Meet new faculty member Michelle Bryan

Name: Michelle Bryan

Current position: Associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion in the College of Education. It’s her second stint at Carolina. She was on the faculty at the college from 2006 to 2015. For the past two years, she was chair of advanced studies and innovation in the College of Education at Augusta University.

“Addressing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion – that is who I am. When I look at the expertise of the colleagues around me, there’s a deep richness around topics of diversity, equity and inclusion in this building. We have so many folks coming at these topics from their own disciplines. I’m also impressed by how connected our faculty is when it comes to these issues.”

Degrees: B.A., American history and African-American studies; M.A.T., secondary social sciences; and Ph.D., education with a concentration in culture, curriculum and change, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

What’s your hometown? I was born and raised in Hagerstown, Maryland, close to the Pennsylvania border.

Describe your area of research? My research focuses on the experiences of people of color in education settings, from K-12 to higher education to the professoriate. I explore those areas for what they can tell us about diversity and equity issues. Examining culture, race and ethnicity in the field of program evaluation is another area of my research.

What attracted you to this position?

The notion of having chief diversity officers in higher education institutions has become extremely popular. When they announced this position, it was as if they have taken a CDO position and brought it to the college level. When I saw the job listing my mouth dropped open for a lot of different reasons. One, in those formative years when I was a junior faculty member here, there was a cadre of faculty who were committed to diversity, equity and inclusion issues. These things were near and dear to my heart, but I could never engage with them as much as I wanted to as a junior faculty member. By adding this position, the college has acknowledged the importance of that work. It’s the dream job. And it’s a unique opportunity to pick up on some work I had started in my earlier days here and run with it, and run with it with a group of people I’ve only been away from for two years.

What are you most looking forward to about returning to Carolina? 

I want to meet all of the faculty and staff by the end of the year and ask them to tell me about their research and work and the way it speaks to issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. I want to create an asset map. I’m super blessed that there is an expectation that I get to know the faculty; to let me hear about their passions. When you are engaged in scholarship work in a college, you don’t always see how your work is tied to someone else’s, but within 20 minutes of listening to someone I can tell you. It’s just the way I see the world. I can hear connections where other people might not. Hopefully my work will allow people to see connections to other colleagues that they didn’t know were there. The adventure is on.

What do you hope to accomplish over the next five years? 

At some point in time I’d like to see the college become a research center on diversity, equity and inclusion. We know what the issues are, we’ve been doing research for quite some time and we’re really well connected. Five years out, we should be a state resource center. And in 10 years, if not before, I want to see us be a national resource center for these issues.

What was the title of your dissertation? 

“Race in education, anti-racist activism and the role of white colleagues: Listening to the voices of African American educators.” In grad school, we would always talk about experiences of students, but having been a teacher of color, I knew teachers experienced the same challenges. I interviewed African-American educators, teachers and principals in K-12 classrooms, discussing how they experienced race and racism in schools. That was such an interesting experience. Not only was my hunch confirmed that that they struggle with the issues, but the issues were much more complicated than I ever anticipated. It also confirmed the importance of that work, the importance of providing people with the space to tell stories. Stories are the way we make meaning, the way we make sense of our lives, the way we narrate our lives. It affirmed for me the importance of creating spaces to openly talk about issues of discrimination and racism and other -isms. There’s power in getting people talking to each other.

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