Race and ethnicity institute searches for director, names interim
Priscilla McChristian, chief of staff in the Chancellor’s Office, was appointed interim director of the UALR Institute on Race and Ethnicity on Dec. 20, following the departure of inaugural Director Adjoa A. Aiyetoro, who has returned to her job as a full-time law professor at the UALR William H. Bowen School of Law, where she is focusing her efforts on a major research project on issues of racial disparity in the Arkansas criminal justice system.
“I am really proud to take on this role,” McChristian said. “We’ll keep the train on the tracks until the new director will be hired.”
The university contracted Academic Search Inc., a national search firm, to look for the new director and plans to hire someone by July.
McChristian joined UALR in 2008 as special assistant to Chancellor Joel Anderson and was later appointed his chief of staff. McChristian said that one of the most gratifying parts of her career at UALR has been working with Anderson to develop and launch the Institute on Race and Ethnicity and that her appointment as interim director is an honor.
“Priscilla McChristian helped turn the concept of this institute into reality by giving energy and direction to the initiative during the planning year leading up to the institute’s establishment,” Anderson said in a news release. “She also gave voice to it in the case statement that secured foundation support for launching it.”
McChristian said, “We are going to carry on with the ongoing programs and there maybe some new things down the road that we would want to take advantage of.”
For example, the institute is scheduled to host a reception Feb. 20, in UALR’s new Student Services Center following a lecture by civil-rights legend and scholar Robert L. Green, which will be in the facility’s auditorium. Green was invited to speak by Psychology Department Chair Robert F. Morgan.
Major projects by the institute this year include the 10th Annual Racial Attitudes Conference on March 28. During the event, the results of the 10th Annual Racial Attitudes in Pulaski County Survey by the UALR Institute of Government will be discussed. The focus of this year’s survey was “Crime and Punishment in Arkansas.”
Another important project is the Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail, which honors little-known civil-rights activists from Little Rock and Arkansas. “This year, the idea is to recognize business leaders from the early 1960s who worked together, both black and white, to desegregate downtown,” McChristian said. Department of History Chair John A. Kirk is heading up the project.
Members of the organization would like to form a core group of student volunteers, or ambassadors, that will be trained and ready to help the institute host events and the like. Another idea that has been discussed lately is to establish a grant program for faculty and students to support research projects related to racial and ethnic justice.
“It’s important to get more students engaged with the institute,” McChristian said.