them. These conversations lead to greater awareness and understanding of what it means to be an American and what it means to be actively engaged in shaping this country to be closer to the ideals outlined in our foundational documents. Within our three Centers, the goal is to help facilitate these conversations on our campus, within the K-12th grade environments, in the greater Baltimore City community, and ultimately throughout the county,” said Whitehead, who is also an associate professor of communication at Loyola. “This is why I worked with Loyola University, less than a year ago, to launch the Karson Institute. By strengthening and elevating my role as the director of the Karson Institute and continuing my work as a radio host at Today With Dr. Kaye and as an opinion editorial columnist for the Afro, I will be able to expand and build upon the work that we have been doing  to advance the ongoing movement for racial and social justice.”

Learn more on the Karson Institute website.