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campus scene

Bravo! Linguist wins teaching prize
Faustini wins Ciancio Award
Retiring faculty
Dick Hihn and Kris Szymborski
Intercultural reach and depth Skidmore's first intercultural-studies director
Professoriat What the faculty are up to
Geek squad squareoff Skidmore techies in programming contest
Idea marketplace Guest lectures touch on society and scholarship
Books Faculty and alumni authors
Sky command Using the wolrd's biggest radiotelescope
Shaping campus sustainablity Coordinator goes for the green
On exhibit Now at Skidmore's Schick Art Gallery and Tang Museum
Sportswrap Thoroughbred highlights

Intercultural reach and depth

Surrounded by boxes in his Tisch Learning Center office in January, Winston Grady-Willis was eager to start unpacking his new job as the college’s first director of intercultural studies.

As part of a team recently formed to promote the campuswide embrace of intercultural studies, global understanding, and equality, Grady-Willis adds the academic component to the workforce and student-life representatives already on the job: Herb Crossman in human resources and Mariel Martin in the office of student diversity. Much of Grady-Willis’s work will be curricular: spurring cross-cultural initiatives, research, and scholarship. But a bigger share will be teaching. A member of the American studies department, he’ll teach three courses each year; his specialties are African history and twentieth-century African-American history. He promptly kicked off his Skidmore career this spring with a course in black feminist thought.

The easy-going Grady-Willis turns almost stern when he sketches out goals and standards: “‘Diversity in the curriculum’ should be seen in courses taught regularly.” He foresees an interdisciplinary minor, and perhaps eventually a major, in intercultural studies; transnational approaches to academic questions and collaboration among Skidmore departments; more courses with the intercultural reach and depth he sees now in American studies, sociology, English, and other disciplines. “All this will require the support of the full faculty,” he adds. “This process requires integrity.”

Sounds like a tall order for someone fresh from a well-established African-American studies department at a major university—he was an associate professor and director of graduate studies at Syracuse for the past eight years. But Grady-Willis comes prepared. Growing up in Chicago, he was bused to city schools; at Columbia University, where he earned his BA, he was so involved with antiracism movements that “activism became my main activity and studies became my cocurricular relief.”

That intensity drove his graduate education—a master’s in Africana studies at Cornell, a PhD in history at Emory—and still fuels his scholarship and teaching. His recent book U.S. Apartheid: Atlanta and Black Struggles for Human Rights, 1960–1977 frames the African-American experience in terms of human rights rather than civil rights. “What happens in the US is part of the larger struggle for human dignity,” he asserts. At Syracuse he earned the 2002 Meredith Teaching Award; he has also taught at Connecticut College, Emory, and Morehouse College. These experiences—and three “chaotic, sobering, and life-changing” years teaching middle-schoolers in Harlem and the Bronx—taught Grady-Willis “how to listen, and to have students listen to each other.”

VP of academic affairs Susan Kress says, “His commitment to our intercultural goals, his collaborative style of leadership, and his generous spirit make him exactly the right person to fill this exciting new position."

Grady-Willis knows his multifaceted new job will be challenging. “If there ever was a program that called for creative initiatives, Skidmore’s plan for intercultural diversity is it. This will require some heavy lifting,” he admits. Then he smiles. “And heavy lifting should never be done alone.” —BAM