Anti-Racism Working Group

Exploring the Results of an Interdisciplinary Partnership at a Large Public University


  • Anaïs Bailly ABM Structured Solutions, LLC
  • Benjamin P. Brumley West Chester University of Pennsylvania
  • Megan A. Mraz West Chester University of Pennsylvania
  • Benjamin S. Morgan West Chester University of Pennsylvania
  • Gwenelle Styles O'Neal West Chester University of Pennsylvania
  • Brie Radis West Chester University
  • Susan R. Wysor Nguema West Chester University of Pennsylvania
  • Colleen Keeler West Chester University of Pennsylvania
  • Mia Ocean West Chester University of Pennsylvania
  • Erin N. Spencer West Chester University of Pennsylvania



White supremacy, racism, advocacy, interdisciplinary, higher education


Institutions of higher education fail to address ongoing systemic racism within their classrooms, boardrooms, and commons when university personnel and students are not prepared to discuss racism and structural inequalities that exist within the campus community. To address this at a public, Predominantly White Institution (PWI), a group of students, staff, and faculty developed an action-oriented community to increase awareness and advocacy efforts against systemic and micro-level racism. Founded by faculty in the university’s BSW and MSW programs, the Anti-Racism Working Group (ARWG) is composed of faculty, staff, and students from multiple university departments. The goals of ARWG include education and awareness, and dialogue about race, ethnicity, bias, power, and privilege; cultivating interdisciplinary faculty and student relationships, and inspiring anti-racist actions. This paper discusses and disseminates research about ARWG’s inaugural year and early assessments of the program. Data includes responses from students who attended ARWG workshops and found them useful in their conceptualization and self-awareness around race, privilege, and taking anti-racist action. ARWG members benefited around three themes including skill development, relationship building, and the increased awareness and ability to engage in productive discussions around race, power, and privilege. We share these results with other universities and organizations to encourage the creation of similar programs and to facilitate learning from our experiences.


Abramovitz, M., & Blitz, L. V. (2015). Moving toward racial equity: The Undoing Racism Workshop and organizational change. Race and Social Problems, 7(2), 97.

Ajunwa, I. (2020, September 5). 10 Reasons why anti-racism training is not the problem. Forbes.

Alejano-Steele, A., Hamington, M., MacDonald, L., Potter, M., Schafer, S., Sgoutas, A., & Tull, T. (2011). From difficult dialogues to critical conversations: Intersectionality in our teaching and professional lives. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 125(2011), 91-100.

Alimo, C. J. (2012). From dialogue to action: The impact of cross-race intergroup dialogue on the development of white college students as racial allies. Equity & Excellence in Education, 45(1), 36-59.

Basham, K., Donner, S., Killough, R., & Werkmeister-Rozas, L. (1997). Becoming an anti-racist institution. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 67(3), 564-585.

Bezrukova, K., Spell, C. S., Perry, J. L., & Jehn, K. A. (2016). A meta-analytical integration of over 40 years of research on diversity training evaluation. Psychological Bulletin, 142(11), 1227.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, July 24). Health equity considerations and racial and ethnic minority groups.

Cohen, M., & Hyde, C. (2014). Empowering workers and clients for organizational change. Lyceum.

Corley, N. A., & Young, S. M. (2018). Is social work still racist? A content analysis of recent literature. Social Work, 63(4), 317-326.

Corneau, S., & Stergiopoulos, V. (2012). More than being against it: Anti-racism and anti oppression in mental health services. Transcultural Psychiatry, 49(2), 261-282.

Crenshaw, K. (2003). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. In A. K. Wing (Ed.), Critical race feminism (pp. 23-33). New York University Press.

Crenshaw, K., Gotanda, N., Peller, G., & Thomas, K. (Eds.). (1995). Critical race theory. New York University Press.

Creswell, J. W., & Clark, V. L. P. (2017). Designing and conducting mixed methods research. Sage.

Dominelli, L. (2017). Anti-racist social work. Macmillan International Higher Education.

Figueroa, J. L., & García, E. E. (2006). Tracing institutional racism in higher education. In M. Constantine & D. Sue. (Eds.), Addressing racism: Facilitating cultural competence in mental health and educational settings (pp. 195-211). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Forde, D. (2008, February 28). West Chester formally apologizes for past discrimination. Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.

Foucault, M., & Gordon, C. (1980). Power/knowledge: Selected interviews and other writings, 1972-1977. Pantheon Books.

Friedersdorf, C. (2020, August 20). Anti-racist arguments are tearing people apart. The Atlantic.

Gillborn, D. (2006). Critical race theory and education: Racism and anti-racism in educational theory and praxis. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 27(1), 11-32.

Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Sociology Press.

Grand Challenges of Social Work. (2020, June 26). Grand Challenges for Social Work announces grand challenge to eliminate racism [Press release].

Groenwald, S. L. (2018). The challenges and opportunities in leading a multi-campus university. Journal of Professional Nursing, 34(2), 134-141.

Hamilton-Mason, J., & Schneider, S. (2018). Antiracism expanding social work education: A qualitative analysis of the Undoing Racism Workshop experience. Journal of Social Work Education, 54(2), 337-348.

Healy, K. (2014). Social work theories in context: Creating frameworks for practice. Macmillan International Higher Education.

Husband, C. (1995). The morally active practitioner and the ethics of anti-racist social work. In R. Hugman & D. Smith (Eds.), Ethical issues in social work (1st ed., pp. 84-103). Routledge.

Hyde, C. A. (2004). Multicultural development in human services agencies: Challenges and solutions. Social Work, 49(1), 7-16.

Hyde, C. A. (2018). Leading from below: Low-power actors as organizational change agents. Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership & Governance, 42(1), 53-67.

Jackson, B. W. (2006). Theory and practice of multicultural organization development. In Jones, B. B. & Brazzel, M. (Eds.), The NTL handbook of organization development and change (pp. 139-154). Pfeiffer.

Keating, F. (2000). Anti-racist perspectives: What are the gains for social work? Social Work Education, 19(1), 77-87.

Ladhani, S., & Sitter, K. (2020). The revival of anti-racism: Considerations for social work education. Critical Social Work, 21(1), 55-65.

Lykes, M. B., Lloyd, C. R., & Nicholson, K. M. (2018). Participatory and action research within and beyond the academy: Contesting racism through decolonial praxis and teaching “against the grain”. American Journal of Community Psychology, 62(3-4), 406-418.

McMahon, A., & Allen-Meares, P. (1992). Is social work racist? A content analysis of recent literature. Social Work, 37, 533-539.

Miller, J., & Garran, A. (2008). Racism in the United States: Implications for the helping professionals. Thomson Brooks/Cole.

Morse, J. M. (2010). Simultaneous and sequential qualitative mixed method designs. Qualitative Inquiry, 16(6), 483-491.

Nagda, B. A., Spearmon, M. L., Holley, L. C., Harding, S., Balassone, M. L., Moise-Swanson, D., & Mello, S. D. (1999). Intergroup dialogues: An innovative approach to teaching about diversity and justice in social work programs. Journal of Social Work Education, 35(3), 433-449.

National Center for Education Statistics. (2019). College Navigator: West Chester of Pennsylvania. id=216764#general

Nwonka, C. J. (2020, June 8). The protests over George Floyd’s death show how film and culture can be tools of anti-racism, but we must continue to value them beyond this moment. LSE US Centre.

People's Institute for Survival and Beyond [PISAB]. (n.d.). Home: Undoing racism.

Robinson, T. R. (2020, February 12). Racial climate survey: Executive summary. West Chester of Pennsylvania. https://www.West

Rodríguez, J., Nagda, B. R. A., Sorensen, N., & Gurin, P. (2018). Engaging race and racism for socially just intergroup relations: The impact of intergroup dialogue on college campuses in the United States. Multicultural Education Review, 10(3), 224-245.

Santas, A. (2000). Teaching anti-racism. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 19, 349-361.

Sinanan, A. (2016). The value and necessity of mentoring African American college students at PWI’s. Africology: The Journal of Pan African Studies, 9(8), 155-166.

Singleton, G. E. (2012). More courageous conversations about race. Corwin Press.

Sobo, E. J., Lambert, H., & Heath, C. D. (2020). More than a teachable moment: Black lives matter. Anthropology & Medicine, 27(3), 243-248.

Svetaz, M. V., Barral, R., Kelley, M. A., Simpson, T., Chulani, V., Raymond-Flesch, M., Coyne-Beasley, T., Trent, M., Ginsburg, K., & Kanbur, N. (2020). Inaction is not an option: Using antiracism approaches to address health inequities and racism and respond to current challenges affecting youth. The Journal of Adolescent Health: Official Publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, 67(3), 323-325.

Tate, S. A., & Bagguley, P. (2017). Building the anti-racist university: Next steps. Race Ethnicity and Education, 20(3), 289-299.

Uehara, E. S., Barth, R. P., Coffey, D., Padilla, Y., & McClain, A. (2017). An introduction to the special section on grand challenges for social work. Journal of the Society for Social Work & Research, 8(1), 75-85.

Vaughn, J. G. (2008). The Smith College School for Social Work anti-racism commitment: A chronology and reflections on the years 1993-1998 (Masters Thesis).

Walls, J. K., & Hall, S. S. (2018). A focus group study of African American students’ experiences with classroom discussions about race at a predominantly White university. Teaching in Higher Education, 23(1), 47-62.

West Chester Office of Institutional Research. (2020). Retention and graduation rates for first time, full‐time, first year degree‐seeking student cohorts‐‐By race/ethnicity.