Kathy Roberts Forde, a University of Massachusetts associate professor in the journalism department, was named a Chancellor’s Leadership Fellow for 2018-19.
According to UMass News and Media Relations, the Chancellor’s Leadership Fellows program “seeks to cultivate future campus leaders by offering a half-time, one-year, temporary appointment to an administrative area on campus, and by providing shadowing and mentoring from the leaders of the host units.” Fellows are also expected to launch a “significant program” during their year.
Forde, who came to the University in 2014 to serve as the inaugural chair of the newly-restored journalism department, said that she will be working in the office of equity and inclusion under associate chancellor Anna Branch. In this role, she will help develop a strategic communications plan for the office and work to promote and increase the capacity of the UMass community to understand and engage across differences.
“The Chancellor’s Leadership Program is designed to give faculty members, who are interested in higher ed. administration exposure [to] the highest level of the university and how it works,” Forde explained.
Forde discussed her appointment in context of her background in developing the journalism department, saying that she felt the program was “special” is fostering, nurturing and protecting “the community among the faculty to the students.”
“So, Karen List, the director [of the department] before I arrived, always said that this department had a student-first philosophy. And we do,” Forde said.
Forde served as the chair of the department for three years and then stepped down to work on her research. According to her department page, Ford is currently working on two projects: a book project about James Baldwin and his social protest of journalism in the 1960s and an edited book collection on the role of the white press in the South.
Forde grew up in east Tennessee, spent a few years in Alabama and returned to Tennessee for college.
“I miss a lot of things,” Forde said with a wide smile. “I also love being here. It’s a great place to be and a great place to raise our daughter.”
Forde began her career as an English teacher for well over a decade. During this time, she did some freelance writing.
“When it came time to get my Ph.D., I was choosing between my love for literary journalism and my love of literature,” Forde explained. “And I decided that it would be more fun for me to go the route of getting an advanced degree in communication and journalism and then teaching, doing scholarship in a journalism department and higher ed.”
Forde’s office is a library of sorts. Her shelves are covered in books of social justice and her walls are decorated with black and white posters of historical events. Her passion for diversity is very clear. “This a new office at UMass. It was formed in summer/fall of 2017, so it has been building and growing in campus resources and programs to help build an inclusive, equitable community here on campus,” Forde said.
Speaking about her work with inequity, Forde continued, “This work is near and dear to my heart. I study inequity as part of my work in journalism history and it’s an area where I have teaching commitments, research commitments and now I have this other area of my life where I’m learning about how University’s administratively help build communities that are diverse and inclusive.”
After growing up in a predominantly white community, Forde “wanted to understand much more about diversity in the world and other perspectives.”
“I spent most of my adult life doing the hard work of learning about different cultures, different perspectives, diversity,” Forde added. “And it’s not only hard work, it’s also incredible interesting a nourishing work.”
When it comes to creating a more diverse experience in our own lives, Forde offers a lot of advice.
“The University provides a lot of opportunities for students to be involved in diverse organizations and so students need to embrace those opportunities. The office of equity and inclusion has a full slate of programing this fall and we’ll continue to build out into the spring. We have learning communities where students can read a book and learn about implicit bias, and how to talk about race and differences and diversity in ways that helps them be culturally competent.”
Forde added that the program “also invites students and faculty to attend a classroom resource to learn how to talk about and have conversations about these kinds of issues, watch documentaries, and attend lectures.”
Forde recommends that students who are looking to educate themselves further to attend the lecture “Stand United, Fight Hate,” by New York Times best-selling author Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. It will be held at the Fine Arts Center Concert Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 7, from 6-7:30 p.m.
Cassie McGrath can be reached at [email protected]