Drs. Ferguson, Gomez to examine campus climate at VCU

They are part of a seven-member team that will help develop a toolkit to transform harmful racial narratives.

Headshots of Dr. Tomika Ferguson and Dr. Rachel Gomez.
The School of Education’s Tomika Ferguson, Ph.D., and Rachel Gomez, Ph.D.

The VCU School of Education has strong representation on a core university team that will be developing a toolkit to identify strategies and practices for examining and transforming harmful racial narratives, and building relationships that nurture diversity and equity across VCU.

The School of Education team representatives are Tomika Ferguson, Ph.D., assistant dean for student affairs and inclusive excellence and assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, and Rachel Gomez, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning. Ferguson’s research centers on the intersection of race, gender, sport and educational equity, and Gomez studies the intersections of race, ethnicity and education in K-20 schools.

VCU is one of only 19 institutions selected by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) in a competitive process to participate in the development of this toolkit, known as the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT)-Focused Campus Climate Assessment Toolkit.

“The ability of an institution to address systemic inequities effectively depends on a clear-eyed, ongoing assessment of the many factors that influence its unique campus climate,” said Lynn Pasquerella, president of AAC&U. “We are thrilled to partner with these nineteen colleges and universities on the development of a new and much-needed resource to support such assessments.”

The toolkit will help institutions and practitioners interrogate systems, policies, programs, services, and practices that perpetuate disparities and inequities through a false belief in a hierarchy of human value. This includes assessing an institution’s historical and implicit racial narratives, opportunities for expanding relationship building, and racial healing among students, faculty, staff and other constituents.

“We are acting as thought partners in the development of this toolkit, providing insight and feedback on its relevance, content and structure between now and June 2023,” said Carlos Smith, D.D.S, team co-lead and associate professor and director of diversity, equity and inclusion in the School of Dentistry.

The team’s core responsibilities include to:

  • Participate in a variety of methodologies (e.g., structured interviews, feedback sessions, focus groups, project meetings, document collection, online surveys, etc.) throughout the toolkit development process;
  • Provide feedback to refine the assessment practices identified by AAC&U and a group project team;
  • Participate in virtual or in-person campus site visits conducted by AAC&U and the group project team. Site visits will include structured interviews with core team members to provide feedback concerning the practices and methodologies being developed for the toolkit; and
  • Participate in virtual, structured review sessions to provide critical feedback related to the toolkit’s methodology, content relevance, and feasibility of use.

Read the AAC&U Press Release