Winter Institute provides academic service across country

by Rachel E. Anderson
The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation may be located on the University of Mississippi campus; however, our work is resonating with universities nationwide.

Many higher education institutions have sought out the Winter Institute to address diversity, inclusion, and other related topics.

Dr. Jennifer Stollman, Academic Service director at the Winter Institute, has worked with schools in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, New York, Maine, and Colorado, leading trainings and conversations about equity.

The Winter Institute only holds its Welcome Table in communities that have asked for the program; similarly, all of these institutions have sought out and invited the Winter Institute into their space.

“Schools reach out to the Winter Institute because they know of the work that has been done in the last 15 years and the work done most recently,” said Stollman. “So what happens is, it’s a word of mouth. We go on to one campus, a conference, or a professional development event, and then they hear about us and contact us.”

Stollman notes that higher education institutions are drawn to the Winter Institute’s ability to work with all groups effectively in a non-threatening environment through use of dialogue and an anti-deficit approach.

“With an anti-deficit approach, we assume that everybody has something to learn and everybody brings a great amount of knowledge and experience. We don’t assume that because someone is white they might be racist or because somebody is a member of a minority they know more about the issue,” said Stollman. “We value experience, perspective, training and learning. So, when we come together, we try and create a democratic space with all community members having something to bring.”

This year, the most requested topics that institutions have asked Stollman to address include issues regarding diversity and inclusion, specifically implicit bias, microaggressions, and how to have conversations about these issues in the workplace and on campus.

The Winter Institute looks to engage all community stakeholders in dialogue, so while at universities, trainings are held for faculty, staff, and students.

“All spaces that we ever enter into are filled with anxiety, so the first thing we want to do is relax the students, faculty, and staff. We want to make it an anti-deficit environment where we can hear from everybody,” said Stollman. “We want people to understand that this is a community. Nobody has authority on the topic. Nobody is an expert. We all need to learn from each other and from ourselves.”

With Winter Institute trainings, schools can benefit from a number of impacts: Short-term impacts include immediate education, awareness, and strategies and tools for those involved; mid-term effects can consist of changes in curriculum and policy, as well as permanent and sustained interpersonal changes. Longer-term, trainings can prompt the formation of equitable environments.

Most of the institutions that have worked with the Winter Institute remain in contact after trainings. Some schools have asked for additional trainings and conversations.

“The success of the Winter Institute on campuses depends on the dedication and interest of campus stakeholders, and so far, so good,” said Stollman. “In the 15 years that Susan [Glisson, Institute executive director] has been building this and in the three years I’ve been directly connected with campus work, I have seen staff, faculty, and students work very hard at trying to understand these issues and trying to create an equitable space.”

Rachel E. Anderson is a junior broadcast journalism and Spanish double-major at the University of Mississippi from Chesapeake, VA.

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