For Immediate Release

David Tritelli
Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs
202-888-0811 (office)

AAC&U Joins Coalition on Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Former Miss. Gov. William Winter & former Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick Serving as Honorary Co-Chairs; AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella to Serve on Racial Healing & Relationship Building Design Team; AAC&U VP Tia Brown McNair to Serve on Separation Design Team

Jul 8, 2016

Washington, DC—The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) announced today that it is joining with more than 70 diverse organizations and individuals as partners in the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) initiative launched in January 2016. The enterprise was launched to help communities embrace racial healing and uproot conscious and unconscious beliefs in the hierarchy of human value. The supporting organizations and individuals represent a broad coalition ranging from the National Civic League to the YWCA USA to the National Congress of American Indians to Imagining America to the Northeastern University School of Journalism, among many others.

“Colleges and universities must play a leadership role in promoting racial and social justice,” said AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella. “Individual and collective attempts to counter racism are often impeded by our society’s unwillingness to engage in a national conversation around rapidly expanding racial and economic segregation. We must begin to have these conversations on college and university campuses, recognizing that issues of diversity and inclusion must be at the forefront of public discussion and private debate every single day.  Racial and social justice cannot be viewed as the responsibility of a single individual or group, nor the exclusive purview of a particular office. Instead, we must each work toward creating a learning environment where students can thrive free from the burdens of discrimination. As civil rights leader Barbara Smith reminds us, ‘the most radical step we can take is coming together’.”        

The coalition seeks to move the nation beyond dialogues about race and ethnicity to unearthing historic and contemporary patterns that are barriers to success, healing those wounds and creating opportunities for all children. The TRHT process will adapt some practices and learnings of previous Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRC) which have been instrumental in resolving deeply rooted conflicts around the world and will apply them in the United States in order to create a national, comprehensive enterprise to resolve the consequences of centuries of racism and structural inequities.  By uncovering human rights violations and tragedies, and engaging populations in a healing process, TRCs have historically restored dignity and respect on many occasions, paving the way for the transforming of societies—a prevailing objective of the TRHT initiative.

The TRHT enterprise will also prioritize inclusive, community-based healing activities and policy design—including on college campuses—that seek to change collective community narratives and broaden the understanding that Americans have of their diverse experiences. The TRHT enterprise is led by Dr. Gail C. Christopher, the TRHT Vice President and Senior Advisor to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In announcing the initiative in January, Christopher noted that “racial hierarchy plays a central role in social, economic and government policies…. Until we change the consciousness of the nation to one that embraces all of humanity as having equal worth and all of our children deserving of equal opportunity, our democratic ideals will not be realized.”

The initiative includes a series of Design Teams composed of people representing a wide range of organizations and addressing such issues as separation, law, economy, and healing. Through a series of meetings between July and November, the Design Teams will:

  • Envision what a transformed society will look like in each area of focus;
  • Describe current racial realities within each area of focus;
  • Examine how the nation has arrived at our current situation;
  • Identify key audiences and stakeholders important to resolving issues in each area of focus; and
  • Recommend action steps to achieve the necessary transformation over the next 5-10 years.

Initial findings from the Design Teams will be shared at a Summit in December, 2016 in Carlsbad, California.  The findings will also be discussed at AAC&U’s Annual Meeting Pre-Meeting Symposium on Student Activism and Liberal Education, scheduled for January 25, 2017, in San Francisco, California. (More information is online about the Symposium. Symposium registration opens September 15, 2016.) AAC&U will also publish a special issue of its flagship journal, Liberal Education, on the TRHT in Fall of 2016.

AAC&U is joining this effort as part of its ongoing and longstanding mission-level commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence.  All institutions in our society—including colleges, community colleges and universities—have a role to play in advancing racial and social justice.  Educational institutions, in fact, have a particular responsibility to help educate, prepare, and inspire the next generation of leaders to advance justice and build inclusive communities.  As AAC&U’s Board Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence notes, “We must build on students' talents and capacities–focusing on the assets that all students bring to college rather than on perceived deficits.  Making excellence inclusive means attending both to the demographic diversity of the student body and also to the need for nurturing climates and cultures so that all students have a chance to succeed. Commitment to student success in these terms requires broad-based, compassionate leadership and equity-minded practice—not only within individual institutions, but also across states and systems and in policy circles that make decisions affecting the nation. Seeking inclusive excellence requires reversing the current stratification of higher education and ensuring that all students develop capacities to prosper economically, contribute civically, and flourish personally.”

“I am very pleased to be a part of this comprehensive initiative and am confident that the TRHT design process will result in substantive resources to help facilitate the deeper transformations we so desperately need in our society and on our campuses,” said AAC&U Vice President Tia Brown McNair. “This initiative, of course, is part of the ongoing work of transformation. I have no illusions that our challenges will be overcome with just a simple toolkit, but this kind of partnership is essential if we are to advance more meaningful and substantive change—addressing issues all too often left in the shadows of campus diversity and inclusion efforts.”

To learn more about the TRHT, see:

To learn about AAC&U’s initiatives and resources related to diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence, see:

About AAC&U

AAC&U is the leading national association concerned with the quality, vitality, and public standing of undergraduate liberal education. Its members are committed to extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Founded in 1915, AAC&U now comprises more than 1,300 member institutions—including accredited public and private colleges, community colleges, research universities, and comprehensive universities of every type and size.

AAC&U functions as a catalyst and facilitator, forging links among presidents, administrators, and faculty members who are engaged in institutional and curricular planning. Its mission is to reinforce the collective commitment to liberal education and inclusive excellence at both the national and local levels, and to help individual institutions keep the quality of student learning at the core of their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges.

Information about AAC&U membership, programs, and publications can be found at

About The W.K. Kellogg Foundation

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life. The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes.  Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success.  WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, see: