The HBCU Symposium on Rhetoric and Composition is happening now! This year’s theme is Transdisciplinarity @ HBCUs: Rewriting Black Futures Beyond the Margin. Just ahead of her keynote address: Still Standing: Student Voices, Curation, and HBCU Legacies, we had a conversation with keynote speaker Regina N. Bradley, Ph.D., Author of Chronicling Stankonia: the Rise of the Hip-Hop South and Assistant Professor at Kennesaw State University.
Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
I've been reading and writing my entire life. I knew I might really be into this writing thing after documenting the 1994 Flood in my hometown of Albany, GA. I was 10 and wanted to make sure all the water I saw, people I talked to, and the devastation overall was never forgotten. I had to write to get out my sadness. I typed all my thoughts and observations out on my grandparents' old gray typewriter. I wrote/typed out nearly 30 pages.
What advice would you give to Black and Brown higher education students that are interested in studying English, Rhetoric, Composition, or Writing?
English Studies is more than just dead, white, (usually) male writers and thinkers. It is okay to think outside-the-box and wander outside of the traditional canon. Stand on your own truth: ask yourself what brought you to the field in the first place and where do you want to see the field go? For me, I wanted to see more about the Black South from a southern Black person's perspective. That's my truth and it grounds my scholarship and research.
Your book "Chronicling Stankonia: the Rise of the Hip-Hop South" is about more than OutKast -- it's about artistry and speaking one's truth. What can students at HBCUs learn from OutKast and speaking truth?
Sometimes, your truth will be misinterpreted, dismissed, or completely overlooked because you do not follow a particular path. That's okay. Be like OutKast and do it anyway. Be unapologetic in celebrating who you are -- the institutions and people that have made way for you to be dope. Don't apologize for being dope.
Student voices have always played an important role in building HBCU legacies. What should instructors do to help elevate their voices?
The biggest challenge for me as an instructor is to get students to recognize that their voice is worth being heard, that they have something to share. My best advice for instructors is to be encouragement and stay encouraged: be in students' corners by pointing out what is great about their writing and what can be improved. Stay encouraged by continuously showing up for students even when they can't or won't show up for themselves. I've learned students don't appreciate you fully until after the class is over. You are making an impact. Have faith in that truth.
To learn more about or register for the symposium, click here . Select sessions will be available on the Macmillan Community following the event.
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Below is a note written by Macmillan Learning Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coltrane Stansbury (@c_stansbury), as he reflected on the anniversary of George Floyd's death.
Tomorrow, May 25, marks the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. As I reflect on the tragedy of that event a year displaced from the shocking revelations of that dark day in Minneapolis, I am reminded of something that my mentor, Anthony Carter, would tell me early in my career in DEI- that no one truly looks like their story. Regardless of what our features and complexion might indicate about our heritage or even our surroundings might indicate about our upbringing, each of us is unique and rich with a story that only we can tell. Sometimes, not even the company we keep gives a true indication of the richness of our individual experiences, the successes and failures, tragedies and triumphs that make us who we are. Quote from Coltrane Stansbury, VP of DEI at Macmillan Learning We watched in the moments following May 25th of last year, as the eye witness video surfaced to the public, exposing us for the first time to images of George Floyd. Those video clips revealed to us a victim of a most brutal and cruel crime at the hands of those entrusted to serve and protect. As the media provided pieces of information about this man whose life was taken in front of the world, we were given a further glimpse into the challenging environment and circumstances that George Floyd lived through during his 46 years of life. The horror of the moment, the rushed context given to us by news outlets tell a short and poorly sketched narrative of who George Floyd really was. As I think about what Anthony was trying to teach me about people and their stories, I realize that the true tragedy of those events a year ago in Minneapolis is that George Floyd did not have the opportunity to tell his full story. The real danger behind discrimination, injustice, and inequities is that they ultimately seek to silence a person’s story, relegating them to an irrelevant, invisible, or non-existent status in society.
But I realized, in the testimonies of his family and the tearful revelations of those who knew him best, that George Floyd indeed had a story to tell. That story is of a man who migrated across states to find opportunity, of a father who struggled through personal adversity to provide for himself and his family; of a beloved brother and friend who put the needs of others first even if it led to his own suffering. In many ways, I can see myself in much of his story of sacrifice, trials, hope and redemption. It is in George’s own story that we find out who he truly is and he is able to transcend the tragedy of that fated day where we shared in the shock of the ending of his life.
Anthony was right, the George that we saw helpless under the knee of his tormentor, looked nothing like his story. Today, we must remind ourselves to show each other the humanity and respect to tell our stories and live with the human dignity that provides room for all to share equally in all that the world has to offer.
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The Black employee resource groups from Macmillan Learning and Macmillan Publishers recently hosted a panel “From Our Perspective: Black Professionals in Publishing” to share perspectives on working in publishing and encourage BIPOC students to consider the industry as a future career.
The panelists represented a variety of roles, backgrounds and levels of experience in publishing, and shared valuable insights about what they’ve learned in their careers. The panelists included: Keith Barksdale, Jr., Publisher’s Representative, Macmillan Learning ; Natalie Gordon, Benefits Manager, Macmillan Publishers ; Phoenix Harvey, Director of Marketing, Enterprise & High School Solutions, Macmillan Learning ; Dominique R. Jenkins, Senior Manager, Author Events, Macmillan Publishers ; Jason Walker, Director of Product, eCommerce & Integrations, Macmillan Learning ; and Natasha Wolfe, Senior Design Services Manager, Macmillan Learning . The 90-minute discussion covered a range of topics including these key insights from the panel:
You don’t need a masters degree in publishing to get a job working in the industry (but it can be helpful).
Our panelists took a variety of different paths to get their publishing jobs. Only one of the panelists had a masters degree in publishing, Dominique Jenkins. While agreeing a masters in publishing wasn’t necessary for everyone interested in a career in publishing, Dominique thought it would be helpful for her because she had a “late start” in publishing and her degree helped her network and “learn more about the ins and outs of the industry”. She noted “If you don’t want to spend the money for (a master’s degree in) college, there are other avenues to get a job in publishing.”
Natalie Gordon got her start in publishing when she attended a networking event and sat with the Macmillan team; she used the connections she made there to reach out after she saw an opportunity on LinkedIn. Natasha Wolfe went to liberal art colleges to keep her options open, and went on interviews in hopes of being a graphic designer at an ad agency. When she discovered they would only hire for freelancing, she realized that wouldn't work for her. Her career counselor suggested that she try publishing -- 20 years later she’s still working in it. Keith Barksdale had a higher education background and took a risk. As it turned out, being able to talk to strangers on campus was a great benefit to his publishing sales job. Jason Walker had been working in the e-commerce space and was looking to change industries; the edtech space Macmillan Learning was playing in had interested him. Phoenix Harvey studied political science and accounting, but after she had a child and went back to work, she knew she wanted to work in education and make an impact. She did informational interviews with educational publishers, and it wound up being a good fit, so she began her publishing career as a sales representative.
Not everyone who works in publishing first imagines a career in publishing.
Many of these talented employees found their way into publishing … but only after experiencing other industries and roles.
When she was younger, Phoenix didn’t have much of a vision for her career other than she wanted to carry a briefcase and be a “business lady”. Jason has degrees in biology and computer science, and thought he would go into medicine. He focused on academics and enjoyed doing research. Natalie imagined herself being a firefighter in elementary school, then wanted to be in computer systems. She knew she wanted to graduate from a four-year college and after a gap year and networking, she got exposure to benefits and consulting and knew she wanted to work in HR Management. Dominique wanted to be a singing vet, and studied opera and theatre, and then wanted to do what Jackie O. did -- be a professional journalist. She ultimately wanted to shape the books her nieces and read, and found her way to publishing. Despite each of their early thoughts of their careers, their passions led them to a fulfilling career in publishing.
You can pivot to a variety of roles in publishing.
Publishing is about more than editing books, and several of our panelists have experienced a range of these roles in publishing. For example, Phoenix started her career in publishing as a sales rep, but has since had roles of increasing responsibility in marketing. Dominique has been in the industry since 2002 working for several publishers with roles in special sales, regular sales, marketing, conventions and library marketing, and author events.
Internships and networking can help springboard your career in publishing .
While internships help get entry-level experience and look good on the resume, there are other pathways that our panelists recommend. Networking was repeatedly suggested as one of the most important career strategies.
“Build your network,” Dominique said. She noted that informational interviews, joining diverse publishing communities -- including POC in Publishing and LatinX publishing, and LinkedIn are all important. She added on LinkedIn students should state they have an interest in publishing, join networks and don’t hesitate to reach out to people in the field. Natasha agreed, and noted that took advantage of her professors, especially the adjunct ones who had experience, and asked them for advice. Jason has done some meetups, which he noted are pretty popular in the tech space. People who are there are there to interact and exchange ideas.
Networking can be intimidating though, noted Phoenix, who is a self-proclaimed introvert. She explained that each of her roles in publishing have been supported by her strong networking and contacts who helped to open doors. It’s difficult to imagine going to a networking event, but you should consider it. “It just takes one to give you that opportunity,” she said.
Natalie mentioned that virtual coffee hours and reaching out to professionals on LinkedIn were options for introverts, “The worst thing they can tell you is no,” she noted. It’s important to advocate for yourself.
Be active, know yourself, connect, listen and make mistakes.
The panelists had a few suggestions for skills and experiences that were helpful for pivoting to a career in publishing. Jason suggested that students maximize their skills outside of class by joining in activities and Phoenix agreed, noting that leadership and organizational skills are important. While communications courses and networking were critical, if Dominique could go back she would also do more activities. One of her mentors told her not to give up on her dreams and remember who she was -- advice that has been critical to her success.
As an outside sales rep, Keith suggested that students listen closely. He also suggested that taking an improv class is a great way to help you think on your feet, and it also helps in becoming comfortable with being embarrassed. “Making mistakes will make you a stronger individual,” he said.
Phoenix recommended that students set up alerts on LinkedIn to be among the first to respond to influencers or people you respect when they post something interesting. This helps to build relationships, noting “If you comment on mine, I’ll probably comment back.”
When Phoenix hires, she looks for experience that demonstrates skills like resilience and grit. For example, students who work during the school year and are still able to maintain good grades, or students that had a low GPA in highschool that were able to excel in college.
Imposter syndrome is a real thing, but it can be overcome.
Dominique noted that during her first job out of school, she had to fight to try to stay true to herself. “When you’re the only person of color in a department, it’s challenging. Having a strong circle of BIPOC friends helped me.”
Keith noted that he was “unapologetically Black” and encouraged students to be proud of who they are and bet on themselves. Natasha felt like she needed to prove herself, but having a colleague who came in early just like she did helped to encourage her, and reminded her that she deserved to be there as much as -- and sometimes more than -- anyone else.
One final piece of advice from the panelists:
Dominique: “Don’t be afraid. Walk into every job opportunity like you’re a boss.”
Phoenix: “Make them tell you no. Do not count yourself out.”
Natasha: “Stay hungry. Do what it takes to get your foot in the door.” Once you’re in you can explore further.
Jason: “Don’t be afraid to create your own path.”
Keith: “Take risks. Be bold. It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.”
What are the next steps for anyone interested in learning more?
Watch the entire panel here!
Check out the internships open at Macmillan Learning and Macmillan Publishers
Follow Macmillan Learning and Macmillan Publishers social media accounts along with others in the industry that you admire, and network with us!
Join diverse communities, including People of Color in Publishing , Blk + Brwn Book Designers , LatinX In Publishing , Asians in Publishing ,
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Major corporations across America are running a race towards an imaginary finish line. Seemingly every company is running it, no matter the industry, though at different paces and on uneven terrain. It’s an important race, an essential one, fueled by good-minded people who desire change. Many companies are celebrating the passing of each mile marker, and sometimes passing certain mile markers indeed feels like a big moment. Yet at times the outward appearance that companies project conveys a desire to reach an imaginary finish line when they can claim the moment that racism, prejudice, and bias no longer influence the products they create, the people they hire, or the culture of their workplace.
Macmillan Learning has been running this race for the last few years. To some of our employees the pace has felt feverish, to others looking for change to come faster it has appeared more like a jog, a feeling we were too focused on the marathon ahead. This week at Macmillan Learning has felt more like a sprint. And if we are running fast it is because we have to, because in a particular incident that emerged in the last month, we missed the starter’s gun entirely.
For the last three years, in various formats and detail, Macmillan Learning has been reviewing our course materials with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. One tool at our disposal are audits of our published material. These audits identify inappropriate or outdated uses of language, underrepresentation and overrepresentation of people and perspectives, and subjects that require additional context to increase their pedagogical value. They aren’t employed to remove coverage of controversial subjects, instead they are used to enhance the likelihood of productive discussions about them. Nor do they attempt to impose an ideological point-of-view or a pedagogical norm on our authors, editors, or in the classrooms we support. These audits, and other elements of our editorial guidelines for diversity, equity, and inclusion, provide discipline and structure -- and demand a more diverse outlook as well as the inclusion and participation of broader perspectives to an editorial practice that has been too often informed by a homogenous group - authors, editors, reviewers, and instructors that too commonly can be identified as Western ( and predominately White ), Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic, as has so frequently been articulated in higher ed research.
Our efforts over the last three years have been forward-looking, but we have learned that sometimes when you concentrate on creating a better future you can fail to stop to take care of the present. In February, a school district notified us that a passage in one of our publications was offensive and risked negatively affecting students in their classroom. The passage had already been removed from the forthcoming edition of the book due to be published in late 2021. At issue? An edition of our world history textbook, Ways of the World , included a racial epithet employed in the running narrative of a chapter on British colonialism in India. The epithet was used to demonstrate the depth of racist attitudes that fueled British ideology in India. The epithet included an offensive, contemptuous term historically used to describe a Black person . To the reader, be they Indian, Indian American, Black, or White, the offensive phrase is encountered in the passage without warning or precondition. Its use lacked necessary context and historical reference and appeared more for effect than substance.
The authors’ intent was to demonstrate the far reach of European racism and to expose the largely American audience reading the book to how much racism has shaped the world outside our borders -- how personal it can be felt by people in countries beyond our own. It is a pedagogical goal that I can understand and appreciate. Yet the manner in which this reality was conveyed was unacceptable and carried too much educational risk for its intended benefit. Evaluating pedagogical value is part of our responsibility as a publisher. As editors we are the stewards of our publications, and our stewardship is foundational to the partnership and bond we have with our authors and those that use the educational resources we produce. Our authors are not to blame in this situation. We are. I am. This was an error in judgment exacerbated by publishing processes that did not empower our editors to root out a use of language that is not just disagreeable but which offends and potentially harms. The steps our authors and editors had taken with the upcoming edition corrected the error and recast the entire narrative in this area -- but we cannot miss this opportunity to correct it in the present. Addressing this case only in future printings and editions is not enough.
And so in the last weeks we began this sprint. A sprint to update the language in these titles and ensure that classrooms using our books have access to new versions that reflect our commitment to supporting a pedagogically sound educational environment -- admittedly, a sprint in which we felt like we were chasing the field every day. But we are making progress. By publication of this post, adopters of every edition of Ways of the World in which the offensive reference appears will have been notified and we will have revised the language in all our e-books and online learning platforms. Any student, teacher, or instructor who logs into their e-book or online learning platform will see an updated passage. For schools that purchased print editions of our book, we are providing updated pages and access to the revised chapter and we will work to accommodate school-specific needs as they are identified. No more copies of this book will leave our warehouse or be offered online that include the offensive reference.
What does this mean for Macmillan Learning? It means not pausing to congratulate ourselves for fixing something that should not have occurred. It means continuing to look not only at the products that we produce but the people and culture that produces them. Numerous stories have been published in recent years detailing the lack of racial diversity in the publishing industry and our leadership team and employees at Macmillan Learning have taken them to heart. But what we take to heart requires commensurate action. Events like this one put these facts into starker relief as our leadership team continues to prioritize actions that will create an environment that supports an increasingly diverse workforce so that we can continue to create products and services that better reach an already diverse educational audience, now and in the future. In this specific incident, it has included taking care of our employees who both questioned how this occurred and who were affected by it, no matter their background or position on the issue, though taking greater care to speak to individuals and groups historically targeted by the reference. And we are taking steps to ensure what we learn is carried forward in our products, through an editorial process that emphasizes the inclusion of more voices from differing perspectives, and through a cultural and editorial philosophy that insists we question the status quo and invites people to engage in difficult conversations. There is no finish line to this marathon, but that fact does not make the necessity to pick up our pace any less urgent. And with that effort, each day we can become a better publisher.
Charles Linsmeier Executive Vice President, General Manager Macmillan Learning
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I am thrilled to announce an important new team member has joined Macmillan Learning; Coltrane Stansbury is now our Vice President, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). In this newly created role, Coltrane will lead our diversity and inclusion strategy and programs as well as amplify the work the company is doing in support of our people, programs and culture. He’ll be reporting directly to our Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Kristin Peikert.
Creating an increasingly diverse and inclusive company is a core strategic goal for Macmillan Learning. While there has been much work and progress since we launched our initial grassroots D&I initiative in 2017, we knew we needed an experienced DEI leader with big ideas to help us broaden our efforts and help us come closer to fully realizing our vision. Our employee volunteers helped us to create the foundation for change through increased awareness, education, and engagement, and Coltrane is the leader that will help our initiatives flourish and make a lasting impact.
Coltrane approaches inclusion and outreach in a holistic manner, creatively thinking about how programs can affect change in ways that tie closely to the mission of the business. Importantly, he has a passion for equity in education and already has many ideas on how we can foster internal growth and work in the educational community to engage all learners throughout their educational journey.
Making impactful change is part of Coltrane’s DNA. He is an experienced DEI leader with an extensive background in business, policy, and community outreach. He comes most recently from Becton Dickinson & Co, PSEG, and Johnson & Johnson, where he was responsible for building DEI programs from the ground up. Coltrane is very active in his community, working with local schools, civic leagues, and the United Way.
Here’s what Coltrane had to say about his new role at Macmillan Learning: “A good education provides the nation’s youth with opportunities that would have not been otherwise available to them; especially underserved students, and students that come from a place of disadvantage. Working at Macmillan Learning allows me to contribute to their education, and in the process help students’ lives flourish.”
This is an important moment, with so much momentum building towards a more equal society and culture. Our goal is to help all learners succeed. To that end, we’re proud to further move forward Macmillan Learning’s commitment to DEI in a meaningful way and are excited for Coltrane’s leadership during our journey.
Susan Winslow is President of Macmillan Learning
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