CASAA Names 2024 Recipients of Antiracist Education, Champion of Justice Award

By Emily Horowitz | March 25, 2024

For the leadership team of the Center for Antiracist Scholarship, Advocacy, and Action (CASAA) at Arcadia University, recognizing colleagues who have been pivotal in promoting antiracist scholarship, building community around antiracist advocacy and action, and championing equity and justice is a truly important part of the work they’re engaged in. Many continue to answer the call, dedicating themselves daily to not only combating racist ideologies through pedagogy and action but also to confronting the systemic barriers that limit access, justice, equity, and inclusivity within the academic classroom and beyond. CASAA is proud to announce the recipients of this year’s awards.

The CASAA Award for Excellence in Antiracist Education

This award is intended to recognize and celebrate the strong examples colleagues have provided for antiracist curricular infusion, for stimulating dialogue on issues of race and racism, and for their commitment to embodying antiracist principles/practices as they teach. As bell hooks once declared, “The academy is not paradise. But learning is a place where paradise can be created.” By breaking down systemic and institutional barriers, revising their course curricula, and helping provide our community with the tools necessary to be agents of antiracist change, recipients of this award are working to build that paradise in the form of a more equitable world. 

The first recipient of the 2024 CASAA Award for Excellence in Antiracist Education is none other than Dr. Matthew Heitzman, assistant professor in English and Department Chair. As a member of the faculty, Dr. Heitzman helped envision and champion the new combating anti-Black racism (CABR) designation for the Arcadia undergraduate curriculum in addition to serving on the CABR Implementation Team that was tasked with liaising with schools and colleges to infuse antiracist principles into their curricula. Dr. Heitzman has also served as an architect in the CTLM/CASAA Praxis for Teaching Race Program, continuing that work this semester as a participant himself. In his Modern British Literature Course, as an example, he has engaged in substantial curricular reform, encouraging archival work among his students as they research the lives of Black Britons typically left out of British literary studies. These are just a few examples of the impact he has had and continues to have. 

The second recipient of the CASAA Award for Excellence in Antiracist Education this year is Allyson McCreery, associate director, the International Peace and Conflict Resolution Program. Throughout her time at the University, McCreery has been a strong advocate and ally for transformative change, evident in her participation in the Land Acknowledgement Task Force as well as her leadership as an architect in the CTLM/CASAA Praxis for Teaching Race Program. Her widely popular first-year seminar, Making Moves: Strategic Nonviolence and Civil Disobedience in American Culture, is impactful in tracing the role of nonviolent direct action and other forms of civil disobedience in challenging the status quo across the decades. In addition, she serves as an AEDI Liaison with the Office of Access, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Of course, this is just a small sample of the incredible work in which McCreery is engaged–work that is undeniably transformative here at Arcadia and in the lives of the students under her care.

The CASAA Champion of Justice Award

This award is intended to honor our colleagues at Arcadia University who consistently help to break barriers and to promote justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion as guiding principles in all that we do. As George Dei, professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, once said, “Inclusion is not bringing people into what already exists; it is making a new space, a better space for everyone.” The recipients of this award are recognized for their work in creating those much-needed spaces in which members of our community can thrive through active reflection, celebrating and embracing our cultural differences, and asking the difficult questions that we must ask ourselves if we truly want to be agents of change in the world. 

The first recipients of the CASAA Champion of Justice Award this year are Dr. Angela McNeil and Jullette Wilkins of the Office of Access, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (OAEDI). Champions of increased access and representation, they work together to support important programming and outreach initiatives, like the AEDI Liaison Program and the Black Affinity Living and Learning Community (BALLC), that have left an indelible mark on the University. Their work has helped to diversify student perspectives, expose the community to luminaries in the fight for equity and civil rights, and encourage us to question what each member of our community can do to build the world in which we want to live. Dr. McNeil and Ms. Wilkins have provided regular training to the community, supported our growing number of affinity student organizations, worked with Departments to infuse AEDI principles into their work, and raised awareness about the CABR taking place. This only begins to describe the invaluable work in which they are engaged and the impact they have had on our community each and every day. 

The second recipient of the 2024 CASAA Champion of Justice Award is Dr. Michelle Reale, 22-24 CASAA Scholar-Advocate and professor in the Landman Library. Innovator of the Reckoning with Race Workshops that have been offered to faculty, staff, and AEDI liaisons across the University, Dr. Reale has been a force in the combating anti-Black racism and justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion work on campus, encouraging us to reflect on the self as we consider the realities of racism and discrimination in the modern world. This semester, she has organized a powerful Community of Practice on Dr. Alison Bailey’s The Weight of Whiteness: A Feminist Engagement with Privilege, Race, and Ignorance, meeting with three groups every other week in order to probe Bailey’s ideas about white talk, white amnesia, and other critical issues as it relates to the self. She also serves as an AEDI Liaison and as Chair of the Judicial Board. Her work in this space extends much further, but at the heart of it all is accountability and critical vulnerability as access points to reckoning with race. 

Congratulations to this year’s recipients and to the many others across the University who are making a real difference.