July 6, 2022
(HOUSTON, TX) - The Graduate College of Social Work recently named Kyee Young to the newly crafted role of Director for Inclusive Teaching and Learning.
This role will serve as support for teaching instructors on how they can incorporate, guide, and expand abolitionist and anti-oppressive pedagogical approaches in their classrooms.
We spoke with Kyee Young and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Dr. Suzanne Pritzker about why the GCSW established this role and its importance to the college.
Name: Kyee Altranice Young, PhD, LMSW
Congrats on being named Director for Inclusive Teaching and Learning. Why is this role critical for a college of social work to have, and what do you hope to achieve in this role?
A role like this is integral for a justice-oriented school such as ours. Though most of our faculty believe in an abolitionist or anti-oppressive future, we are sometimes unsure about how to take bold steps toward it in our present. I hope to provide real-time support for our faculty that helps us all progress closer to the future we all want. This shift sometimes requires breaking free from beliefs and practices that no longer serve us as a professional and scientific institution. We must begin embracing new decolonized modes of thinking and acting that unabashedly and unquestionably personify and embody social, racial, environmental, and economic justice.
The vision of the GCSW is to achieve social justice. How do you believe this role fits into this vision?
My role fits perfectly into the justice orientation of the GCSW. My primary responsibility is to assist faculty in abolitionist and anti-oppressive pedagogical approaches. I have already begun to support a myriad of classroom and curricular difficulties experienced by students and faculty alike. For example, one of the supports I offer pertains to having courageous conversations in the classroom around race, class, gender, abolition, sexual orientation, etc. How do we create the space to have these conversations? How do we promote an active and inclusive learning environment while mitigating micro-aggressions, micro-invalidations, micro-assaults, and micro-insults? These are some of the questions I'm asking and helping to answer so that our instructors may find balanced solutions. Additionally, I support the faculty in course development, course redesign, and teaching innovations that uplift marginalized voices and perspectives, that way, we can bridge the space between the theory and application of our profession.
You recently defended your dissertation and completed your PhD at the University of Louisville. How has your education, previous work experiences at various education levels, and private practice informed how you will approach this new role?
Honestly, I believe this role was tailor-made for me. From my BSSW until I began my PhD coursework, I was a macro practice social worker focusing on corporate culture, mezzo policy, and program development/evaluation. I have built large systems that span 30+ programs in five states, and smaller courses that span a few high schools. I'm bringing that experience here with me into this position.
Additionally, my dissertation focused on a critical educational theory called conscientization. This theory and methodology are directed toward the oppression faced by a population. It seeks to help folks understand their oppression from a socio-cultural and historical perspective so they can dismantle the web of oppression they encounter. Though it is an educational theory, it is a theory that applies to any domain of injustice. I used this theory to understand how Black Americans learn of race and racism and the many overt and covert mechanisms by which they resist it. Conscientization is ever-present in my personal and professional life. I am bringing this most salient and proximal belief, theory, methodology, and pedagogy to this position at the GCSW.
Who is your social justice inspiration?
I am inspired by so many; narrowing it down to only one is tricky. So, here is my non-inclusive-at-all list of people that profoundly inspired my social justice: my ancestors, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovani, Derrick Bell, Angela Davis, James Baldwin, Joan Morgan, Ibram X. Kendi, Brittney Cooper, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Mikki Kendall, Robin DiAngelo, Colin Kaepernick, and of course Paulo Freire.
Name: Suzanne Pritzker
Current Position: Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor
Why was the role of Director for Inclusive Teaching and Learning established, and what need was it meant to address within the academic offerings at the GCSW?
The GCSW established this role after we proposed it to the Office of the Provost. This role is partly based on the University's campus-wide initiative to advance student success.
The purpose of this role is multipronged but centered around supporting faculty and strengthening the GCSW's teaching capacity as it relates to our racial and social justice vision.
Over the years, some faculty in various roles have expressed interest in developing their teaching skills and the challenges they have encountered when trying to facilitate difficult conversations in the classroom. Whether these topics are current events or navigating how to respond to microaggressions in school, we want our instructors to feel empowered, confident, and supported in teaching and leading difficult conversations with our students. With this role, we will be able to provide all teaching faculty with learning opportunities such as coaching, workshops, and trainings, including how to navigate and effectively respond to challenging discussions in the classroom.
By providing this role and support for teaching faculty, we acknowledge the hard work needed to become an effective instructor.
Kyee stood out as an ideal candidate for this role due to her experience teaching at multiple institutions, her real-life experience as a social work practitioner, and her doctoral dissertation, which focused on the development of racial conscientization to support Black students.
The GCSW's vision is to achieve social justice. How do you believe this role fits into achieving that vision?
Central to achieving social justice is to graduate social work students who are well prepared and ready to hit the ground running to contribute to our vision.
I believe the more we can push, build and strengthen our capacity around our teaching to be unabashedly geared toward a racial and social justice lens, the better we can prepare our students for the real world. Suppose we shy away from guiding and facilitating discussions on topics that may cause lively and enlightening exchanges in the classroom? In that case, we know these conversations will only become more difficult outside of a learning environment.
With this new role, we can be more intentional in the teachings and content of our course offerings and in how we can facilitate what goes on inside the classroom, both online and in-person.
Essentially we want to prepare our students for the vast arenas they will eventually be working in because most will go on to work with diverse clients and communities. Ensuring our graduates are exposed, equipped, and prepared to face a broad and diverse array of voices and perspectives will make them better advocates for our vision of social justice in their work as social work practitioners.
Anything else you would like to share?
I'm excited that our instructors will be able to have Kyee as a resource and that our students will ultimately receive the benefits of this new role.
We benchmarked other social work colleges before we crafted this position, and having someone like Kyee in a college of social work is relatively uncommon. Sometimes these positions exist at the university level, but for a college to have a staff member devoted to helping us support inclusive social work teaching and learning is unique and very much needed.
I'm glad we can lead the way in crafting this role, and I believe it will be very advantageous for faculty and students at the GCSW.