2019 Wilder Symposium to explore race in academia

The 2019 Wilder Symposium, organized by L. Douglas Wilder, will feature the presidents of Virgini...
The 2019 Wilder Symposium, organized by L. Douglas Wilder, will feature the presidents of Virginia State University, the University of Richmond, Reynolds Community College and VCU. (File photo)

The 2019 Wilder Symposium at Virginia Commonwealth University — organized by L. Douglas Wilder, the 66th governor of Virginia — will explore race in academia and will feature the presidents of Virginia State University, the University of Richmond, Reynolds Community College and VCU.

The event, “Race in Academia,” will be held Sept. 24 from 3-5 p.m. at the W.E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts, 922 Park Ave. It will be followed by a reception. Both the symposium and reception are free and open to the public.

The symposium, hosted by the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, will feature a panel discussion among Makola Abdullah, Ph.D., president of Virginia State University; Ronald Crutcher, D.M.A., president of the University of Richmond; Paula Pando, Ed.D., president of Reynolds Community College; and Michael Rao, Ph.D., president of VCU. Alvin Schexnider, Ph.D., former executive vice president and interim president at Norfolk State University and former president of Thomas Nelson Community College, will serve as moderator.

“Race in Academia” will examine racial disparities in higher education, where minorities make up a small portion of the professors, presidents and selective-college enrollments. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 81% of full professors at U.S. colleges and universities were white compared with just 4% of African Americans and 3% of Hispanics in 2016, the most recent period for which these figures are available. Native Americans/Alaska Natives accounted for less than 1% of full professors. The American Council on Education reports the numbers were slightly better among traditionally underrepresented minorities who were college presidents in 2016: about 8% were black, 4% were Hispanic and 1% were Native Americans/Alaska Natives. At 5%, women of color made up the lowest proportion of college presidents within the same period.

“At a time when some are celebrating the 400th year anniversary of the first bringing of Africans to these shores, others are questioning the lack of addressing racism in America,” said Wilder, a distinguished professor at the school that bears his name. “We will be focusing squarely on race rather than a broader discussion of diversity within academia, with the understanding that more people need to be made aware and committed to resolving those issues, meaningfully and directly.”

About VCU and VCU Health

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 217 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Thirty-eight of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 11 schools and three colleges. The VCU Health brand represents the VCU health sciences academic programs, the VCU Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Health System, which comprises VCU Medical Center (the only academic medical center in the region), Community Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, MCV Physicians and Virginia Premier Health Plan. For more, please visit www.vcu.edu and vcuhealth.org.