Race and Identity logoWith its record of high-quality instruction and its commitment to civic engagement and constructive dialogue, Lander University seeks to provide an important series of virtual presentations and discussions on race and identity for its campus community. This project, entitled Race and Identity Dialogue, provides students with opportunities to learn and reflect, efforts that will enhance knowledge, awareness, attitude, and skills in growing relationships, civic engagement, and vocational discernment. Such a series would always be an important endeavor, but events in 2020 show that now is the urgently needed time for dialogue and discussion. While embarked on their journey of academic inquiry and vocational discernment, students in the university setting also learn about themselves, others, and examine their values. That is, they grow to be better equipped as citizens in a complex, diverse democracy.

The Race and Identity Dialogue series is open to Lander University students, faculty and staff, and contains six sessions of virtual presentations and discussions across 12 weeks to creatively engage participants into an extended conversation on cultivating dialogue about race and identity.

All sessions and discussion materials will be accessible via Blackboard, and registration is preferred prior to attending a live discussion session. Sessions 1-4 feature a recorded presentation and  live discussions where participants can ask questions.  Sessions 5-6 feature live presentations and discussions.


Schedule of Events

Precursor Event: An Introduction to the Series, Race and Identity Dialogue
Dr. Shaunette Parker and Rev. Alexis Carter Thomas

This brief presentation outlines the series, seeks to draw interest to the topics covered, and provides information on how interested persons can learn more before the series begins. It also explains how bi-weekly sessions will work so students can plan their participation.

>> Watch the video


1.  Where we are today: Racism, Reflections, and Cultural Competence (Sept. 10, 4:00-4:45 p.m.)
Dr. Shaunette Parker and Rev. Alexis Carter Thomas

This session covers the main points of how to build knowledge, awareness, attitude, and skills toward cultural competence and why this is important given continued racism in society, particularly reflecting upon the events of 2020.  The session provides examples of contemporary racism and teach skills for self-reflection about race and identity.


2.  The History of Civil Rights and the Legacy of Benjamin E. Mays (Sept. 24, 4:00-4:45 p.m.)
Rev. Chris Thomas and Dr. Kevin Witherspoon

This session provides an overview of civil rights in America and focuses upon the leadership of Greenwood County native, Dr. Mays.  It invites students to reflect on the wisdom of Dr. Mays and the most prominent leader he mentored, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Special emphasis will be given to their teachings on community building.


3.  Prejudice, Social Stigma, and Ethics (Oct. 8, 4:00-4:45)
Dr. Tess Gemberling and Rev. Alexis Carter Thomas

This session reviews the distinction between explicit and implicit racism and invites students to examine themselves in the struggle to overcome prejudice. It covers intersectionality so that students understand how multiple forms of inequality compound to create obstacles for marginalized persons. It introduces students to overcoming prejudice and racism by blending work from psychology, religion, and sociology.


4.  Power, Privilege, and Stratification in American Society (Oct. 22, 4:00-4:45 p.m.)
Dr. Shaunette Parker and Dr. Zach Rubin

This session discusses the dynamics of different types of power in American society and the stratification that exists today, particularly in terms of race and class. It explains the concept of privilege and how it blinds its bearers from fully understanding the lived experiences of persons in marginalized groups. The session teaches skills for self-reflection about race and identity and provides advice on how to build relationships through open dialogue with others.


5.  Civic Engagement (Nov. 5, 3:30-4:45 p.m.)
Dr. Kimberly Richburg, Dr. Shana Southard-Dobbs, Rev. Alexis Carter Thomas, Dr. Demario Watts, and Dr. Ashley Woodiwiss

This live, virtual panel discussion is followed by a live, Q&A discussion with participants to cover how citizens can engage in activities to promote justice. It highlights the work of neighborhood councils, non-profit organizations, and faith communities.  The objective is to channel students’ energy toward constructive dialogue and advocacy for themselves and for their community as a whole.


6.  Vocational Discernment (Nov. 19, 3:30-4:45 p.m.)
Dr. Shaunette Parker, Ms. Crystal Rookard, Rev. Alexis Carter Thomas, Ms. London Thomas, and Lander alumni

This live, virtual panel discussion is followed by a live, virtual Q&A discussion with participants to introduce students to the journey of vocational discernment through self-reflection. The session provides mini-presentations by Lander alumni and university officials so that students can see what has motivated persons on a particular path based upon their interest and values.


Series Leaders and Session Speakers


  • Dr. Shaunette Parker, Psychology Faculty, Lander University
  • Rev. Alexis Carter Thomas, Religion Faculty, Lander University



  • Dr. Tess Gemberling, Psychology Faculty, Lander University
  • Dr. Kimberly Richburg, Political Science Faculty, Lander University
  • Ms. Crystal Rookard, Vice President & Legal Counsel, Lander University
  • Dr. Zach Rubin, Sociology Faculty, Lander University
  • Dr. Shana Southard-Dobbs, Psychology Faculty, Lander University
  • Ms. London Thomas, Director of Human Resources, Lander University
  • Dr. Demario Watts, Director of Student Activities, Lander University
  • Dr. Kevin Witherspoon, History Faculty, Lander University
  • Dr. Ashley Woodiwiss, Political Science Faculty, Lander University
  • Rev. Chris Thomas, Director, Benjamin E. Mays Historical Site


Contact Us For Information

For more information about the Race and Identity Dialogue series, contact facilitators:
Dr. Shaunette Parker - sparker@lander.edu
Rev. Alexis Carter Thomas - athomas1@lander.edu


Additional Resources and Materials

The National Museum of African American History and Culture says, “race is a defining social construct in American life.” In addition to the experience the Facilitators and Speakers bring to shaping the curriculum and teaching about these topics, additional resources come from leading organizations such as: