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Calling In v.s. Calling Out

Prevailing American rhetoric suggests that education is the great equalizer among social classes. More specifically, the suggestion is that a formal education can ameliorate economic disadvantage and position individuals living in poverty for upward mobility. This claim has not been borne out in research about social class or American class transcendence. Moreover, this focus on individual educational achievement, or merit, is a dangerous red herring, taking our collective attention away from systemic, structural racism, the perpetuation of which ensures that achievement, wealth, and quality of life gaps will persist along American racial (and other) demographic lines. 

Unchecked, a belief in meritocracy without an acknowledgement of privilege and histories of oppression can mean blind spots for otherwise socially conscious advocates for justice. Among peers dedicated to justice and advocacy, these frustrations can threaten partnerships and upend critical community organizing. During this session, the facilitator will create a safe space for participants to deepen self-awareness surrounding their own privilege; and identify ways that their privileges can be levied to advance their causes but may pose challenges if unchecked. 


Dr. Alta Mauro is the Associate Dean for Inclusion & Belonging at Harvard College, guiding divisional efforts related to equity, diversity, and inclusion. Under her direction, the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural & Race Relations, the Harvard College Women’s Center, the Office of BGLTQ Student Life, and Title IX coordination converge to leverage Harvard’s great diversity to cultivate inclusive community where all students can thrive.

Previously, Alta served as the founding director of Spiritual Life & Intercultural Education at New York University Abu Dhabi. The UAE’s cosmopolitan diversity provided an exciting backdrop to consider what it meant to educate from the intersection of Black diasporic, critical, womanist perspectives rooted in cultural humility, social justice, and equity. 

Alta earned a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Cultural Foundations from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her dissertation, Identity (re)Determination Among Upwardly-Mobile Black Women, focuses on shifting notions of self, identity, and belonging among African-American women who have been acculturated in sociocultural spaces which are markedly different from their home communities. Other areas of her professional expertise include sustained dialogue and engaging culturally-relevant pedagogy across academic disciplines. Alta has co-authored three refereed book chapters, additional articles related to DEI and global education issues, and published poetry in a recent higher education anthology.

Photo Credit: Saleh Alhalabi

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