June 22, 2021
By Lauren Coffey, Tampa Bay Business Journal
Four St. Petersburg-based higher education institutions have teamed up to work with the greater community on racial equity and inclusion.
The consortium, which has spent the last six months putting the building blocks in place, will meet this week to nail down more specific goals it wishes to accomplish. The group came out of a community task force initiative at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus last year.
“There is a lot happening in St. Pete and the region, with racial justice and equity work that’s occurring,” said Caryn Nesmith, a coordinator of the consortium and special assistant to the USF St. Pete chancellor for strategic initiatives. “You have local government, nonprofits and even corporations [doing the work], and we wanted to complement the work already going on, instead of overshadow or compete. When you look at enacting change, with working toward progress, you look at systems, and we have higher education as a system.”
The entities, including St. Petersburg College, Eckerd College and Stetson University College of Law, are funded by a $50,000 Foundation for a Healthy St. Pete grant. While details are still being worked out, the group has several different goals, led by five main pillars: narrative change, racial healing and relationship building, separation, law and economy.
“We saw our participating in the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Campus Centers as critical in the preparation of the next generation of strategic leaders and thinkers,” Devona Pierre, the equity, diversity and inclusion director at SPC, said in a statement. “It’s important to have the program in order for our community to embrace racial healing while also confronting racial divides and seeking to be a part of the transformative process. It is our hope to work as a community of educational institutions to build a more equitable, just and racially diverse community.”
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