The Office of Diversity & Inclusion recently selected seven projects to receive grants to support the William & Mary community in strengthening its diversity and inclusion initiatives.  

Funded by the Innovative Diversity Efforts Awards (IDEA) and chosen by members of The Collective — a group of W&M faculty, staff and students working to increase communication and collaboration around inclusive excellence efforts — the IDEA Grants have seen major traction since their start in 2011.   

This year’s projects encompass an array of topics that reinforce the university’s commitment to ‘’recognizing and fostering equity, inclusion and belonging.” The projects range from an effort to promote religious dialogue on campus to an introduction of an American Sign Language class.

The amount each project receives is based on reach and impact, but generally ranges between $500 and $1,500.

“The IDEA Grant applications reviewed were considered based on innovation, collaboration, sustainability and the benefit the project would have on the William & Mary community at large,’’ said T. Davis, assistant director of health promotion and member of The Collective. “The projects chosen will add to the W&M community and aid in the goal of making our community more diverse, inclusive and equitable.’’  

The seven selected projects include: 

Africana House Residence Fellow  

Submitted by Chinua Thelwell, Mellon Fellow, Department of African Studies 

Recently, the Africana House had a change of location from the first floor of Landrum Hall to the third floor. This provided more space for more students to move in and a desire to hire an Africana fellow to create programming. Coordinating film screenings, social and game nights, and topical discussions will be integrated in this fellowship to allow culturally relevant programming on campus. 

Lecture Series, Race & Religion 

Submitted by Michael Daise, Endowed Professor Judaic Studies, Department of Religious Studies 

Two lectures were proposed and approved to have a more open dialogue about race and religion with the larger W&M community. Guest scholars from New York University and Florida State University came to campus in November to discuss an array of topics. Abdulbasit Kassim, a post-doctoral fellow at New York University, delivered the first lecture, titled,  “Wrestling with the Present, Beckoning to the Past.” He spoke of his experience in Nigeria and slavery’s impact on certain religious groups and its ties to the African community. Laura McTigue, an assistant professor at Florida State University, delivered the second lecture titled, “Abolition is Sacred Work: Race, Religion and the Practice of New Worlds.” In this series, McTigue provided her take on several topics including on the world of abolition and its ties to race and religion in America. 

Welcome Tables for Inclusive Excellence 

Submitted by Omiyemi (Artisia) Green, Professor of Theatre 

The Department of Theatre, Speech & Dance plans to highlight diversity and innovation in dance, by holding “Welcome Tables for Inclusive Excellence.” Centered on five themes, the open forums began in December 2023 with the topic of access and success. The inclusive gatherings and discussions have continued in 2024 with upcoming topics that include education & scholarship, organizational culture & accountability and innovation, community & reconciliation. The purpose is to foster a sense of belonging as the department re-establishes itself in the new Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall. The forums are held on campus and are open to the public. The next is scheduled for March 21 at 9:30 a.m. in the lobby of Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall. 

‘Displaced from the Birthplace of America’ Documentary Film 

Submitted by Amy Quark, Associate Professor of Sociology 

The Local Black Histories project is a long-time collaborative effort between W&M and The Village Initiative, a local initiative that works in research and inclusion in support of equity and education in the Williamsburg community. The Studio for Teaching and Learning has partnered with the Village Initiative and the Local Black Histories Project to produce a film chronicling the Black community’s origin and displacement in Williamsburg. The film tells a poignant story on the removal of the Black community little by little and the impact and loss of a tight knit community. The documentary also tells the story of community activists, particularly Black women, who pushed back against this narrative. Engaging W&M students and faculty in community centered research serves as the main goal of this project. 

Language & Culture Classes for American Sign Language  

Submitted by Lauren Su, Acquisitions Assistant, Swem Library 

With a goal of increasing accessibility and inclusion for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, faculty and staff, the W&M Libraries Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee is hosting an (ASL) American Sign Language Class, which began this spring. Open to all members of the community and free of charge, the instructor-led class will be held once a week. Making library services more accessible to all and engaging and educating attendees with a more structured approach to sign language is also a main objective. 

Black Student-Athlete Summit 

Submitted by Karai Lockley, Senior Associate Athletics Director 

The Black Student Athlete Summit, being held in California May 23-26, centers on ‘’engagement and collaboration of student athletes to empower and inspire in college and thereafter.’’ The purpose of the project will be to meet and learn from other like-minded professionals in college athletics. The Excel Program, which is part of the W&M Athletics department, hopes the three-day summit will prepare Black student athletes with career preparation opportunities as well as much needed skills to ensure a competitive edge upon graduation. 

The Multicultural Ancient Mediterranean 

Submitted by Jessica Stephens, Visiting Assistant Professor, Classical Studies 

In spring 2024, a digital display exploring the aspects of race, identity and slavery in the context of classical studies will debut on the third floor of Boswell Hall just outside the classical studies department library. The classical studies diversity committee will collaborate with two undergraduate students to produce images and captions to introduce the concept of how multi-cultural and diverse the Ancient Mediterranean was and how classical studies played a role in resisting white supremacy. Topics of the display will include an examination of Greexo-Roman origins, genealogies, and environmental theories of cultural expression. The completion of this project will be celebrated with a Diversity Day event in April 2024.