A Professor's Authentic Identity

Dr. Richelle White knows the power of authenticity in the realm of education. She has spent many years teaching young people, both within and outside of classroom settings, and knows that showing up as her true self is part of what makes her such a good educator. “I can only be my best self by being my authentic self,” she said. In order to nourish her own sense of identity as a Black woman in the field of academia, she has decided to participate in the 2022 Hybrid Workshop for Faculty of the African Diaspora, hosted by the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion.

This particular workshop invites mid-career colleagues of the African Diaspora to discuss the themes of identity and community and how these are relevant to their work. The participants include 14 higher education faculty members from institutions all across the United States as well as two facilitators. “There are seven virtual workshops, and then we will meet in person at the Wabash Center in July,” Dr. White said. “We will be looking at and talking about issues of identity and community as it pertains to teaching, scholarship and service, or the work that professors tend to be engaged in.” Sessions will include small and full group discussions as well as time for socializing, personal and community discovery, relaxation, restoration, exercise, meditation and shared meals.

This is not the first time that Dr. White has participated in the programming of the Wabash Center. She has also been a part of a digital salon hosted by the organization designed to provide opportunities for faculty members to gather virtually and discuss learning and teaching resources for a post-pandemic world. Her particular cohort is the Mid-Career African American Faculty Group. “We talk about forming a sense of belonging and finding our authentic voice,” she said. “It’s such a rich experience because we come from so many different places and fields of study.” This work has created a space for life-giving understanding and community among Black scholars.

Dr. White is looking forward to more stimulating conversations with colleagues about how to form community by being their authentic selves. “I am anticipating that these conversations will continue to heighten what I already know, what I’ve already done, and what I’ve already experienced,” she said. “It will also give me an opportunity to see new ways that being authentic can take shape in a post-COVID context. We’re not just living in the world of a disease pandemic, but of a racism pandemic as well, and who I was before the pandemic is not who I am now.” She foresees that these discussions will help her discover new ways in which she can embody her own identity in our changed world.

It was her passion for her work that prompted Dr. White to take part in the 2022 Workshop. “I love teaching and learning, so I take any opportunity I can to enrich myself in those areas,” Dr. White said. “So, when the Wabash Center advertised this workshop, I applied and was accepted.” She is confident that doing this kind of inner work will help her to face any challenge. “It’s taken me time to find the authentic me in the classroom. Now that I’ve found her, she’s not going to retreat, no matter what situation may come her way,” she said.

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