ASPIRE Speaker Series — Dr. Terri Givens

Women Employed
3 min readJan 23, 2024

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The ASPIRE Racial Equity and Inclusion Speaker Series continued in January with a workshop led by Dr. Terri Givens, Professor of Political Science at McGill University. Dr. Givens presentation on Radical Empathy: Finding a Path to Bridging Racial Divides emphasized the importance of encouraging vulnerability and connection as keys to dismantling systemic racism.

Dr. Given’s workshop was personable and warm, as the key points to practicing radical empathy were not only shared but demonstrated in real time. Vulnerability and openness were spotlighted as necessary to build connection, and the presentation began with Dr. Terri Givens sharing her own story and some about her family history, and the complexities of her identity. Her vulnerability and candor in how she shared her story created a welcoming environment for participants to do the same when she opened the floor to ask if anyone had thoughts or experiences that resonated with what had been shared.

The workshop also shared the six steps to radical empathy and delineated that the difference between empathy and radical empathy is that the latter requires us to take actions that will create change. In the process of practicing radical empathy, Dr. Givens also emphasized the importance of cultural humility over cultural competence, that we must be comfortable accepting our limitations while simultaneously working to increase our self-awareness of our own biases and perceptions. This is also a strength that inclusive leaders should demonstrate, in addition to having visible commitments to diversity and inclusion, having a curiosity about others, cultural intelligence, and being able to curate effective collaboration. One participant shared that their key takeaway from the training was that “it reminded me to always look inside at the ‘who’ and the ‘why’ in me to see how to work better with other and to also see who they are and their why.”

In addition to her professorship at McGill, Dr. Givens also was the former CEO of the Center for Higher Education Leadership. As the author of the book “Radical Empathy: Finding a Path to Bridging Racial Divides,” she is a sought-after consultant and speaker on issues related to leadership and inclusion. She has more than 30 years of experience in higher education, politics, international affairs, and nonprofits. She is an accomplished speaker and uses her platform to develop leaders with an understanding of the importance of diversity and inclusion, while encouraging personal growth through empathy.

Dr. Givens has held leadership positions as Vice Provost at the University of Texas at Austin and Provost of Menlo College (first African American and woman); as well as professorships at University of Texas at Austin, and University of Washington. She was the founding director at the Center for European Studies at the University of Texas and led the university’s efforts in Mexico and Latin America as Vice Provost for International Activities as well as curriculum development. Dr. Terri Givens is the author/editor of books and articles on immigration policy, European politics and right-wing politics. Her most recent published books are “Radical Empathy: Finding a Path to Bridging Racial Divides,” from Policy Press and “The Roots of Racism: The Politics of White Supremacy in the US and Europe” published by Bristol University Press. Learn more about Dr. Terri Givens work here!

The creation of the Accelerating Student Progress and Increasing Racial Equity (ASPIRE) project was in response to the Developmental Education Reform Act (DERA) which aims to address inequities in college completion among students of color and first-generation students. Passed in March 2021, the act requires public colleges in Illinois to reform their developmental education (dev ed) programs — the introductory math and English classes students may need to improve their skills, before they can take a college-level math or English class — so that students can enter a credit-bearing, college-level math or English course by their second semester.

To read our refresher on the ASPIRE Project, click here.

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Women Employed

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