Arcadia Launches the Center for Anti-Racist Scholarship, Advocacy, and Action (CASAA)

November 16, 2021 Daniel DiPrinzio

On Nov. 16, 2021, the anti-Black Racism Initiatives (ABRI) Project Team and the Provost’s Office at Arcadia University announced the establishment of the Center for Anti-Racist Scholarship, Advocacy, and Action (CASAA)--an interdisciplinary academic center that will bring together individuals from the University, the local community, and wider world to shape the thinking and mindset about racism across the globe. A key element of President Ajay Nair’s ABRI commitments introduced in June 2020, the Center will play a key role in Arcadia’s efforts to combat anti-Black racism. A working group of faculty and staff from across the campus community, led by Dr. Priscilla Jeter-Iles, Director of Field Experiences and Outreach for the School of Education, has been collaborating over the past year to develop the mission, goals, activities, and structure of CASAA. 

The Center will be located at 2035 Church Road, sharing space with the Humanities Research Lab and the Pan African Studies program. This community space will provide a platform to bring together diverse minds to conduct research and develop best practices that will enable Arcadia to be a leading advocate of antiracist thought and endeavor toward ensuring racial justice and equity. As plans for the Center solidify, the working group is looking forward to hosting a series of events both on campus and on Zoom in the spring semester to provide further information and celebrate this important addition to Arcadia University.

An advisory group of diverse individuals from both the Arcadia and the local and global communities will offer expertise and guidance to CASAA leadership as they launch this pivotally important new venture. 

Founding Executive Director
CASAA will be led by Founding Executive Director Dr. Doreen Loury, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Director of Pan-African Studies. Dr. Loury will oversee the Center’s scholarly and administrative efforts and develop initiatives and partnerships to encourage and support faculty and staff research on issues of race, ethnicity, power, and inequity. Some of Dr. Loury’s accomplishments during her 30-year tenure at Arcadia include the development of the University’s first African American Studies curriculum and the minor in Pan African Studies in addition to serving on the University's JEDI Commission, ABRI, and Faculty Senate’s Work and Welfare Committee. She has worked with Arcadia’s Communities of Practice, the LOVE Pilot Program, and ABRI Learning Partners Program; is a Faculty Senate Liaison to ABRI; and is a member of the historical Land Acknowledgement Task Force and the ABRI-AUC Task Force. She has been a faculty advisor to several student organizations (POWER, IMPACT, BAS, and MIA) and is one of the original architects of Arcadia’s Black Alumni Association. Dr. Loury received the 2010 Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching, the first African American to receive the award at Arcadia. She also received the University’s Cultural Ally Award for validating the lived experiences of all Arcadia students and was the first African American to serve on the University's Faculty Senate upon its development.

Dr. Loury is Founder/Executive Director of the nationally recognized Black Male Development Symposium, an inter-generational symposium (the only one of its kind for Black Males) that was hosted annually on Arcadia’s campus and offered workshops to over 7,500 students, parents, educators, community leaders, and practitioners in the Tri-State area and beyond. Dr. Loury received her doctorate from the esteemed Department of African American Studies at Temple University and an Advanced Certificate in Culturally Competent Human Services Training from Temple’s Multicultural Training and Research Institute. Dr. Loury was appointed to the National Advisory Council of the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education and Chaired their Chief Diversity Officers & Executive Leadership Committee. She was the first Vice President of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Association of Black Women in Higher Education and was recently appointed to The Philadelphia’s Defenders Association Board of Directors. She is the first Vice President of the newly created Delaware Valley Section of the National Council of Negro Women and can now add Commissioner to her accomplishments as a mayoral appointee to the Philadelphia Women’s Commission. Dr. Loury is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and the United States Air Force Reserves and is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, Phi Beta Omega Chapter.

Associate Director
Dr. Christopher Allen Varlack, Assistant Professor of English and Director of University Seminars, will serve as Associate Director of CASAA. He will be responsible for implementing the mission and vision of the Center and managing its day-to-day operations. Since joining the faculty, Dr. Varlack has been an avid participant in the ABRI work of the University inside and outside of the classroom through presentations for the Race Matters Forum and 2021 Inclusive Excellence Institute, the ABRI Learning Partners Program, and the co-construction of a framework to support ABRI curricular infusion and pedagogy. In addition to this work, he has served on the Faculty Senate Finance Committee, the University Budget Committee, and the Compensation Study Faculty Working Group. In 2021, he received the Cultural Ally Ward for engaging his students in complex conversations regarding Black community formation, countering cultural erasure, and combating systems of racism as represented in literature across the African Diaspora.

Dr. Varlack is editor of Critical Insights: Harlem Renaissance (Salem 2015) and Critical Insights: Civil Rights Literature, Past & Present (Salem 2017). He is also currently editing a 40-essay volume, Zora Neale Hurston in Context, for Cambridge University Press, a special double issue of The Langston Hughes Review on Sterling A. Brown, and a volume tentatively titled Black Lives Matter: Lessons from the Harlem Renaissance. His work appears in the College Language Association Journal, Third Stone Journal, South Atlantic Review, The Langston Hughes Review, and several edited volumes. He serves as president of the Langston Hughes Society and as Special Topics Chair in African-American Literature for the College English Association, having previously served as Assistant Treasurer and Assistant Secretary of the College Language Association and Vice President of Development for the Society for the Study of American Women Writers. Dr. Varlack is also a social poet, as defined by Langston Hughes, at work on a collection of social justice poems chronicling 21st-century anti-Black violence. He earned his PhD in English from Morgan State University and his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

The University would like to acknowledge the CASAA Working Group for the dedication and hard work to make this Center a reality: 

Kate Bonin--Modern Languages and Cultures
Elizabeth Ferrell--Visual and Performing Arts
Favian Guertin-Martin--Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice
Katharine Hanley--Provost’s Office
Priscilla Jeter-Iles--School of Education
Kelsey Koelzer--Athletics
Rebecca Kohn--College of Arts and Sciences
Raghu Kurthakoti--School of Global Business
Margaret Longacre--Public Health
Doreen Loury--Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice
Jennifer A. Riggan--Historical and Political Studies
Christopher Allen Varlack--English 

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