William & Mary’s Office of Strategic Cultural Partnerships has announced its inaugural group of faculty fellows, who will conduct projects to advance the office’s mission.

The Office of Strategic Cultural Partnerships was launched last year with the goal of building, sustaining and reinterpreting the university’s historical and cultural resources. Its mission is to “identify and promote opportunities to sustain and reinterpret William & Mary’s historical and cultural resources, increase the visibility and impact of the university’s cultural projects and programs, and promote these initiatives at the local, state, national and international level.”

“I’m excited to partner with each of our fellows to support these vital projects, geared directly toward advancing our mission and the university’s strategic goals for Vision 2026,” said Ann Marie Stock, who serves as Presidential Liaison for Strategic Cultural Partnerships and oversees research and various operations of the Williamsburg Bray School initiative, the Muscarelle Museum of Art, research and academic activities at William & Mary’s Highland, the partnership with the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture and future collaborations with Colonial Williamsburg and other regional and national partners.

Each project will be completed during the 2022-23 academic year and will include public dissemination in some form, such as a conference presentation, publication, curricular unit, grant proposal, etc. Each fellow will receive a stipend of $5,000 at the conclusion of the academic year.

Jason Chen, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology, School of Education

Building a Virtual Reality Exhibit and Learning Environment to Engage the Public in Authentic Intellectual Inquiry About the Bray School

Chen will collaborate with staff, faculty and community members to develop virtual reality environments that are designed to aid in inquiry about the Bray School, a building recently discovered on W&M’s campus that is likely the oldest extant building in the United States dedicated to the education of Black children. He will research how the history of the Bray School has been told, and what archaeological evidence and architectural historical evidence has been brought to bear on the topic. 

“VR learning environments must have narrative arcs, and a critical narrative arc here must involve elevating the voices of those who have historically been marginalized—the students of the Bray School,” Chen said. “Doing so, I believe, will set us up to be in the best possible position to attract a much more diverse and vibrant population to this learning environment, which could potentially help produce a more complete and richer knowledge base for the Bray School.”

Chen added that he envisions a VR environment that both teaches the public about the inquiry processes that undergird the scientific and historical work, while also embracing the agency of important populations to fill in the gaps of understanding about the Bray School.

Dawn Edmiston, Clinical Professor of Marketing, Mason School of Business

BUAD 448 Marketing Strategy Student Projects

Edmiston served as the pilot participant for the SCP Fellows Initiative, supervising four student teams from her Business Administration 448 Marketing Strategy course during the Spring 2022 semester. The students developed branding and marketing strategies for the Bray School Lab Slate Seminar program (two teams) and possible scope and marketing plans for a non-credit bearing public history professional development course (two teams). The teams consulted with the SCP staff members, acting as their clients, and conducted analysis during the Spring 2022 semester and presented the resulting project plans to SCP staff and their classmates.

Janise Parker, Assistant Professor of School Psychology, School of Education

The Oppressive Socialization of Black School-Age Students through Academic Processes and Religious Justification

Parker’s project will analyze relevant Bray School archival data (e.g., curriculum material and objectives, stories from Bray school trustees) to understand how the school’s faith-based curriculum was used to justify slavery — and perhaps other forms of oppression. Drawing from qualitative research methods, lead researchers will look for patterns in messaging, academic content and other relevant documents that communicated the “acceptable” nature of slavery and oppression imposed upon Black individuals through the Bray School. The project will also link key findings to contemporary issues in the U.S. by examining similarities between messages communicated through the Bray School and modern-day messages that permeate within K-12 and other relevant youth socializing institutions.

Julie Richter, National Institute of American History & Democracy (NIAHD) Director and Lecturer of History

Aspects of Race and Freedom in Williamsburg

Williamsburg holds a place in American history and memory as the location where Virginians decided to declare their independence from Great Britain in the spring of 1776; however, it is essential, in the years before the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, to acknowledge that ideas about race are also part of this city’s story, Richter explained.

Her project will involve students in research examining discussions of freedom and race in Williamsburg. In 1705, six years after the city’s establishment, Virginia’s leaders met to codify the colony’s slave laws in Williamsburg. In the nineteenth century, some city residents held pro-slavery views and fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. The reverberations of this history are still felt in the city today, she added.

“This work will involve students in these conversations,” she said.

, Assistant Director for Research, News & Analytics