Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, has announced that it is establishing the Institute for Race and Social Transformation (iRaST). The institute will serve as an intellectual hub for research and curricular development focusing on racial equity, discrimination, and justice in Memphis and the Mid-South region.
The Institute for Race and Social Transformation will include work and activities that:
• Document and share stories of Memphians who are absent from the narratives about the city
• Expand the pipeline of faculty and students trained to do racial justice research and advocacy
• Elevate the success stories of incarcerated women participating in Rhodes’ Liberal Arts in Prison program
• Coincide with racial justice missions of some local non-governmental organizations
“Rhodes is a national liberal arts college where inclusive excellence and building a culture of belonging are central to our mission,” explains Jennifer Collins, president of Rhodes College. “We strive to empower students, faculty, staff, and community members to address contemporary social issues through intellectual inquiry, reflective dialogue, and community action.”
Natalie Person, dean for curricular development at Rhodes College will serve as the inaugural director of the institute. “The Institute for Race and Social Transformation will be a hub for groundbreaking interdisciplinary faculty and student research about racial injustice and social inequities in Memphis,” said Dr. Person. “Projects will range from documenting the oral histories of Black Memphians during the civil rights era to understanding where resources should be situated in our city to better serve our neighbors who are unhoused.”
The new institute is being financed in part by a $800,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
African Americans make up about 9 percent of the 2,000-member student body at Rhodes College. The city of Memphis is 63 percent Black.